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Lions Roar : January 2014
a solid foundation of understanding, it’s enriching to do some Dzogchen practice, or Zen, or different kinds of Vipassana. That can really expand our dharma view. But if we do it too early, there’s the poten- tial for confusion in the mind. So we have a great opportunity to explore all of the dif- ferent traditions of Buddhism available to us, but we have to use it judiciously. Jack Kornfield: Especially when practi- tioners are starting out, they can latch on to new ideas or beliefs as a way to orient themselves. But Buddhism is not some system or idea or set of beliefs. It is an invitation to have a direct experience of the mystery of your own body and mind. We explore what causes our suffering and what makes us free. We practice skillful means such as mindfulness of the body, loving-kindness, forgiveness, and so forth. These practices are all in the service of lib- eration, not of creating some new set of ideas or beliefs. So if your practice is helping you become more present with the way things are, instead of imposing some view on it, then you will start to feel freer and your practice will deepen. As Buddhist teachers and founders of the Insight Meditation tradition in the United States, you’ve played signifi- cant roles in defining how Buddhism is practiced in the West. How do you feel it’s going? Joseph Goldstein: When somebody asks me how dharma is doing in the West, I say, look around. I see so much sincerity in people’s practice, the same kind of dedi- cation that I remember encountering in Burma or Thailand. It’s beautiful to watch the flowering of the dharma here. What advice did your teachers in Asia give you about how to present Bud- dhism in the West? Jack Kornfield: When I was coming back to the United States from Asia, Ajahn Chah said to me, “Find whatever language works for people so you can help them under- stand how to alleviate suffering, how to let go of their fears and confusion. If you want to call it Christianity, do that—use what- ever language is helpful to people.” Joseph Goldstein: My first dharma teacher said, “If you want to understand the mind, sit down and observe it.” It’s such common sense—how else could we understand our mind except by observ- ing it? The universality of that was one of the appeals of Buddhism to me. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the West or in Asia. It’s the same process of understanding. ♦ PHOTOBYELIZABETHVIGEON 42 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014