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Buddhadharma : Summer 2009
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 0 9 48 and things go bad, you can always eat your wealth. In some ways, it has more flexibility than a completely abstract system. The vulnerability that people have now is, in some measure, because things have become so abstract. It would help to con- template the power money can have over us because of what we have imbued this symbol with. John TarranT: The really interesting thing about human beings is the relationship among us, and money is part of that rela- tionship. The magic of human beings is about what they do with those relationships. If you have less money, do you actu- ally end up sharing more? What are the consequences of losing money? Does it really matter, and in what ways does it matter when it matters? Sharon SaLzberg: Yes, issues of community and generosity and the ethos of giving—all the touchy subjects that surround our relationship with money—that is the pressing issue right now. DaviD Loy: The formula from the Heart Sutra applies here: form is emptiness, emptiness is form. In a way, what is so beautiful about money is that it’s true emptiness. It can take any form. The challenge is always whether we use the money or the money uses us. Money is energy potentiality. It doesn’t really belong to you or to me, so how should we use it? My own teacher in Japan, Yamada Koun Roshi, was an exemplar to me of somebody who had quite a bit of money and knew how to use it to help people. buDDhaDharma: In Buddhism, developing generosity is not measured using an external scale, such as how much we tithe. The measure seems to be more subtle and contextual than that. DaviD Loy: Exactly. The many different stations of life give us many different opportunities for the same challenge: transforming greed, ill will, and delusion into generosity, loving-kindness, and wisdom. The specific challenges vary according to who we are and where we are, but it’s the same transformation. buDDhaDharma: Money problems are causing difficulties for many people in their relationships, and they are also causing difficulties for institutions like dharma centers that are having trouble paying their bills or raising funds. Sharon SaLzberg: I co-founded a dharma center when I was twenty-three. Fortunately, there were some people on the board of directors who knew what a mortgage was. On one of the first tours we ever had of what became the Insight Meditation Society, we went straight to the basement and looked at the giant boiler, and someone asked us, what if this falls apart? What if it blows up? We used to say over and over again in that first year, we can always close it in a year if it doesn’t work. We were extremely naïve; we had nothing in the first mini-budgets for any kind of repair. We just didn’t have that concept that if you own it, you have to take care of it. You’re the steward. We’ve always had the idea of charging as little as we can, so more people can take part. And that brings challenges, but slowly we’ve grown up and found ways to keep it going. Now, everyone has health insurance. We’re more savvy about mort- gages and finances, and we have a new, very efficient boiler. For a dharma center, it’s important that people have a sense of integrity and are responsive to the practical needs of being in this society, and to do things well, not recklessly. It’s impor- tant to be transparent and have a strong sense of values. When we’re working with the practicalities of money and property, it’s easy to get caught up in fear and the dogmatism of what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s a very rich and creative process, whether we’re a family or a dharma center. John TarranT: As you were talking about the founding of IMS, Sharon, I found it very touching how you described that grop- ing in the dark quality. That’s lovely. That’s very much the spirit of practice. When people and groups are concerned about money, they’re concerned about how they’re going to do, about scarcity, and what’s going to happen. Are we all going to huddle together in winter without heat in our houses? Will we live in shopping carts? It’s important to remember that we can and will get by, and that even if our life changes a lot, we might have just as much happiness. If we go back to some lower level of subsis- tence, maybe we’ll really enjoy cooking meals for each other and sharing a cup of coffee instead of having three lattés a day. Obsessively worrying about whether we’ll do OK is an attempt to control something that we don’t know about yet. We think we may miss out on a life we could have had if things had been different. We always have the opportunity to start treating everything in our life as practice. It’s not about solving another problem. There will always be another problem. The deeper layers of practice are about a big welcome to whatever comes. —John Tarrant davidKozlowsKi,dallasPHotoworKs