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Lions Roar : March 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 46 leaves this world and enters death (if there is such a place to enter), you know then that this emptiness is not just philosophy. You may not know what it is, but you will know that it is real. You know that this reality is powerful and makes you see your life, and the whole of life, quite differently. A new context emerges that is more than thought, more than concept. When you view your daily human problems in the light of actual birth and actual death, you are practicing with this slo- gan. Every moment of your life, even (and maybe espe- cially) your moments of pain or despair or confusion, is a moment of buddha. So do attend births and deaths whenever you can and accept these moments as gifts, as opportunities for deep spiritual practice. But even when you aren’t par- ticipating in these peak moments, you can repeat and review this slogan, and you can meditate on it. And when your mind is confused and entangled, you can take a breath and try to slip below the level of your desire and confusion. You can notice that in this very moment time is passing, things are transforming, and this impossible fact is profound, beautiful, and joyful, even as you continue with your misery. 5. Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy, Pray for Help Now the slogans bring us back down to earth. If spiri- tual teachings are to really transform our lives, they need to oscillate (as the slogans do) between two lev- els, the profound and the mundane. If practice is too profound, it’s no good. We are full of wonderful, lofty insights, but lack the ability to get through the day with any gracefulness or to relate to the issues and people in ordinary life. We may be soaringly metaphysical, mov- ingly compassionate, and yet unable to relate to a nor- mal human or a worldly problem. This is the moment when the Zen master whacks us with her stick and says, “Wash your bowls! Kill the Buddha!” On the other hand, if practice is too mundane, if we become too interested in the details of how we and oth- ers feel and what we or they need or want, then the natu- ral loftiness of our hearts will not be accessible to us, and we will sink under the weight of obligations, details, and daily-life concerns. This is when the master says, “If you have a staff, I will give you a staff; if you need a staff, I will take it away.” We need both profound religious phi- losophy and practical tools for daily living. This double need, according to circumstances, seems to go with the territory of being human. We have just been contem- plating reality as buddha and practicing emptiness. That was important. Now it’s time to get back down to earth. First, do good. Do positive things. Say hello to people, smile at them, tell them happy birthday, I am sorry for your loss, is there something I can do to help? These things are normal social graces, and people say them all the time. But to practice them intentionally is to work a bit harder at actually meaning them. We genuinely try to be helpful and kind and thoughtful in as many small and large ways as we can every day. Second, avoid evil. This means to pay close atten- tion to our actions of body, speech, and mind, noticing when we do, say, or think things that are harmful or unkind. Having come this far with our mind training, we can’t help but notice our shoddy or mean-spirited moments. And when we notice them, we feel bad. In the past we might have said to ourselves, “I only said that because she really needs straightening out. If she