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Lions Roar : September 2017
FROMTHELOSANGELESCOUNTYMUSEUMOFART,THENASLIANDALICEHEERAMANECKCOLLECTION,MUSEUMASSOCIATESPURCHASE(M.69.13.7) journey—by meeting our own attachments and suffering with wisdom and loving-kindness. This becomes the basis for what we offer to others. Skillful means are neither abstract nor conceptual. They are both earthy in their direct and immediate application and lofty in their desire for liberation. They allow us to practice effectively, free ourselves, and help others without arrogance or disempowerment. All of Buddhist practice can be understood as skillful means. We can learn how to bring skillful means into our daily prac- tice at home and at work, and into our service toward people, the earth, and social and racial justice. In the Zen teachings, meditation is the skillful means through which we recognize, examine, and liberate the many forms of our suffering. By turning the light around and seeing with the uncontrived eye of wisdom, we realize the essen- tial nature of things: “What is binding us after all? What is binding you?” Meditation is where we learn to practice with compassion. It’s all too easy to resent and strike out against what appears to be causing our own pain: obsessive thoughts and entangled emotions. But it’s a mistake to believe that meditation is simply a concentration practice, and that if we can quiet the mind, then we will gain insight and become a more compassionate being. Meditation here needs to be understood more broadly as the cultivation and embodiment of buddha mind in all that we do. Hand in hand with our formal meditation practice, we embody this wisdom in our everyday lives. There we test and refine our understanding, lest it become confined to the medita- tion seat. We also do this by working to alleviate the suffering arising out of all forms of injustice. This is the lifeblood of Buddhist practice, and what makes it a profound journey of realization and awakening. Most importantly, we do this by living our lives as the spiritual path itself. Life and practice are one. GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD, SENSEI, is the head of the Mountains and Rivers Order and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and the Zen Center of New York City. The future buddha Maitreya, India, 11th century C.E.