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Buddhadharma : Spring 2017
58 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2017 the country and context we’re in addresses those particularities. I’ve probably spent more time than anyone threading the teachings to address these particulars, but I think keeping only to that avenue is an enor- mous limitation. It’s a function of privilege to say we’re just going to look at the Buddhist teachings for solutions, because that continues to serve the dominant power position. People are dying! People are under real, grave bodily threat. We can’t look at these issues and select the teachings at our leisure that we hope will work to address them. So I say yes, engage. And yes, there are teach- ings, trainings, and practices within Buddhism that penetrate neuroses and ignorance. But can we loosen the fixation on having everything come from a Buddhist perspective, especially when we’re not necessarily equipped inside of that perspective to see where the propensities of our culture will keep us from learning what we need to learn? We need to learn from people of color when we are in the posi- tion of power around race; we need to learn from women around sexism; we need to learn from queer folks around sexuality. We need to do something that upsets the positionality that we have, and that’s not always available to us in Buddhist teachings. If we’re not willing to engage on these issues, we can actually perpetuate harm, as we’ve seen happen many times. PEMA KhANDRO: Traditionally, karma would be at the center of a conversation about ethics. We should consider this idea of karma in terms of a sense of vigilance about our actions. Our actions have con- sequences; so too does our nonaction. Our nonac- tion is also difficult to undo. In Dzogchen, compassion is actually a profound responsiveness rather than passive empathy, as we see embodied in the image of Green Tara, with her foot extended forward to step into action. This is an important conversation for us to have. What is compassion, really? I also think we must consider the way that unethical behavior and bigoted views constrain our perception. It’s not possible to see reality or see mind, to truly know our authentic nature, while maintaining those views. So it’s important for us to see how crucial ethics is in terms of addressing our disturbed mind states and behaviors. Behavior is a very powerful way to change mind. It’s difficult to just think our way into a better moral state. We need to pay attention to what causes suf- fering. Ultimately, Buddhist ethics comes from a heightened awareness about what kinds of psycho- logical states and interpersonal environments are created by our actions. It’s not sufficient to think only of our own suffering. The Buddhist path con- nects us with other people. My suffering and your suffering are not different, even if we have differ- ent views. We feel it with the same intensity, and it demands a response; this is really what Buddhism is all about. NOAh LEVINE: Being involved is incredibly important. I’m always looking to what the Buddha did with his life and his awakening. I see him as someone who was politically and socially active against racism, sexism, and war. For us now, the environmental situation that threatens our planet is also a huge issue. We can’t wait until we’re free from all forms of greed, hatred, and delusion to become active. Trying to be part of the solution means being of service and speaking out, sometimes passionately and maybe even in an unpopular way. This can be a challenging part of breaking out of the selfish- ness and self-centeredness of our practice. There have been many times when I’ve been unethical by keeping my mouth shut rather than speaking up. I’m well aware of the white male privilege that I have, and I really do want to speak up and support diverse voices. My question is, how can I use that privilege to be an ally and to create the positive change that we all want to see take place, not There’s a sense of ethics being a limitation or boundary. I think there’s a misunderstanding of how ethics actually supports the urge toward freedom. —Ajahn Amaro (Opposite) Notre dame, 2003 (detail) ➤ continued on page 83 ©mauroperucchetti