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Lions Roar : March 2014
7 Questions for 7 Teachers e-book on the adaptation of Buddhism to the West and beyond Seven Buddhist teachers from various traditions from around the world were asked seven questions on the challenges that Buddhism faces to be accessible and relevant in our modern secular world. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Jack Kornfield, Roshi Joan Halifax, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Rob Nairn, Stephen Batchelor, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo Read their reponses! Free extract download or full text for $5 on www.e-maho.com lined with cushions patterned with elephants. Other retreatants choose the sauna or the sanctuary, the basketball or tennis courts, the lively café or the liquid-glass lake. And the food is good, too—healthy dishes such as black beans over rice, spiced with salsa verde and topped with dollops of sour cream and sprinkles of cheese. It’s Saturday afternoon and, having indulged too much at lunch, I’m in a cozy stupor when Ani Pema asks us all to stand up. We’re going to do an exercise. Inhaling, we’re going to raise our hands high in the air. Then exhaling with a “hah,” we’re going to quickly bring our arms down and slap our palms against our thighs. Simple enough, but the result is surprising. Although those are my hands making contact with my thighs, the jolt is unexpected. Suddenly, if just for the briefest of moments, I feel lucid, totally fresh. This, says Ani Pema, is an experience of being free from fixed mind. Fixed mind is stuck, inflexible. It’s a mind that closes down, that is living with blinders on. Though it’s a common state in everyday life, fixed mind is particularly easy to spot in the realm of politics. “Say you’re an environmentalist,” Ani Pema tells us. “What you’re working for is really important, but when fixed mind comes in, the other side is the enemy. You become prejudiced and closed, and this makes you less effective as an activist.” On the spiritual path, being free from fixed mind is the third necessary quality for waking up. Even if we aren’t practitioners, life itself gives us endless opportunities to experience this free- dom. These, for instance, are all things that have stopped my mind: loud, jolting noises; intense beauty, such as the sudden glimpse of an enormous orange moon; surrealist art, like Salva- dor Dali’s telephone with a lobster inexplicably perched on top. “The experience of being free of fixed mind often happens because of trauma or crisis,” Ani Pema says. A sudden death or tragedy takes place, and on a dime we see that things are not the way we usually perceive them. Ani Pema tells the story of one woman who, on September 11, 2001, experienced a profound gap in just this way. Distracted and rushed, she was heading to work with her arms full of papers for a presentation she was about to give. Then she came up out of the subway and saw the destruction. The air was filled with papers like the ones she was holding—all the paperwork that had been filling up drawers in offices like hers. Her mind stopped. When Ani Pema first started practicing meditation, she felt poverty-stricken because everyone in her circle was always talk- ing about “the gap.” That’s the open awareness that’s revealed when we’re free from fixed mind, but she never experienced it and whenever she admitted this to someone, they’d smile smugly. “You will,” they’d say. As she understood it, the gap was supposed to be something experienced in meditation, yet, she says, “What was happening with me was pretty much yak-yak-yak, intermingled with strong Pema Chödrön continued from page 35 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2014 78