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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 19 WHEN STUDENTS ASKED THE BUDDHA, “How should I practice?” the Buddha would answer, “Bring virtue to whatever you are doing. When you sew, make garments with the thought of compassion. When you cook, make food with patience. When you play music, offer it with generosity. Let whatever you are do- ing become your meditation, and your path will deepen.” These days we call this kind of activity “meditation in action.” One of the recommended ways to bring meditation into ac- tion is to wholeheartedly embrace the path of virtue. How do we determine what is virtuous? We look at the result. Being mindful, feeling compassion, and exercising patience lead to pleasure and lightness of mind. Being angry, jealous, and self-obsessed lead to pain because they constrict the mind and make our conscious- ness thicker. We take charge of our life by knowing which quali- ties we want to enhance. Next we contemplate a quality we wish to take into action. We isolate, clarify, and cultivate a particular virtue so that its seed can take root in our being and grow throughout the day. In con- templation, we practice creating the path of wisdom by fabricat- ing virtue through concept and letting it penetrate us. Then we transcend the concept by incorporating its meaning in our life. Compassion is one of the most powerful thoughts we can develop in this way. The mind that is directed toward others in every activity achieves the most profound virtue. We may not necessarily feel that kind of compassion right now, so we sit and conjure up an image with words. Perhaps we say, “May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the root of suffering.” That wish would be a good definition of compassion. At the very least, we say the words; compassion becomes our mantra. Each language gives a slightly different flavor to this virtue. The English word compassion has a sense of empathy or sympa- thy; the word in Tibetan literally means “noble heart.” We have different languages getting to the same point: our wish for the suffering of beings to be eliminated. So we contemplate the attitude of compassion. What is the logic behind our wish to relieve the suffering of others? It’s the basic truth that to relieve only our own suffering will merely per- petuate it. How can we be truly happy while others are suffering? Once the point gets across, the word drops away, and we begin to feel the meaning of compassion. We don’t want ourselves or anyone else to suffer. Effective contemplation means being a good fire maker. We kindle a spark of feeling with a word or phrase, which eventu- ally ignites the ember of compassion. When the fire dies down, we put on the next log—a support analogy. We embellish our conceptual creation by calling to mind the image of somebody who is close, like our mother or our child. Visualizing that person immediately brings a sense of warmth and understanding; we don’t want anything bad to happen to them. We stay with the feeling, and perhaps even try to make it bigger by visualizing someone toward whom it is not quite so easy to feel compassion. When we Contemplating Compassion Generating compassion is the most effective way to put our meditation into action, says SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE, but it isn’t an easy thing to do. By using contemplative meditation, we can turn the thought of compassion into a reality. ILLUSTRATIONBYEMILYCROW SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, an international network of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning the Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World. JULY 18-39.indd 19 JULY 18-39.indd 19 4/25/08 11:56:41 AM 4/25/08 11:56:41 AM