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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
54 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 2 What’s more, scientific research has shown that meditation is not something disconnected from people’s ordinary experience and can be helpful to a wide variety of people. Those who continue to pursue meditation practice are helped tremendously by having a broader understanding of what the path is, through study, involvement in a community, and certainly ethics. They need to see that the path is so much more than a technique, that it’s really about how we live. It’s a seamless garment. You can’t tell lies all week and then sit down on Saturday to meditate and ardently seek the truth. You’ll be too fragmented, too split apart. GAYLON FERGUSON: The Buddha’s vision of an awakened life clearly included more than just being a meditator. It goes all the way back to the eightfold path, which includes not only right mindfulness and right samadhi but right speech, right action, and right livelihood. It’s really a complete way of life. In my own practice and the practice of people in my community and other communities I’m in touch with, the practitioner’s challenge seems to be: How does the meditation experience become a part of the rest of one’s life? How is it a part of our parenting, time at work, families and neighbors, and politics? Even without a blueprint like the eightfold path, that’s the direction in which the experience of meditation, or the insight gained through meditation, begins to challenge us—so that it’s not just about having an experience at a retreat or a sesshin but about how we deal with Monday morning and the rest of our lives. satisfaction. Also, we’re an intensely impatient culture, and meditation throws that in our face very quickly, compelling us to learn about the virtue of patience. I think it’s advantageous that Buddhism in the West began with a heavy emphasis on meditation because, over time, the practice of meditation does inevitably seem to drop away, at least among large groups of practicing Buddhists, as Buddhism becomes more popular and absorbed into the culture. In the end, meditation may be left in the hands of, as Gaylon said, the professionals, which in the case of Western countries will most likely be the serious lay practitioners. So it’s a good thing that meditation is being established with strong roots right from the beginning. BUDDHADHARMA: What other advantages and disadvantages are there to emphasizing meditation as Buddhism makes this transition to the West? SHARON SALZBERG: One of the advantages is that meditation is very accessible and immediately engages people in a practice. People are understandably looking for a tool, for something practical, that will actually change their lives. They may be hesitant about the label “Buddhism” as a philosophy or set of beliefs and may not be familiar with the Buddha’s saying, “Do not believe anything just because I said it.” Perhaps they have had negative experiences with their religion of origin and are not looking for another religion. Meditation prac- tice is something anyone can do if they’re interested, without necessarily subscribing to Buddhist beliefs. All you have to do is pay attention to your breathing or to some other object. PHOTOS(LEFT—RIGHT):BRIANSPIELMAN;LIZAMATTHEWS;ZENMOUNTAINMONASTERY SHARON SALZBERG is cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the author of The Force of Kindness and Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation. GAYLON FERGUSON is an acharya in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition and an associate professor at Naropa University. He is the author of Natural Wakefulness. GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD is abbot of the Zen Center of New York City and head of the Mountains and Rivers Order, which was founded by his teacher, the late John Daido Loori.