26 January 2013

About Some Other Somewheres

In the last few weeks I've spoken with a variety of people who, each in his or her own way, voiced a common concern: what does one do in the face of hurt, or harmful social structures and environments, or systematic injustice?  participate?  withdraw?  how does one practice in such a world?

Buddhism, near as I can tell, is rather unique in offering no alternative reality to the present one.  There is no heaven, no Walhalla, no paradise-on-earth.  Just this.  Nirvana is not an alternative reality, either.  It is, as Hakuin so aptly puts it, openly shown to our eyes. This earth is the Buddha-land, this body the body of Buddha.  There is no some other somewhere.

It probably doesn't help to hear that in the thick of one's questioning.  Words are cheap.  I also don't think one can just hear those words and understand.  This kind of understanding is hard-won, the fruit of concerted practice.

All I find myself saying in such circumstances, then, is, "Practice.  Practice harder, and harder yet.  Practice until the line between participation and withdrawal disappears." 

The Dharma is a healing salve.  It's not just a parlor game or pleasant pastime.  There is release, but it is not bought cheaply.  It costs you your very life as you have known it so far. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Shodhin,

    I don't think there's a paradise on earth, but there are better or worse ways for it to be. For example, it's better when fewer people are denied their creativity (as long as they're not harming anybody else). We need to make room for people to remake the world when they feel called to do that.

    To believe this, one doesn't have to believe in Walhalla. But one does have to make, it seems to me, a move of non-acceptance: The way things are, when people are denied their creativity, is not the best way for things to be. And if we live in such a time, we shouldn't accept it.

    Here, maybe the practice *is*, in some sense, questioning -- one which would lead to (e.g.) political action. What if, to find a release in a world that's not perfect, we should practice a certain amount of earnest questioning, *with* other people -- to have the back and forth, the talking and listening, so that we can figure out what's worth accepting and what isn't? Then we can try making the achievable changes. (Everybody does that once in a while, right?)

    Of course, questions get boring and are only a part of life. . . . But then, everything gets boring and is only a part of life.

    Anyway, so maybe we need acceptance and non-acceptance, the practice and the question, this world *and* the (achievable) next.

    Anyway. Hope all is well at the Center.