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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 49 |summer 2006 buddhadhaRma: Buddhists are known for meditat- ing, but how much should they engage with the world outside of their meditation hall, household, and community of fellow meditators? Does the Buddha’s principle of right livelihood imply social and political action in the larger community? paul halleR: Meditation is simply one Buddhist practice. The fact that meditation practice is what is most attractive to us may well be a consequence of our background as privileged people living in the midst of post-industrial materialism. Since we approach our practice from that background, looking for individual liberation is prominent. But I would hope that as we mature in the practice, it moves from taking to giving, that it becomes less of an individual practice and more of a collec- tive practice. As it becomes more of a collective practice, compassion for ourselves and for others becomes a more active ingredient and expression of our practice. Robina CouRtin: It is said that just as a bird needs two wings, we need both wisdom and compassion. The inner wing of our practice is wisdom, and the outer wing is compassion. That’s the action wing, the political wing, the social-work wing. When you work on your own mind, you are develop- ing the meditative wing, wisdom. The more you do so, the more you will decrease your delusions, increase your positive qualities, and increase your own sense of happiness. Therefore, you will increase your sense of connectedness, and inevita- Photos:(left)dennissmith;(right)Petercunningham bly, you’ve got no choice but to put yourself out there to benefit others. A bird needs two wings. It’s not enough just for us to have internal practice. It’s got to be external- ized. It’s an inevitable product of our practice if we’re doing the job properly. beRnie Glassman: Separating meditation and action is too dualistic. The only meditator who could pos- sibly not engage with the world outside would be somebody who stays in a cave, like Bodhidharma. But even he had to engage with the world in order to eat. As you live twenty-four hours a day, you’re engaging in all kinds of ways. How could we train a Buddhist to not engage with the world? Sepa- rating out action and meditation almost implies that while you’re meditating you’re a Buddhist, and when you step outside of the meditation hall, you’re something else. Robina CouRtin: Well, of course, we act all the time both internally and externally, but most of our external work right now – not to mention the inter- nal – is motivated by attachment and self-centered- ness. The effectiveness of our external work is the real point. We all function externally, but it’s got to be effective work, which means it has to be based on wisdom and the genuine wish – and the genuine ability – to help others. beRnie Glassman: I like to think of it in terms of the metaphor of making meals from the ingredients we have. I look at the ingredients wherever I am. Zen Hospice Project volunteer Pam Weiss with patient Alice Mitchell at the Laguna Honda Hospital Hospice, San Francisco, 1989 rajahornstein