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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 13 Editorial: Questions & Discoveries THIS ISSUE of the Shambhala Sun is for everyone who wants to know more about the Buddhist path. Perhaps you’ve read some Buddhist books or you’re doing medi- tation. You’ve heard—and maybe already discovered— that Buddhist practice can make you more peaceful and help you deal with the stresses and challenges of life. These are worthwhile benefits, undoubtedly, but Buddhism is much vaster and deeper than that. This issue will give you an overview of the whole Buddhist path, from the recognition of suffering to the discovery that your own mind is the very mind of the Buddha. All the teachings in this issue are by living teachers writing in contemporary language. Studying tradi- tional texts and the great teachers of the past is essen- tial, of course, but I think it’s great that we can present these modern teachers—both Western and Asian— speaking in modern language to modern people. Yet the dharma itself is strong and pure, never watered down or “Westernized.” Buddhism offers many models for the meditator’s journey, from the intricacies of vipassana meditation to the koan study of Zen to the almost infinite rituals and visualizations of Vajrayana. But the real journey takes place at another level, more personal, subjec- tive, and mysterious. The Buddhist path is ultimately a series of questions and discoveries. Each question leads us to a discovery, and each discovery naturally raises another question. This is the journey we take in this issue of the Shambhala Sun. The Buddhist path begins with the recognition of suffering, our own and others’, which raises the ques- tion, what can we do about it? We might envision the end of suffering as the goal of a long and arduous jour- ney, one that takes us from our present condition to some fantastic state of being called enlightenment. But if we look closely, or someone points it out to us, we find that enlightened mind has coexisted all along with our usual neurosis. We catch a glimpse of enlightenment in the moments of simplicity, peace, and awareness that shine through when there’s a gap in our usual mental activity. To help us shift our allegiance from our usual dualistic thinking to the freshness of awakened mind, we begin to practice meditation. Meditation looks so simple from the outside, but as Zen teacher John Tarrant tells us, it’s a twisty jour- ney that takes us to unexpected and sometimes un- comfortable places. We wonder whether others on the path can help us find our way, and we discover that the teachers, teachings, and communities of Buddhism offer us guidance and companionship on a journey that remains fundamentally personal. As our practice and study of Buddhism deepens, we discover innate resources of wisdom and com- passion. But even as the Buddha himself did after his enlightenment, we wonder what to do with this new knowledge. It becomes meaningful only when we take it out into the world, so great Buddhist teach- ers, such as Thich Nhat Hanh in this issue, offer us myriad skillful means for putting our meditation into action for the benefit of others. Finally, Buddhist tantra, also known as Vajrayana, offers the possibility of a fast track to enlighten- ment. Vajrayana is famed for its exotic and often secret practices, but its basis is profoundly simple: your mind is the Buddha’s mind, your body is the Buddha’s body, and you have only to discover what is already yours. In fact, the hardest part is actually believing it, for that requires us to overcome the deep sense of inadequacy, guilt, and, dare I say it, sin ingrained in us by psychology and religion, and by the very nature of ego. It’s traditional to survey the whole path before you start off. It definitely helps to have some idea where you’re going, but you can’t fool yourself into believing you’re already there. So we have to go back to the beginning, to where we really are, and see how we can ensure that our journey is genuine. Carolyn Gimian has done an excellent job concluding this issue with the “good news, bad news” of Buddhism, which is usually that the bad news is the good news. These simple, undeniable, and sometimes painful facts of life, when combined with our innate good- ness, curiosity, and wisdom, give us this magnificent, mysterious, and utterly human journey known as the Buddhist path. —M E LVIN MC LEOD PHOTO©MARVINMOORE MAY 1-17.indd 13 MAY 1-17.indd 13 3/6/08 11:10:52 AM 3/6/08 11:10:52 AM