kindness

Embracing the Fourth Precept

By Eurydice Hirsey During the summer at Plum Village in 1994, my husband, Barry Roth, was ordained as a Dharma teacher; I took the Fourteen Precepts of the Order of Interbeing; and our son, Matthew, took the Five Wonderful Precepts. After returning home, we all looked deeply into our family life with mindful discernment, and rededicated ourselves to cultivating a more engaged lifestyle. We felt a heightened awareness of the great need for social justice and, last June, we participated in a human rights delegation to Guatemala with six other peace activists.

Although Buddhism has not been widely cultivated in Central America, the spiritual practices of the indigenous Mayan culture are filled with a truth inherent in all spiritual traditions. We did not meet anyone who had not lost a family member either to disappearances, murder, or torture. While their pain was a constant companion, anger was not. Love, not anger, motivated them.

Seeing, hearing, and touching the very heart of suffering in Guatemala brought to vivid life the deep need for The Fourth Precept. You cannot close your eyes to the truth in Guatemala—the dismal effects of profound poverty and a long history of murder and repression are everywhere. You are forced to witness in the banal, a legacy of centuries of brutal human rights abuses. Yet, in the midst of this ocean of samsara, we felt a reservoir of hope, kindness, and deep resolve among the Mayan people—a resolve to end the suffering nonviolently; a resolve to bring out the truth in order to transform it; a resolve to create anew. In the steamy jungles and dense rain forests of Guatemala, the depth of mindful awareness shines a very steady light on compassion and determination.

Eurydice Hirsey, True Precious Light, is a chiropractic physician in the Greater Boston area.

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May Sangha Relations Become Complete

By Wendy Johnson When I first began to practice Zen meditation in 1971, I sat with a small Sangha on the Mount of Olives, east of the Old City of Jerusalem, overlooking the Dead Sea. Every morning after sitting, we chanted a simple verse of dedication that ended with this evocation:

Past, present, future, all Buddhas Bodhisattvas, teachers and friends Let true Dharma continue, Sangha relations become complete!

This evocation has stayed with me over the years. I remembered it vividly one evening at our Fragrant Earth Mindfulness Sangha when Dharma teacher Caitriona Reed joined us. We spent the evening talking about Sangha relations becoming complete, or whole. "Please embody the teachings," Caitriona urged us.

Complete embodiment of the teachings is the source of healthy Sangha relations. Dynamic practice, practice that is energetic and that welcomes change, also depends on embodying the teachings, giving them life through the life of your body and mind and through your daily, moment-bymoment, step-by-step practice of mindfulness.

Please listen to your body and believe your experience. A dynamic, truthful Sangha, one that continues to practice mindfulness even in the midst of fIre and loss is made up of dynamic, truthful Sangha members. When we stay very close to our experience of life in the present moment and fInd a way to share and offer this experience to our Sangha, then Sangha relations become complete. So ...

  • Anchor yourself in the practice of mindfulness.
  • Don't be afraid to speak truthfully, even though doing so may endanger your safety and your sweet reputation. Remember, as one of our Sangha members reminded me, saccharine is made up of non-saccharine elements.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Play with the teachings. Tickle them from behind.
  • Be earnest and bold. Don't rely on anyone, even the Buddha, to tell you how to practice.
  • Be kind to yourself and others.
  • Face the world and insist that practice respond to the cries of the world. Remember the Buddha's message: "One thing do I teach: suffering and the end of suffering."
  • Pay attention to children. Look them in the eye and listen to them.
  • Give up the struggle and cultivate the practice of patience.
  • Listen to the still place inside. Be open.
  • And once a day, forget everything you know and begin anew. Follow your heart. When you do, you embody the Dharma, and Sangha relations become complete.

Dharma teacher Wendy Johnson, True Compassion Adornment, prepared this piece with input and support from the Fragrant Earth Sangha in Berkeley, California.

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