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Lions Roar : March 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2009 57 requisite to enlightenment when he includes our livelihood as a part of the eightfold path. not only do we have to use our livelihood—our life’s energy—in a way that is non-harming in order to become truly free, but we have to take it an extra step and do something positive, to add something and help each other along the way. this doesn’t mean we have to stop our chosen careers and become social work- ers, or dedicate ourselves to feeding the starving masses, although those are both good options. For many of us, it may just be a very simple shift in our motivation in whatever we are doing, wherever we are in our lives. We can bring the intention to respond to each person we meet with more caring, kindness, and understanding— to be more compassionate and wise with our life’s energy. although our motivation to help others may be very sincere, it is important to acknowledge that it may not always be 100% altru- istic. We often serve with mixed motivation. sometimes it feels like we have to do this in order to forgive ourselves for the harm we’ve caused and the negativity we’ve created. We could be motivated by guilt, or just a healthy sense of regret and a commitment to karmic purification. at other times, we may be motivated to serve out of a desire to look good, or to appear altruistic and gain praise. a drive to use all of one’s life energy to serve may arise, and this is a very understandable desire, but it is essential to be clear about the mixed motivation we have at times. serving feels good. We like the experience of getting out of our self-centered thoughts and feelings by focusing our attention on doing good for others. We gain love and respect from those we help. But we must constantly be reminded that, as the Buddha has been ru- mored to have said, “you could search the whole world and never find another being more worthy of your love than yourself.” the truest altruism, then, includes oneself at all times—to make sure that our intention is to serve all beings, not just others. the transformation from the selfish spiritual desire (i need to do this for myself) to a more altruistic desire (i dedicate my life’s energy to the benefit of all beings) is quite gradual for most of us. yet when that motivation changes, it is natural to have the spontaneous aspi- ration arise to have all beings benefit from our life’s energy, because this is, in fact, the natural response of the awakened heart. our mindfulness meditation practice, our formal and informal training, develops wisdom—insight into the impermanence of ev- erything, the absence of a solid self, and the way our actions create suffering. this wisdom is liberating, but it is only one wing of free- dom. the other wing is compassion. Without caring and compas- sion, all the wisdom in the world is dry, lifeless. it takes caring and understanding for a fully awakened heart to soar to freedom. in the recent presidential election, i believe we saw a mani- festation of a certain amount of wisdom and caring. We also witnessed the power of grassroots organizing and community service. the majority of the people in this country stood up and said, we want something different, something more positive, less greedy, less violent, and less oppressive. this was a step in the right direction for the karma of our country. But in no way do i feel that the struggle for freedom, both spiritual and political, has been won. our world is in dire need of more compassion- ate people, and compassion comes from the inside. if it starts with how we relate to our own pains and betrayals, compassion becomes a formidable force for positive change in the world. it’s change from the inside out. and yet community is also em- phasized in Buddhism, because we need community to teach us how to awaken our heart. it is in community that we get the opportunity to practice being kind and compassionate. Just like the original community formed by the Buddha, the Buddhist communities in asia have had a great impact and in- fluence on creating less violent and more ethical societies. it is my hope and prayer that Buddhism will have an equally power- ful impact on the Western world. May we walk together the path of creating positive change in this world. ♦ Dharma Punx community, hollywood, California photoBycatgWynn