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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
RICHARD PAYNE 83 meditation and ritual, the most relevant is the pairing of spiritual with internal, which is then set in opposition to the pairing of mate- rial and external. In turn, spiritual/internal comes to be paired with experiential and meditative, while material/external is paired with meaningless rote action and empty ritual. Such oppositional pairings of concepts have a great deal of power in directing how we think about practice. dissolving the diChotomy Calling attention to the power of oppositional pairings points to the further goal of this reflection. There is no point in simply revers- ing the valuation of meditation as positive and ritual as negative; from a nondual perspective, it is the dichotomy itself that creates problems. In place of the opposition of meditation as internal and ritual as external, we need to recognize that action entails thought and thought involves action. In other words, all meditation involves some degree of ritualization, from something as simple as mak- ing a regular time for meditating, sitting in a particular posture, and engaging in a short breathing exercise to start, up to increas- ingly ritualized activities such as lighting incense, sounding a bell, and chanting before and after the meditation. Likewise, all ritual involves some degree of meditation, from simply attending closely to the actions required to engaging in complex visualizations of the Buddha, bodhisattvas, and guardian deities. The predominant view of ritual and meditation as mutually exclusive opposites is not grounded in simple reality; rather, it is an historical construction that grew out of a specific time and place and in service to a particular religious worldview. Our contemporary interpretation of that worldview has led us to extol meditation while denigrating ritual. If we are to become fully rounded practitioners, we must overcome this dualistic approach and learn to see the two as complementary, amplifying and supporting one another. External forms provide structure and consistency to boundless internal expe- rience. From this perspective, every practice is located somewhere on the spectrum of ritualized action, while at the same time an opportu- nity to experience absolute reality, unbound by form. RICHARD PAYNE is the dean of the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley and author of Homa Variations: The Study of Ritual Change across the Longue Durée.