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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
winter 2006| 6 |buddhadharma “It’s fine to work on the origins of evil within me,” one might argue, “but what about all the evil happening in the world – the atrocities of war, starvation, and unspeakable crimes that are plas- tered all over the media?” First, we have to be realistic. The only person we have a hope of changing in a fundamental way is ourself, and, as we know, that’s damn difficult to do. If we decide to do practi- cal work to help end human suffering, we have to undertake it without the spirit of opposition that seems to escalate into the very thing we are trying to prevent. (It’s sadly funny to hear people arguing vehemently about war.) There are infinite opportunities to work for good. We start by living by the precepts. Then we can petition a con- gressperson, become a compassionate police officer, practice nonviolent commu- nication, be patient under duress, or do loving-kindness or tonglen practices for those on both sides of a conflict. We can just be kind to someone who irritates us. I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier to fume about a distant war than to call a person we’ve hurt and apologize. The “other half” that Harada Roshi challenged my mother to find is the oppo- site of energy manifesting as forms. It’s emptiness – the Great Potential – out of which all that energy arises: the creativ- ity and the destruction, the ally and the enemy. It is within us that the form and emptiness meet. If every action has an opposite and equal reaction, how can we work for good in the world of form and not cre- ate evil? It is only possible when we step outside these opposites, when we empty ourselves out continually. This is the challenge of the middle way: to be compassionate without becoming overwhelmed and depressed by the suffer- ing of the world, to be determined with- out becoming aggressive and anxious, and to have clarity of mind without becom- ing indifferent or cruel. We start with the most intimate work, the inner work. Then we move outward, working for peace in a milieu of nonopposition. We return always to emptiness, the Great Potential. This is not the stuff of headlines, nor can you get a big grant to do it, and yet, in my experience, it is the most practical, the most profound, and ultimately the most powerful way to work for goodness and peace in the world. rolandschmid