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Buddhadharma : Winter 2005
buddhadharma| 13 |winter 2005 circumstances. Lately, if I consciously blow off some aspect of my practice because “I don’t feel like it,” I think of that guy on death row – that guy who could have been me. I suspect that this is something that people who dedicate themselves to prison dharma work know much more intimately, their practice informed by a true realization that these prisoners, these people, are us. Not like us; they are us. This must be the “no separation” I’ve only had glimpses of. even looking at old film footage of the troubled and just-convicted eighteen-year-old Damien echols, in comparison with footage of him today – thirty- one, self-educated, and thoughtful – suggests that the dharma and the sangha might indeed help any one of us to find the buddha in ourselves. It sure seems that things come out differently when we work to see people in prisons, literal or figurative, without the bars getting in the way. rod meade sPerry is manager of media and PuBliciTy aT Wisdom PuBlicaTions in BosTon. the seed is soWn Thich Nhat Hanh offers his own observations on his historic return to Vietnam, including the impact of his visit on the country’s elites. Sometimes we think it best if everything goes according to our plan. But in truth, it is not so. For example, when we were in Hanoi, we asked the government’s permission to use large venues that hold up to 6,000 people. we thought that speaking to as many people as possible would be the most effective way to share the practice. But the gov- ernment would not allow this. At first, they only wanted us to speak within temple grounds. But because of protests, petitions, and requests, they allowed us to speak in a venue that held from 300 to 500 people, a tiny number. However, this turned out to be crucial, because the people who attended the talk were influential in the society: scientists, scholars, and people from important sectors of the government. Having 300 people with this status and influence was more effective than having a crowd of 30,000. If we had tried, we could not have arranged to have such an audience. For many, it was their first time receiving such helpful and wholesome teachings. After one talk, a popular vietnamese scholar said that he thought Buddhism was a type of asceticism, that the prac- tice was just to suffer, suppressing your body and mind. But his mind was changed when I talked about ways to bring happiness into our life. what we taught responded directly to the deepest needs of the people. Their eyes and hearts opened. For the first time in history, the dharma talk in Hanoi ripped through the curtain of delu- sion and spoke to the leaders of the country, show- ing them a new direction. The talk changed their lives and the direction of their future. Perhaps if we had spoken to 30,000 people, the benefit would not have been as great. During the trip, there were a lot of seeds sown in fertile earth for the first time. Once the seed is sown, it will grow into a beautiful, healthy tree. The Buddhists who listened to the talks were very happy because they need a Buddhism that will help them resolve their daily difficulties. In China and vietnam now, the practice of Buddhism is mostly prayer and offering incense – the devotional aspect. Only a few people know of the most important aspect of Buddhism, the tradition of wisdom and insight. venerable monks and nuns, who had been practicing for sixty and seventy years, touched the joy and happiness of the dharma for the first time and experienced real insight. we should praise them for their efforts to try to keep Buddhism alive for the next generations, but they were drying up. Also, the teachings to the young people have not been satisfying; but hearing our new teaching, they became joyful and enthusiastic. from mindfulness Bell (auTumn 2005). Karma is King According to Ven. Thubten Dondrub, mindfulness is only helpful when mixed with an understanding of cause and effect. If we investigate what is the essential teaching of the Buddha, what is the single most important teaching of the Buddha, some people say it might be a teaching on compassion, which, in its high- est form, is the teaching about bodhicitta. Some people might say that the most important teaching of the Buddha is the teaching of the true nature of self and phenomena – the wisdom teachings of the Buddha. I think that the single most important teaching of the Buddha is the teaching on the law of cause and effect – karma – because it contains within it all of the other teachings. By understanding the law of cause and effect, and practicing it in one’s life, one can develop loving-kindness and com- passion, and eventually, bodhicitta. Practicing the law of cause and effect in our daily life is the way to develop wisdom. And by practicing and giv- ing central importance in our daily life to observ- ing the law of cause and effect as the single most important thing, moment by moment, we develop renunciation.