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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
experiences into the path to enlightenment; we desperately need that kind of skill. That’s what tantra offers us. The tantric viewpoint is that we should not criticize twentiethcentury life. Normally we com plain about bigcity life: “It’s too crowded; it’s too difficult; people are so angry and aggressive.” That’s our interpretation, but from the tantric point of view big cities are beautiful; tantra sees all the men and women of the city as Maitreya. Tantra leaves things as they are; city life as it is. Tantra says that everything, even worldly life, can be beautiful because it can all be experienced tran scendentally by the human consciousness, unified by great universal love and nonduality. After all, it’s through the relative world that we discover absolute, ultimate reality, in the way that clouds are the source of good weather. If there are no clouds there’s no good weather, because good weather is what we get when the clouds disappear. Similarly, just as the space of the sky allows the clouds to come and go, the space of nonduality allows the materiality of worldly life to function. From universal love: The Yoga MeThod of Buddha MaiTreYa, by Lama thubten yeShe. pubLiShed by Lama yeShe WiSdom archive, 2008. The gloBe-TroTTing monk Keeping tabs on the late Maha Ghosananda as he traveled around the world was a real challenge, recalls Bruce Blair. After leaving the solitary life of a forest monk, Maha Ghosananda had for decades made it his practice to travel alone. Whether he was teach ing in refugee camps along the ThaiCambodian border, leading his historic Dhammayietra peace walks across his devastated homeland of Cam bodia, or being an ambassador of peace and rec onciliation around the world, he would always travel between events unaccompanied. To those of us responsible for tracking his travels, he seemed to be practicing a veritable art of appearing and disappearing. One day he’d be at the Vatican lifting the Pope off the ground in a warm embrace. Next he would appear at the United Nations in New York. Another day he would be breaking bread with a Catholic priest in Chiapas, and the next he would be in South Af rica, sharing the podium with Nelson Mandela. kIMSCAFURO also has to do with consistency of practice. Have you ever seen someone try to start a fire by rub bing two dry sticks together? If they take a break when they get tired, the heat doesn’t build up suffi ciently for the fire to ignite. Going forth is making a public statement of our commitment to live the celibate renunciant life for the purpose of purifying the heart. This effectively puts you in a position that makes it hard for you not to keep practicing, not to keep firing up the furnace of purification. We all know what it’s like to feel enthusiastic for a while and then find the energy passes, leav ing us unmotivated. Having the robe on stops you from doing things that delete the goodness your practice has generated. It stops you from backsliding. I recall many years ago one teacher told us how he had been in robes for about thirty years, but he had only been a monk for about nine; he had only really practiced for nine of the thirty years, but during the intervening twenty one he hadn’t fallen backwards. So one benefit of going forth is what it stops you from doing. From foresT sangha newsleTTer, apriL 2008. TanTra for Big-ciTy life Lama Thubten Yeshe explains why the tantric teachings are ideal for modern-day Westerners. A powerful king once said to Lord Buddha, “I’m confused as to how best to lead my life. I’m re sponsible for all the people in my kingdom and surrounded by worldly pleasure. What I need is a teaching to transform what’s left of my life into the path to enlightenment.” In response, Lord Buddha taught him tantra. For similar reasons, I think that tantra is the right practice for Westerners and of the utmost need in this twentieth century. After all, the Bud dha wanted us to have as much perfect pleasure as possible; he certainly didn’t want us to be mis erable, confused, or dissatisfied. Therefore, we should understand that we meditate in order to gain profound pleasure, not to beat ourselves up or to experience pain. If entering the Buddhist path brings you nothing but fear and guilt, then it’s certainly not worth the effort. Life today is full of pleasure, but we also have a tendency to be easily confused and dissatis fied. Therefore, we need a method whereby we can transform the energy of all our everyday life 15 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly