If you have a supportive sangha, it’s easy to nourish your bodhicitta, the seeds of enlightenment. If you don’t have anyone who understands you, who encourages you in the practice of the living dharma, your desire to practice may wither. Your sangha—family, friends, and copractitioners—is the soil, and you are the seed. No matter how vigorous the seed is, if the soil does not provide nourishment, your seed will die. A good sangha is crucial for the practice. Please find a good sangha or help create one.
Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are three precious jewels in Buddhism, and the most important of these is Sangha. The Sangha contains the Buddha and the Dharma. A good teacher is important, but sisters and brothers in the practice are the main ingredient for success. You cannot achieve enlightenment by locking yourself in your room. Transformation is possible only when you are in touch. When you touch the ground, you can feel the stability of the earth and feel confident. When you observe the steadiness of the sunshine, the air, and the trees, you know that you can count on the sun to rise each day and the air and the trees to be there. When you build a house, you build it on solid ground. You need to choose friends in the practice who are stable, on whom you can rely.
In light of world events, I return today to the Most Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I previously quoted and wrote a little bio for here. This is it — from his famous Beliefnet interview, “What I Would Say to Osama bin Laden”, which he gave in the days after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001:
We can begin right now to practice calming our anger, looking deeply at the roots of the hatred and violence in our society and in our world, and listening with compassion in order to hear and understand what we have not yet had the capacity to hear and to understand.
If you are cutting carrots, you should invest one hundred percent of yourself into the business of carrot-cutting. Nothing else. While cutting the carrot, please don’t try to think of the Buddha or anything else. Just cut the carrot in the best way possible, becoming one with the carrot, becoming one with the cutting. Live deeply that moment of carrot-cutting. It is as important as the practice of sitting meditation. It is as important as giving or hearing a dharma talk. When you cut the carrot with all of your being, that is mindfulness. If you can cultivate concentration, and if you can get the insight you need to liberate yourself from suffering, that is because you know how to cut your carrots.
Spiritual practice is not just sitting and meditating. Practice is looking, thinking, touching, drinking, eating, and talking. Every act, every breath, and every step can be practice and can help us to become more ourselves.
Mindfulness brings concentration. Concentration brings insight. Insight liberates you from your ignorance, your anger, your craving. When you are free from your afflictions, happiness becomes possible. How can you be happy when you are overloaded with anger, ignorance, and craving? That is why the insight that can liberate you from these afflictions is the key to happiness. There are many conditions of happiness that are present, but people don’t recognize them because they are not mindful.
When body and mind are together, you are fully present. You are fully alive and you can touch the wonders of life that are available in the here and the now. So you practice not only with your mind but with your body. Body and mind should be experienced as one thing, not two. On that ground, you see that everything you are looking for is already there. Whether it is enlightenment, nirvana, liberation, Buddha, dharma, sangha, or happiness, it is right there. In fact, that is the only place, the only moment, where you can find these things.
Maybe intellectually people know that they should live in the present moment, but the habit energy that has been there for a long time is always pushing them to rush around, so they have lost their capacity to be in the present moment in order to lead their life deeply. That is why the practice is important, and talking is not enough. You have to practice enough to really stop your running around so that you can establish yourself in the present moment. That is the very beginning of the practice: stopping. Stopping, looking deeply, and finding happiness and liberation—that is the Buddhist path.
Find out more here. (Hat tip to my old pal Nathaniel Vose for this one.)
Tricycle – Awake in the World offers “Three Practices for Japan” and a teaching by Mirka Knaster. In addition, the website points us to the news that the Zuiganji temple (an important hub of Rinzai Zen learning) in hard-hit Matsushima has opened its doors to those displaced by the tragedy (see above picture).
Thich Nhat Hanh has offered a teaching/message to the people of Japan.
Our pal Maia Duerr has a great post at The Liberated Life Project entitled “Four Ways to Show Your Love for Japan — and the Whole World”.
Shambhala Sun Space offers a lesson from Jill S. Schneiderman.
Soka Gakkai International reports on its website of relief efforts by the organization in Tohoku and Shin’etsu regions of Japan.