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Buddhadharma : Spring 2019
38 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY The important point here is that “clinging to emptiness” can function in the same way as cosmological dualism, both of them devaluing this world and its problems. According to Joanna Macy, this misunderstanding is one of several “spiritual traps that cut the nerve of compassionate action.” According to Macy, to see this world as illusion is to dwell in an emptiness that is disengaged from its forms, in which the end of suffering involves nonattachment to the fate of beings rather than nonattachment to one’s own ego. But the Buddha did not teach—nor does his life demonstrate—that non- attachment means unconcern about what is happening in the world, to the world. When the Heart Sutra famously asserts that “form is not different from emptiness,” it immediately adds that “emptiness is not other than form.” And forms—including the living beings and ecosystems of this world—suffer. Many educated Buddhists today aren’t sure what to believe about a transcendent “otherworldly” reality, or karma as a law of ethi- cal cause and effect, or physical rebirth after we die. Some wonder whether awakening too is an outdated myth, similar perhaps to the physical resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion. So it is not surprising that a more secular, this-worldly alternative has become popular, especially in the West: understanding the Buddhist path more psychologically, as a new type of therapy that provides differ- ent perspectives on the nature of mental distress and new practices Our task is to do the very best we can, not knowing what the consequences will be—in fact, not knowing if our efforts will make any difference whatsoever. Of course we hope our efforts will bear fruit, but ultimately they are our openhearted gift to the earth.