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Buddhadharma : Fall 2017
fall 2017 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 33 forum: Awakening to the Cries of the World Buddhadharma: Most of us enter practice hoping for some kind of improve- ment to our own lives. How do we make the shift from practicing for ourselves to practicing for others? Venerable Pannavati: We don’t really make that shift from me to other; the shift is made for us in the cultivation of practice. It’s like being on the shore and entering the ocean. As you wade into the water, the action of the waves begins to take over, and soon your feet aren’t even touching the bottom as the current begins to lift you. The qualities that begin to arise as a result of practice are what take us to the path of hearing the cries of others and having the courage and desire to respond. You come to realize that when you’re serving others, you are in fact serving yourself. But there’s no thought of I am serving or I am doing; there is just the doing that is the fruit of right cultivation. Anne Carolyn Klein: The main method of the Mahayana is compassion. And the very essence of wisdom is compassion. This compassion has a dissolving effect on our overly ramped-up sense of “me-ness”; once we finally see that we are not the center of the universe—and that’s a relief—we simply don’t focus on ourselves in the same way. Indeed, all our practices in all Buddhist traditions— wisdom, compassion, attention—are oriented toward dissolving the sense of self that obstructs us from benefiting others. The Tibetan traditions also emphasize that this same exaggerated idea of me-ness prevents us from recognizing our potential to become full-on buddhas. With this in mind, it’s important also to recognize that benefiting ourselves is not in any real sense an opposition to benefiting others, and vice versa. The benefits of the path—confidence, energy, joy, freedom from habits that limit our potential—are both important for us personally and just as important for grow- ing into someone who can be of benefit to others. Ejo McMullen: When I first entered the Soto Zen path formally, I wanted to get down to business—I wanted to meditate all the time, not deal with any of that fluffy taking-care-of-community stuff. I was fortunate to be among long- term practitioners from the beginning and have my bluff called on my idea of true practice. The whole of my life—my work as a schoolteacher, my role as a father and husband—all had to be included, which I most likely would have tried to turn from without that kind of guidance. I think for most people, right from the beginning, we need a teaching and practice that asks us to consider the fundamental problem of dividing the world into self and other. We may mature into being able to help others or care for ourselves, but this maturation comes from walking the path with both feet, not trying to hop on one or the other. Fall 2016