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Lions Roar : March 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2009 54 For positive change to take place in this world, our spiri- tual practice has to be so much more than just getting our ass on the meditation cushion for some part of each day. perhaps we dedicate an hour or two to formal meditation daily, but we are still left with the rest of the day. this is where our actions, words, and livelihood all become integral aspects of our spiritual prac- tice. Meditation is a necessity for creating positive change, but we are not meditating merely to get good at meditation, or to have pleasant spiritual experiences. We are, as gandhi put it, trying to “be the change we wish to see in the world.” We live in a very different culture, a much more global world, from the one that existed at the time of the Buddha. naturally, the problems are different and on a different scale than the ones the Buddha faced in ancient india, but as a Buddhist, i take his life’s path and example to heart and find it directly applicable on our streets and in our communities today. the Buddha spent seven years meditating on the causes of suffering, and through his own effort he experienced the end of suffering. he spent the rest of his life teaching others how to end suffering through wise understanding, intentions, actions, speech, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. he consistently spoke out against war and all forms of violence. he was an ally to the poor and oppressed as well as a council to the rich and power- ful. he acted locally on the issues of his time. he addressed sexism, racism, and war in his society and was a local activist as well as a spiritual teacher. the Buddha founded a community, a sangha in Buddhist terms, of ethical behavior, spiritual practice, and political engagement that eventually led to a radical shift in indian thought and action. he changed the world then and now. the point of spiritual practice is both to have a meaningful and fulfilling life of ease and well-being and to utilize our life’s energy to bring about positive change in the world. the Buddhist inten- tion was not to live one’s whole life in silence on a meditation cush- ion. it was to bring the wisdom and compassion that develops in formal spiritual practice into our relationships with each other and into all aspects of our lives. the formal practice period teaches us many valuable things, but we must continue to, as the Buddha sug- gested, “strive forth with diligence.” this is where the rubber hits It Takes a Sangha Serving others and creating positive social change is the way to fully realize the Buddha’s teachings, says Noah LevINe. and our service becomes most effective when we join together in community to alleviate suffering wherever we find it. Noah LeviNe is author of Dharma punx and against the stream. he is the founding teacher of the against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, with a center in Los angeles and more than twenty affiliated groups around North america. he has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and teaches meditation classes, workshops, and retreats internationally. www.loavesfishes.org Loaves & Fishes soup kitchen volunteers, San Jose, California. photo By guo huang Members of a habitat for humanity Global village mission, Guayaquil, ecuador. photo By DaviD Bezaire