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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
13 summer 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 13 illustrations by ana Benaroya By listening to the teachings we do not be- come wiser and wiser, or more enlightened. We come to realize more and more our own foolish nature, our unenlightened self. As we deepen that awareness, a transformation is gradually occurring. While keeping the aware- ness of foolish self, at the same time one is able to live with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation to all of life, to all other beings. Behind the awareness of foolish being is the transformation of foolish being into its op- posite, one who truly becomes a disciple of the Buddha, one who truly lives the Buddhist life. We listen to a teaching, we chant a sutra, we bow before the Buddha, and in that proc- ess, the transformation occurs naturally and spontaneously. FRoM InsIght Journal, WINTER 2009 dharma, on My terms Tenzin Chonyi, an Australian-born Buddhist nun, on ego’s conditional pursuit of enlightenment. Yes, I want freedom from suffering, but I want it now, and on my terms. Don’t throw dharma at me. My ego knows all the cor- rect answers and uses them to protect itself. I want complete freedom from the suffering of my ego, not freedom from my ego. It was my ego that took refuge, renuncia- tion, and bodhichitta vows. It wanted to be bolstered against turbulence. It didn’t want to be challenged, and it definitely did not want to be annihilated. But bolstering a prideful ego is the opposite of dharma practice. So if I really want to prac- tice dharma I have to destroy the very thing that I had thought was going to be protected by dharma. This also implies a huge trans- formation in my perceptions of this “I”— transforming the independently arising “I” to include all those parts of itself that the self- seeking ego has denied. It means such things as acknowledging that I prefer to be in con- trol, or that my self-righteousness is invalid, or my self-abnegation is not real renunciation the elBoW teaChing Shin Buddhist priest Taitetsu Unno recalls D.T. Suzuki’s memorable teaching on karma. When I was a twenty-one-year-old senior at the University of California, Berkeley—many years ago—I had the opportunity to hear the famous Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki give a talk. Afterwards he invited anyone who wanted to ask questions to join him in another room for a discussion. After some hesitation, I asked, “What is karma?” Suzuki, who was eighty at the time, said, “The elbow does not bend outward. This is what karma is explaining.” We all said thank you, but had no idea what he was talking about. After I graduated, I moved to Japan to study Buddhism, partly because my father was a Shin Buddhist priest who encouraged me to explore Shin Buddhism, but also in some way to find an answer to this riddle of the elbow. I began thinking about it as a metaphor for kar- mic limitation. We have freedom to move, yes, but only in certain ways—the elbow bends, but only in one direction. It is a koan, a Zen question, dealing with freedom and limitation. While we generally define freedom as being able to do whatever we want, in Zen that is not real freedom. Real freedom means living within the limitations on our experience of freedom, such as living and dying. Each tradition has its own language for this. In the Shin tradition we speak of our karmic limitations in terms of being “foolish beings”—bombu in Japanese. Understand- ing that I am a foolish being, which is under- standing that the elbow only bends one way, opens the door to the freedom to express my true self, with all my limitations. There is another term always attached to this awareness of foolish being: transformation. first thoughts