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Buddhadharma : Fall 2018
ASK THE TEACHERS 21 we can provide this, people will notice. In turn, they may discover that they are capable of doing the same. To extend kindness, warmth, and insight is the true vocation of a practitioner. JOSÉ SHINZAN PALMA: While any job that involves breaking the precepts, causing harm, or contributing to greed, hatred, or ignorance is incompatible with the Buddhist path, in many cases it is not so obvious or clear that precepts are being violated. We live in a world that is so interconnected that we can never com- pletely isolate ourselves from causing harm or leaving a footprint. The eightfold path calls us to find a right or appropriate livelihood, by which I think the Buddha had a threefold inten- tion. First, he was aware of, and wanted to reduce, the suffering experienced by sentient beings as a result of unwhole- some labor. Second, he understood that such actions would create unhelpful kar- mic results. And finally, he realized agita- tion would arise in one’s own heart–mind as a result of knowingly engaging in such labor. This residual disturbing energy in the mind as a result of engaging in non- virtuous actions makes it more difficult for a meditator to concentrate. Many people, as they deepen in their practice, begin to recognize some level of mental agitation as a result of their work activities. Often, though, they are not JOANHALIFAX in a position to leave their jobs. There may be any number of mitigating factors to someone’s particular situation, but in general we must all work to survive. Assuming our intentions are not to cause harm, are there ways we can mindfully contribute something helpful—to create a more equitable, kind, and balanced world, even in the midst of non-ideal cir- cumstances? It is worth examining how we might incorporate those aspirations into our daily tasks. There is a famous Zen quote: “Where the water is too pure, there are no fish.” This phrase points to the error in think- ing there is any ideal situation with respect to one’s job—or anything else in life. Our practice can help us realize the impossibility of creating lasting perfect conditions. All we can do is our best to contribute to harmony, peace, happiness, and well-being for ourselves and society. How can we best align our work lives with our Buddhist values in a way that serves both ourselves and others? Through practice, we can access the wis- dom to discern the answer to this ques- tion. We are all continually challenged by life circumstances to wake up to the ways in which we cause harm through our greed, hatred, and ignorance. And in waking up to the challenges of our lives, in looking deeply at our actions and intentions, we can in turn help to wake up the entire world. José Shinzan Palma is a San Diego-based Zen priest working to foster an Hispanic Zen community in the US and Mexico