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Lions Roar : September 2005
2 6 SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2005 When we begin to accept the truth of change, our meditation begins to reveal the true nature of self. In meditation, we experience the self directly, beyond our ideas, concepts, and conditioning, and questions naturally arise: Who am I? Who is meditating? What is the nature of my identity? Where do I experience consciousness? The answer to these questions is often the experience of oneself as a process, rather than a solid, separate entity. The overthrow of the deluded sense of self is only won by direct experience. It is not an intellectual exercise or teaching. Each of us must rebel against our own delusions to emerge victorious. The inner revolutionary must cultivate effort and zeal in order to find freedom. In the time of the Buddha, concentration meditation tech- niques were commonly taught. The Buddha experienced the highest levels of concentration and saw that these were ultimately unsatisfying and impermanent. Mindfulness, or present-time awareness, is the revolutionary breakthrough that the Buddha achieved. He saw that the key to freedom is not avoiding the truth, but facing it directly. The Buddha taught that while some level of concentration is useful on the path to freedom, it should never be mistaken as the path to freedom alone. Mindfulness is the prerequisite to fully awakening from the delusions we have long held. We don’t have to be sitting or standing a certain way to be mind- ful. All we have to do is pay attention, let go, and respond with care to each situation that arises. That’s easier said than done, because it takes great courage and perseverance to face the reality of our minds and hearts. We must continually rebel against our habitual patterns of clinging, avoidance, and confusion. The Buddha has shown us that the path to awakening requires both an internal and an external rebellion. Real spiritual rebels are also on the streets—serving the hungry, caring for the sick, and working as agents for social change. Going “against the stream” involves social action as a form of spiritual practice. The Buddha rebelled against the sexist, racist, and class-biased politics of his time. It is our job as Buddhist practitioners to carry on that rebellion. There is a wealth of ignorance and oppresssion surrounding us. What cause you are committed to doesn’t matter all that much. Pick one and dedicate your life to awakening and to bringing about a pos- itive change in the world. While meditative training is a requisite to this work, compassionate action is also a requisite to true freedom. It takes a tremendous effort to uncover wisdom, compassion, and ethical conduct in our daily lives, but this effort can lead to a life worth living and a world worth living in. Happiness is not easy to maintain; practice is necessary, as freedom will not come from simply wanting it. We must rebel against the lies of society and serve the truth of awakening. By training the mind to be present and serving the greater well-being rather than our self- centered desires, we engage in the most revolutionary act of all. © NOAH LEVINE livesand teachesinNewYork.He is the author of Dharma Punx (HarperSan-Francisco) and Against the Stream: Buddhism as Rebellion, which will be published by HarperSanFrancisco in 2006.