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Buddhadharma : Winter 2018
20 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY Nonduality is like this. The words are only an attempt to conceptualize what can’t be described by words: the enlight- ened state of mind, the deep wisdom beyond conventions. Like that ocean view, this state of mind always exists, whether we are able to experience it or not. Also like that view, if we want to benefit from it, we must be willing to put in the work required. Fortunately for us, the Bud- dha already found his way there and left behind a kind of trail map and blueprint to help us arrive at the state of mind he discovered and build our lives on that foundation. He left us a gradual training, one that entails a way of living that brings the mind more into harmony with an enlightened perspective. The noble eightfold path: right (or harmonious or skillful) understanding, right intention, right speech, right action, right liveli- hood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Following this path requires us to engage in some degree of thinking and discernment. Consider this verse from the Dhammapada: Abstaining from all evil, Doing what is good, Purifying one’s mind, This is the teaching of all buddhas. If we were supposed to stop thinking and making any judgments, how would we Ven. Ayya Sudhamma is the first American woman ordained in Sri Lanka and abbess of Charlotte Buddhist Vihara in North Carolina be able to discern good from evil? The Buddha advised that, before perform- ing any action of body, speech, or mind, we should pause to discern whether the action would bring benefit or lead to harm; if the latter, we should abstain. Moreover, the Buddha exhorted us to keep watch for any sign that a seemingly beneficial behavior is in fact harmful, and to cease from any such activity. In meditation, we can transcend think- ing—not all at once and not by willpower, but by skillfully and repeatedly redirect- ing the mind. So, paradoxically, in order to arrive at that open, relaxed state of mind, one must engage in skillful applica- tion of mind rather than a passive open awareness, at least until all negative mental states, including restlessness, have been set aside. An open “don’t know” attitude can be a great asset for teaching oneself to relax and let go, bringing stillness, peace, and calm. It serves an essential role on the path, but it isn’t a complete path in itself. Just as we require both inhalation and exhalation to live, to develop spiritually, we need both openness and discernment, both energetic effort and letting go. The Buddha likened it to holding a delicate quail: held too loosely it could escape, but held too tightly, it might be crushed. As we grow in maturity on the path, we learn how and when to make effort or to let go. TONYTUENI