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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 63 allegiance. They only want us to find our own buddhanature. Inviting the Buddha into our heart is, in the deepest sense, to also invite the dharma and the sangha into our life. It means taking upon ourselves the willingness and responsibility to em- body our buddhanature. The Dharma The dharma is the path that leads to the realization of our buddha- nature. It teaches us the universal story of change, unsatisfactori- ness, and nonself that runs through all of our lives. It reveals our interconnectedness, which is usually clouded by delusion and fear. The dharma is what we practice when we sit down with the in- tention to let go, to calm the waves of agitation in our hearts, and to understand what is true. When we go out into our day with the commitment to not harm and to protect the well-being of all liv- ing beings, we are practicing the dharma. When we are generous with our time, attention, and love, we embody the dharma. When we resolve to be truthful, to treasure a clear mind, and to engage the world with respect and appreciation, we live the dharma. The teachings of profound wisdom found in the volumes of scriptures are intended not to be absorbed only as an intellec- tual exercise but to be assimilated and embodied. All of us are asked to take the teachings off the bookshelves and into every dimension of our lives, leaving nothing untouched. We come to know the wisdom of a buddha when the dharma is our life and our life is the dharma. Making life into dharma is an ongoing practice, which is why it is called a path. The dharma is our heart’s commitment to all that is heal- ing and liberating. It is not a commitment we make just once. Rather, we make it countless times in a single day. It is a com- mitment not to an ideology or belief system—to the volumes of scriptures—but to our own buddhanature. It is only when we begin to wake up and be more mindful and present in our life that we realize how remarkably forgetful we can be. We begin to appreciate how easy it is to be lost in habits of aversion, resist- ance, greed, and heedlessness. Every time we can find the will- ingness to be with what is and step out of the cycles of resistance and forgetfulness, we renew our commitment to the dharma. Each time we choose a path of kindness rather than aversion, seek peace rather than conflict, speak with truthfulness rather than dissemble, we are practicing the dharma. All these small moments of commitment, where we renew our intention to be awake in our life, do bear fruit. Our hearts and lives are changed by the daily commitments we make to act in accord with dharma. In the beginning, trying to live with integrity, clarity, and compassion feels effortful, almost heroic, at times even impossible. But with practice, it becomes less of a concerted effort. It feels quite possible and natural to live ac- cording to dharma. We live in greater peace and openness, we fall in love with awareness, and our mind becomes our friend. The Sangha The sangha, or the community of the wise, can be under- stood on at least three levels. One is called the noble sangha, the community of those who are awakened and embody that wisdom. These are the buddhas and teachers who inspire and encourage us. They are the people who have touched us with their unwavering commitment to end the suffering and an- guish in our world. We aspire to follow their example. The sangha is also the monastic order of monks and nuns, people who inspire us with the simplicity and integrity of their lives. In a recent meeting of Buddhist teachers, when many peo- ple were reporting on the projects and ventures their centers were undertaking, one of the ordained sangha reported that the monks and nuns really didn’t do very much. On one level that is quite true. They have no mission to build and support centers, create programs, or fundraise. On another level it is by “not do- ing very much” that the ordained community does so much, reminding us by their presence how deeply important it is to dedicate our hearts and lives to ethics, mindfulness, and libera- tion. They are a living presence of simplicity, renunciation, and commitment. For many centuries, the long lineage of the monastic sangha has offered refuge to those who have no refuge, brought life to the dharma, and reminded us of the most precious gem of all, the treasure of liberation. Monasteries in Asia are home to those who have left the world but who are also endlessly avail- able to the world. They support children who are orphaned and the elderly who have no family. They educate and speak out for social justice and bear witness to the births and deaths of the laypeople in their communities. The monastic commu- nity in a very real way endeavors to be a microcosmic view of a just and compassionate society, rooted in ethics, respect, and wise relationship. Finally, the sangha is found in the communities and rela- tionships of trust and integrity we nurture in our own lives. Genuine sangha is any relationship that treasures harmony and practices the wisdom of interconnectedness. It is chal- lenging to go on silent retreats and to cultivate a practice where we sit with ourselves on a cushion. But in our individu- alistic culture, it is far more challenging for many people to cultivate community and true friendship. Each one of us gets up off our meditation cushion and enters into the world of relationship. Bringing our practice and our commitment to wakefulness into that world is what enriches our practice and gives it meaning. Our path remains incomplete as long as this third treasure is omitted. It is in community that we discover how hard it is to live in a truly ethical way. A friend of mine said that if practicing the Buddhist precepts, the guidelines for how to conduct ourselves with attention and kindness, “does not make your life more ➢ page 111 MAY 60-63.indd 63 MAY 60-63.indd 63 3/6/08 11:31:30 AM 3/6/08 11:31:30 AM