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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
buddhadharma| 55 |summer 2006 meditative model, from the enclosed community, to more expanded versions of practice. Robina CouRtin: I think we need to be moving toward having more retreat centers. In France, for example, there are many communities doing very long retreats. If you think of it as just going off so you can feel good and get away from things, it’s a mistake. But if you’re taking a long-term view and going into retreat to gain realization, to make a profound shift in your mind, you will come out as a bodhisattva, fully qualified to benefit others. Of course, we need to move toward doing more social work, but we also need more retreat. If we don’t allow for that, knowledge holders, genuine beings with deep internal experiences, won’t exist in the West. beRnie Glassman: Of course we need retreat. It’s a matter of the numbers. The numbers who will be doing those kinds of retreat are always going to be small. The numbers who are highly active in working with others is still going to be small. The largest group will be those who practice because they think they’re going to escape suffering. Robina CouRtin: Let’s not forget that escaping can be very intelligent. buddhadhaRma: You’ve all been talking about a range of ways to practice that involve different lev- els and types of engagement. Students often find it difficult to figure out which way to turn at a given point in life, and they seek guidance. How do you Peace march in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2005. charliejenKs go about giving them advice about an appropriate level and type of engagement? Robina CouRtin: I tell people that you’ve got to have the sincere wish to do what’s most beneficial – that might be to get married and have ten kids or to enter a monastery. You need to be guided by a sincere wish. That gives you the courage to see the options more clearly, and to not be motivated by fear or by what society thinks, or by what you think you should be doing. If you keep in mind your sincere wish, you’ll be much more in touch with what you’re really doing at any given moment, and you can make your choices step by step. Sometimes it’s time to do retreat; other times it’s time to go out. Before you can know, you have to look to your deep motiva- tion. Then you can see the next steps more clearly. paul halleR: That’s a wonderful admonition. Also, I would try to describe to someone what I think each of the different modes of practice offers, and how it fits into a bigger mandala. Then, I can try to help the person unpack their own motivation, and to be as honest and accurate as they can about where they’re at and what they think is appropriate at this point. Robina CouRtin: The step they need to take may not be the one that is the most comfortable. Attach- ment is so powerful that we crave staying in the comfort zone. Sometimes the best step might be to stay in that lousy job, stay in that lousy rela- tionship, because somehow, you’re making some changes internally. It seems like my whole life, in Buddhism, I’ve been running up against people saying, “That ain’t Zen.” Life is Zen. So why exclude politics? — Bernie Glassman