-- Shohaku Okumura
Ideally our individual practice of beneficial action includes discernment, action and reflection. It's helpful to create a solid foundation in the precepts, the practice of zazen and the study of teachings about interconnectedness and cause-and-effect that points us toward using our particular karmic conditions most effectively in liberating beings from suffering. As individuals we each have particular skills and abilities, experiences and interests that we can offer for the benefit of others. When we decide in what activities we will engage, we can start or partner with community organizations, get training, commit time and resources and concretely carry out our vows. But our practice doesn't stop there -- we also need to reflect on that experience. What insight are we gaining into our own motivation, assumptions and delusions? What fear and ignorance are we unearthing? Where are craving and aversion arising, and what might we do differently next time?
We offer our practice to our community as part of our individual bodhisattva activity, but we're also supported in the deepening and maturing of our practice by those very activities. Our actions don't need to be grandiose. If we've got the wherewithal to organize large initiatives, donate significant funds or train and manage a legion of volunteers, that's terrific. It's also meaningful beneficial action to walk to nearby destinations rather than driving, rake an elderly neighbor's leaves or volunteer at the food bank. When Sanshin's doors are open, beneficial action can mean supporting the sangha's practice by ringing bells, participating in work day, cooking meals during sesshin or teaching zazen. Each of these activities inside and outside of the temple is a practice of beneficial action that manifests the dharma and is also an opportunity for personal inquiry into the roots of suffering.
As Okumura Roshi notes above, transformation of our understanding of interconnectedness is key. How do we understand interconnectedness and how do we take action based on that understanding? We practice beneficial action in the intersection of abstract theory and concrete activity, seeing one reality from two sides and expressing two sides with one action. Sanshin becomes the place to which we return to share our growing understanding, check our perceptions, broaden our awareness, and gain support to wrestle with the tough questions. There will be a diversity of views, interests and experiences of engagement as practitioners identify their bodhisattva paths. What holds it all together is our shared commitment to help beings who transmigrate through samsara.
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