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Lions Roar : July 2016
“Combining the scholastic study with practice—it’s like two wings of a bird,” Callahan says. “The self-benefit part is that it allows you to study something in-depth in a very intimate way, to absorb yourself in the text. But you hope that you’re doing it to serve others, to communicate the dharma to them.” For twelve years, Callahan has found support in her translation and practice from the Tsadra Foundation. “It’s not just about the one project that we’re doing but rather that their commitment is to us, as practitioner-scholars, long term,” she explains.” It’s a rare arrangement, one she calls “incredibly supportive and liberating.” Alone in her home in the Catskills, Callahan is on her own time, though she structures her translation work as a Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five job. She gardens and she does formal practice in accord with her years of training as a lama. She describes her path as “very slow and very internal—the returns are very slow, I think.” Like Sister Peace, Bunkai Steve Tracy, and Caroline Leinster, Callaghan insists that none of this is a sacrifice—it’s a choice. “If you want to do something fully, then you have to give a lot of time to that, and you can’t do other things. You can’t do all the things you want to do.” Why does someone step away from the comforts of intimate family relationships, or the implied freedom of the American Dream, to make a life of our own design, into the tight container of a tradition not of one’s own creation—not just for a weekend or a month, but for years, even a lifetime? Each person may be some concrete answer, something to point to when asked—for Bunkai, the opportunity to work with his teacher, or for Sister Peace, the opportunity to serve others. When pressed, Callahan resists the question of why? “Why do this at all?” she asks. “That’s hard to answer without sounding rather banal.” But she tries to explain it, and in doing so speaks clearly of why anyone chooses Buddhist practice, in any form: “If the Buddhist vision captures our mind, our heart, our imagination of what can be, if it lights up our mind and sets it free somehow, if we see in it a path that increases qualities and traits we appreciate, then we dive in.” ♦ “I saw very quickly that if you want to get into the dharma fully, you have to make it your life’s path. For that, you need in-depth training.” – ELIZABETH CALLAHAN LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 73