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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 11 38 The TiMes we LiVe in keep asking us a simple question: is walking the Buddhist path and all this meditating on the cush- ion leading to mindful living? individually and collectively, are we making the changes in our everyday patterns that will sustain life on this planet for generations? Lately i’ve been wondering whether the crux of the matter is economic. By economic i don’t mean simply how we make a living and how we spend or save money—although it surely includes all of those. New York Times writer Judith warner, reflecting on what the current Great recession has done to family life, notes that some researchers see a silver lining in the sense of living well, suggesting that “less cash to spend means less materialism, a real change.” so what does a good life really mean? There is the big-picture view of macroeconomics, such as Joel Gaylon FeRGuson is the author of Natural Wakefulness: Discovering the Wisdom We Are Born With. he is an acharya in the shambhala lineage and teaches at naropa university in Boulder, Colorado. Happy Together When we stop focusing on ourselves, we begin to see that our happiness is dependent on the happiness of all beings. gaylon Ferguson examines the political, social, and environmental implications. you have some insight into its origins and the intention at its base. when we perceive something, anything at all, we create a sign of it in our mind. a sign is the object of our percep- tion. when we look at a friend, for example, we first see her appearance. we see a self. But if we look deeply into the appearance of our friend, we see elements in her that are not her. we see the air and water, the earth and the sun in her. we see her ancestors in her. so we are not caught in thinking her appearance, her sign, is all she is. wherever there is a sign, a mark, an appearance, there is deception. signs trick and deceive us. But we can break through the veil of signs, and see the nature of things as they are. seeing the nature of reality is not the fruit of twenty years of meditation; it is our daily practice. we can do it at home, Magnuson’s Mindful Economics: How the U.S. Economy Works, Why it Matters, and How it Could be Different, or Charles ferguson’s insightful documentary on the 2008 finan- cial crisis, Inside Job. and there are the daily challenges of home economics—the way in which each of us is, as Gary snyder put it, an “earth house holder.” This is the domestic path of becoming what Chögyam Trungpa called a genuine “earth protector.” David r. Loy, in his book Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution, connects the fundamental teach- ings of the Buddha (acting on craving leads to suffering) with the pervasive contemporary sense that “something’s missing.” This psychological sense of basic scarcity, of an inherent lack, fuels the machinery of materialist consumption. economics in the wider sense involves all the personal and institutional displays of passion (greed), aggression (war), and ignorance (numbed indifference) that make up our world. when we are ruled by desire and habitual craving, we con- tinually move from shopping for one fleeting pleasure to another, constantly scanning our environment for alternative ways the material world might yield lasting happiness. This search inevitably leads to frustration and disappointment, at work, or wherever we are. when we look deeply, we can discover the true nature of a person or a thing; we see the characteristics of interdependence and interconnection. we touch reality as we eat, as we drink. we see the piece of bread as the reality it is; we see our brother, our sister, our partner, our children, and our colleagues at work as they truly are. we can look deeply into the nature of money or material posses- sions and see that they will not bring us any more happiness than is already available to us. The more we look deeply, the more clearly we see, and reality reveals itself to us bit by bit. when we see reality as it is, there is no craving, no anger, and no fear. running after our cravings has brought us a lot of suf- fering and despair. Committing to mindful consumption is committing to our own happiness. it is a conscious decision to make space for the happiness that is available in each step and each breath. every breath and every step can be nourishing and healing. as we breathe in and breathe out, or as we take a mindful step, we can recite this mantra: “This is a moment of happiness.” it doesn’t cost anything at all. This is why i say that mindful consumption is the way out of suffering. The teaching is simple, and the practice is not difficult. • Committing to mindful consumption is committing to our own happiness. It is a conscious decision to make space for the happiness that is available in each step and each breath. christinealicino