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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
ask The Teachers 19 Myokei cAine-BARRett: I suspect we all begin Buddhist practice from a place of ego, with an expectation that we will benefit from it. We believe we will become calmer, more focused, more centered, or maybe that we will learn to maximize our potential and somehow reach a distant shore called nirvana. When we first set out on this path, there is no downside to focusing on the self. We don’t necessarily have the capacity or motivation to “forget the self” yet. It’s only by earnestly engaging with the foun- dational teachings—the noble truths, the dharma seals, and the great vows—that we develop that capacity. These teachings provide a scaffolding for the construction of a life intent on becoming a buddha. The first of the four noble truths tell us that life is full of suffering and that the end of suffering is nirvana. The eightfold path offers us a way out of suffering. This path—appropriate speech, appropri- ate action, and so on—points to the rela- tional nature of Buddhist practice. Our development as practitioners is revealed in our changed relationships, both in the appropriateness of our interactions and the impacts they have. The quality of our kiMwinton interactions becomes a mirror for the depth of our practice. The dharma seals teach us that all things are impermanent, nothing has a persisting self, and nirvana is tran- quility. Applying these principles to our daily lives can prepare us to weather any storm with full knowledge that change is constant. Nothing we experience, even egoistic pride in our own generosity, is a permanent condition. Finally, the four great vows elevate our understanding of suffering, point- ing beyond the small world of our own desires and preoccupations. We may at first “fake it until we make it,” but our deepening practice and study will eventually demand a richer and fuller response. Our development as practition- ers includes the awakening of compassion and a direct experience of dependent origination, resulting in a truer, more pro- found understanding of cause and effect. In sharing the teachings with others, true joy blossoms. By applying these principles to our lives, we can wholeheartedly seek to end the suffering of others, without self- importance. As we do, we come to under- stand and embody the bodhisattva ideal. The result? Each of us awakens to our own place in the world. We are not alone; we are not without influence and impact. We chose this path. And we are abun- dantly capable of being changed by it. Myokei caine-Barrett, shonin is the bishop of the Nichiren Shu Order of North America