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Lions Roar : July 2018
PHOTOBYIMS/ELIZABETHVIGEON Liberation for All Enlightenment isn’t just personal, says Rev. angel Kyodo williams. The modern-day bodhisattva is called to be an agent of social change. WHEN THE FUTURE BUDDHA, a man who had been ensconced in privilege, left the false reality of his palace walls, he encountered the fragility of human existence: birth, old age, sickness, and death. No doubt fueled by the offense of having the truth kept from him, he turned his back on the physical comforts of his wealth and the mental comforts of his ignorance and set out on a determined quest to discover the nature of reality. But this isn’t just the story of a lone man who ascended into wakefulness, a legend of his times admired from afar for his solo accomplishment. What we exalt are his profound and exacting instructions for embarking on a path intended for nothing less than the end of suffering. The suffering the Buddha sought to end was not the fragility of the human form: this cycle continues unbroken. He cham- pioned a methodology—with meditation as a cornerstone—to end our incessant resistance to the inevitability of that cycle. He proposed that we get right with change. The critical question is: What is our role in carrying out the Buddha’s astonishing vision of an end to suffering? What is the role of we who carry out our lives not in monasteries, but abide in the world? We who create cultures, communities, gov- ernments, institutions, and systems? We who create problems for each other and other species, not to mention for the planet, itself? It is to apply these liberatory practices to society at large. Meditation is an essential step to cultivating both wisdom and compassion. We observe greed, anger, and ignorance as poisons that taint the expression of our basic goodness. Through insight, we develop the clear seeing that allows us to confront the reality beyond the palace walls society would have us remain trapped behind, as well as the ones we construct for ourselves. We see clearly our own suffering and wish to cease creating it. We can no longer blindly tolerate suffering for others. Leveraged together, this training not only prepares us but insists that we be potent agents of eradicating suffering. We are reborn as bodhisattvas—modern-day, unapologetic agents of radical change. While monastics’ rightful role is exemplifying the dharma along the way to their own wakefulness, laypeople embody those teach- ings within society: to bring about the awakening of the individual, and see that same radical transformation of suffering—the pro- phetic promise of liberation for all—delivered where we live. Lay- people meditate to transform how we exist in relationship. The Buddha taught mutual co-arising: This being, that becomes; from the arising of this, that arises; this not being, that does not become; from the ceasing of this, that ceases. In relationship, this means: We mutually co-arise. We are all connected. We are one. Your suffering is mine. My liberation is not possible (useful?) without yours. Our liberation is bound up in one another’s. Enter the doorway and take up meditation from exactly where you are, but know that it has always intended to trans- port you somewhere. So its ultimate goal of liberation—for you and society—is never far. REV. ANGEL KYODO WILLIAMS SENSEI is a Buddhist teacher, founder of the Center for Transformative Change, and author of Being Black and Radical Dharma. Just Get Lost When we meditate, says John Tarrant, we are lost and uncertain. Then the gate opens. Student: What is meditation? Zhaozhou: It’s not meditation. Student: It’s not? Why not? Zhaozhou: It’s alive, it’s alive. —Zen koan Sometimes I prefer not to untangle things. —Tony Hoagland IN THE BEGINNING there was emptiness and an intoxicating silence unaware of its own extent. But even silence is a step; it repeats itself. Eventually, all sorts of things emerged: Tasmanian devils, giraffes, Neanderthal cave paintings in Spain, refugees climbing barbed wire fences, trees, the sound of dishes, women reading with cats on their laps while rain runs down the windows. The original emptiness and silence was still inside the things. The creatures and beings began to wonder who they were. They wondered because they noticed that explanations and maps were never complete and never contained what they referred to. Instructions didn’t lead you to the place you set out for. People were sure that clarity was possible if they found more skill and more data. They wondered, though, if they suffered from some fundamental error. They wondered if, like maps, they were themselves a set of mysterious instructions referring to a deeper and more real existence. Perhaps they were a kind of dream. Sometimes people preferred not to untangle things. They worked in gardens, watched clouds, read poetry, drank tea with friends, got tattoos, looked at their phones, and otherwise wasted their time, which meant that they had more time. They discovered that being lost and uncertain wasn’t really a problem. When you were uncertain, they found, the guards in the mind were distracted and things you didn’t know about LION’S ROAR | JULY 2018 63