Often we summarize these three elements into the three aspects of our practice: zazen, work and study. Beneficial action is related to the work aspect, but we've not really explored it as a sangha until now. In general, it has included work inside the temple to support the practice calendar -- things like ringing bells, taking care of altar flowers, cooking meals during retreats or teaching zazen -- as well as practitioners' external activities like taking care of families and jobs or maybe doing some volunteer work in the community.
Since the pandemic shutdown and the subsequent economic impacts, civil unrest and other difficult circumstances, sangha members have started to ask for help determining how to practice in the midst of anxiety and uncertainty. Sanshin's leadership started exploring ways to engage with the issues of our community as well as to maintain our own temple and programs. That starts with giving the sangha some basic tools and teachings for discernment and for taking beneficial action
This is new to the sangha as a practice, so we have to lay some groundwork. Our first step is to hold the upcoming discussion of the intersection of dharma and politics: how to keep our heads, keep practicing, take care of our spiritual health and begin to take skillful action in this wacky world. From there we continue thinking about beneficial action as a part of the Sanshin style -- what does beneficial action look like in our dharma family?
Out of our spiritual health and out of having some clarity about the nature of reality comes skillful action -- action that moves us and others toward understanding two related things: interconnection and cause and effect.
Interconnection or non-separation means that within this one unified reality, nothing is actually disconnected; there is nothing outside of Buddha’s way. That sounds nice when we think of it as being supported by all beings. It sound scary and uncomfortable when we think of it as being unable to escape from the things in our lives that we don’t like so much. How can we help ourselves and others to see and acknowledge interconnection?
Cause and effect is important because it reminds us that what we do has consequences. We don’t operate in a vacuum; when we do something, it sets up causes and conditions that unfold across space and time. That means that it’s important that our actions in the world -- even small actions -- are skillful, because whether we’re being wholesome or unwholesome makes a difference for others besides ourselves. How can we help ourselves and others to see and acknowledge cause and effect?
Going forward, we'll be considering questions like these and connecting them with the guidance handed down to us by Kodo Sawaki, Kosho Uchiyama and Shohaku Okumura to form the basis for beneficial action Sanshin-style.