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Buddhadharma : Winter 2015
winter 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 9 daviddaeanrynick IN THe LotuS SutRA, the Buddha uses a parable to explain why his teachings take different forms. A father finds his children at play inside a burning house. Because of their innocence, they don’t know they’re in danger, so he tries to save them by describ- ing three beautiful carts that he says he has placed on the lawn. They eagerly run out of the house to play with these imaginary toys. When I was young, I was tempted out of the burning house of my own ignorance to play in the fields of the various Buddhist traditions. My favorite toy cart has been Zen, but I have had the great good fortune to meet, learn from, and teach with friends from other Buddhist traditions as well. Beyond the expected cultural variations and vast array of practice forms I have encountered, I have also discovered differ- ences that feel more essential. They concern the nature of karma and rebirth, ethics, the teacher’s role, the centrality of meditation and what it is, and who the Buddha was, whether he actually existed and what he may have taught. We Buddhists even dis- agree about the nature of liberation itself. I deeply honor the forms and teachings that I have inherited in my own transmis- sion. And I do my best to honor other Bud- dhist traditions—there are so many different toys that can help us leave the burning house of delusion. I’m not interested in commentary many buddhists, one buddhadharma? by melissa myozen blacker, roshi debating which Buddhism is the best Bud- dhism, so I tend to keep quiet. But I still keep asking myself if there truly is one bud- dhadharma, one essential understanding of the awakened heart. My starting place for finding common ground is the story of Shakyamuni Buddha. I don’t care if he actually existed, but I do treasure him as an example of the heroic archetype every culture produces. A warrior of the heart, he left the burning house, the familiar world of consensual reality, to take refuge in what he observed and personally experienced about how humans think, feel, and behave. Like the Buddha, through practice and study, all of us can discover the undeniable truth of dukkha. This persistent feeling that something is out of alignment with our desires appears to be the basis of all the various forms of Buddhism. And acknow- ledging and helping others know dukkha leads to the discovery of impermanence and the insubstantiality of the self. In our teaching and practice, we find freedom from greed, anger, and certainty and learn to live from compassion, wisdom, and balance. Once tasted, this freedom can be recog- nized as essentially the same no matter its form and flavor. The open road to the awak- ened heart lies ready before us, and whatever toy cart appeals to us will serve as a sturdy vehicle to lead us directly to the truth of the one buddhadharma. This is the essence of what we Buddhists share and teach: the promise of liberation within suffering, right here in this burning world. Melissa Myozen Blacker, roshi, is abbot of Boundless Way zen, based in new england, and coeditor of The Book of Mu: Essential Writings on Zen’s Most Important Koan.