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Lions Roar : July 2019
Study and practice work together, says JUDY LIEF, to undermine ego. They’re the great disrupters. THERE ARE MANY WAYS to engage with Buddhist teachings. You can read books on the dharma and take classes in person or online. You can meditate on your own or attend retreats. You can engage with Buddhism as an academic or translator, or relate to it primarily as a guide for living more harmoniously. You can connect with the dharma through your affinity with a particu- lar spiritual or cultural community, or become a devotee of a Buddhist master. There isn’t just one way to enter the path. In my case, it wasn’t ideas or books that sparked my interest in the dharma; it was medi- tation. I was a graduate student and a “word per- son,” but when I learned to practice, something fundamental opened up for me, something not expressible in words. Later, I read something my teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote: “When the current of thoughts is self-liberated and the essence of dharma is known, everything is understood, and apparent phenomena are all the books one needs.” Taking those lines literally, I deposited all my books on the sidewalk, free for the tak- ing. I figured books got in the way, and the only thing that mattered was direct experience. Words & Beyond Words Yet what did I end up doing on my dharmic path? Working with words! Editing, writing, and teaching. All of which require studying, reading, and thinking. So it wasn’t as simple as ditching my books. Just studying isn’t sufficient, but just meditating isn’t sufficient either. Only when practice and study are in harmony, can you make progress. Then, like a bird with two strong wings, you can fly. Personally, I didn’t always fly straight. Some- times one wing was stronger than the other and I needed to rebalance. Working with this balance has been an ongoing challenge. How much study? How much practice? What kind of study? What kind of practice? Being learned is great, but it’s not the point. Being a good meditator is great, but it’s not the point, either. The point is transformation and to help this suffering world by cultivating wisdom, compassion, and skillful means. The feedback we receive from our everyday life reveals the extent to which the training has taken root. Our training shows in whatever we do. In the West, the Buddhist tradition is so identified with sitting meditation that the important role of study tends to be overlooked. But dharma study is essential in the tradition. Dharma teachings are a means of transmitting a tradition over generations. When we study the dharma, we’re connecting with the students and scholars who’ve come before us. Study exposes answer the question of what is needed for the future of Buddhism. The loudest and most powerful voice in shaping where Buddhism is heading should include all those whom it serves, not just those who hold power within Buddhist organizations. Before we move toward what we think is needed to grow, spread, and deepen dharma prac- tice in the West, we need to takethis is the time to listen. This is the moment to reflect on how inclu- sive and equitable participation has been in our centers of practice and what our sense of commu- nity is. This is the chance to truly understand that we are an interrelated global community—Bud- dhism in the West should not be considered sepa- rate from Buddhism anywhere else in the world. What we do influences teachings and practices in countries of Buddhist origin. This is where we embrace the fullest sense of the teaching “the next Buddha may be the sangha.” As Buddhist practitioners, we honor the three gems as a priceless, 2,600-year old gift that we pro- tect with a commitment to collaboration, respect and stewardship. This honors all those who have walked the path before, those who walk with us now, and those future generations yet to come. LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 72