by Michael Moran
“Here is another (#*%*^#@#) opportunity to practice.” This is a phrase heard a lot around Buddhist circles. It points to the seemingly limitless array of circumstances that allow and encourage us to put to the test the things we have learned through our Buddhist endeavors. Opportunities for practicing qualities like compassion, patience, kindness, forbearance, or tolerance abound in all of our interwoven lives.
The daily news is always available when we run out of places to practice inside of our own lives. Many sangha members have spoken to me about their reactions to the killing of Osama Bin Laden for instance. While most agree that he was a dangerous man and that getting rid of him may have saved countless lives (the first precept may be interpreted as not killing or as protecting life - a delicate balance), many people said that they were very dismayed at the public reaction to the killing. The news showed thousands of people celebrating, dancing and waving flags. Many of the revelers may have been too young to remember clearly the same scene in the Middle East where thousands celebrated, in a similar way, the destruction of the Trade Towers . It is hard to take the moral high ground there (talk about the wheel of samsara!). Many people that I have spoken to felt pain both for the killing of another human being and, even more so, for the apparent futility of hoping for peace for all human beings.
As I see it, a sangha, in the best sense, provides a touchstone for gauging our actions against the background of the Buddha’s teaching. In our Sunday meetings, our book groups, and our special retreats we have the opportunity to study our thoughts and our behavior with others who are on a similar path - teachers as well as fellow sangha members. Just as the original teachings of the Buddha were first passed down by generations of practitioners through rote memory and word of mouth, thereby using the sangha to maintain the purity and accuracy of the teachings, we also rely on each other to sustain the power of our practice.
As our world gets more complex and more dangerous, and as we are increasingly subjected to intense media assaults through greater and more powerful technology, we will need to rely on each other more and more for a stable, ethical and compassionate foundation on which to help build a better and more dignified world.
To help us with our practice this year we will be welcoming Ken McLeod back to the Central Coast October 14-16. Check our events calendar for more information. Also, the North County Sangha is offering a one-day silent retreat on Jun 25, 2011 at 9:00 AM at the SpiriTrek Retreat Center in Templeton. Click here for more information.