Editorial

A True Life

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

What is a true, reliably grounded, fulfilling life? The question of what is true can haunt us, fueling our underlying dis-ease and motivating us to explore and even make major life changes. But rare are the opportunities to unravel the skein as thoroughly as through spiritual inquiry. The taking up of a simple life of generous service sounds appealing, an antidote to all kinds of suffering, not to mention a place of refuge and nurturance. But how do each of us find and genuinely live that true and fulfilling life?

In this issue of the Mountain Record we offer perspectives on the inner experience of discerning one’s spiritual journey, be it through meditation, prayer, creative expression or an exploration of different means. Tibetan dharma teacher Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche speaks of discernment as wisdom arising naturally from our intrinsic nature—our buddha nature—which knows right from wrong, wholesome from unwholesome. Shugen Sensei describes the particular journey of a monastic discernment in the Mountains and Rivers Order as helping to clarify and reaffirm the Bodhisattva vows of all practitioners. Teresa of Avila explores the allegory of the interior castle as the practice of self-knowledge. And theologian Belden C. Lane takes us on the mountain trail with the mystical poet Rumi, who offers the heart coming fully to life as it yearns for the Beloved.

Practice addresses our tendency to step away from our fundamental perfect nature, and so discerning wisdom helps develop clarity and confidence as we find our way back. Thanisarro picks up this thread in his teaching on discernment as a key element of self-study within Theravadan practice, leading to an end to suffering in this lifetime. Annie Dillard describes engaging the world with passionate curiosity as a writer, delving deeply into the intricate mystery of what we call reality. And in this issue, Sangha Reflections bring to light the personal journeys of lay and monastic Zen practitioners in the MRO sangha whose dharma practice is alive with the questions of how to manifest this human life for the benefit of all beings.

Discernment of one’s path takes time. We fall in love with what is new and positive, but without maturity we can’t yet keep our feet on the ground. Practice helps us to meet the challenges of the conditioned mind and its narrow focus on comforts.

Living simply and being of service in the world is a genuine life of spiritual practice, whether formal vows are taken up, or not. May we discover how best to offer ourselves, and our unique gifts, for the benefit of all beings.

 

Suzanne Taikyo Gilman
Mountain Record Editor

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This Should Be Easy

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman

This life of mine is perfect and complete Buddha nature; the teachings state this directly. So this should be easy—just live as an enlightened being. But what is that, really? We come to practice to be completely liberated from suffering, but the old habits of solving problems, finding adjustments or applying ‘the fix’ aren’t the same as taking up the bodhisattva vows. The Buddha and his early followers wandered and practiced together, seeking the true path of awakening, and that’s where we all begin. This Buddha nature is innate, and it has to be verified personally, with one’s very own evolving experience.

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This is My Stop

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

Not a story I like to tell, but years ago I got into a fight on the subway. A big-shouldered, well-groomed man in his 40s was tearing down a safe sex poster which showed some playfully kissing teenagers, straight and gay. I questioned him angrily as he tore up the poster, and he stopped. That’s where I could have left it. I had stepped forward without fear or self-consciousness, and I had been effective. But now I was livid with self-righteous anger and so was he. Having created a second problem, I was missing a vital element of skillfulness—to find my ground and learn to speak up differently.

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Who’s Your Mama

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

I arrived at the monastery for the first time curious about Zen but prepared to stay on the sidelines. Organized religions of any kind were to me male-defined, patriarchal institutions I was better off avoiding, and yet here I was. When I turned toward the monastic in the zendo for beginning instruction there was a woman—in black robes and distinctive bald head—and she spoke with a clear, soaring enthusiasm for the dharma. A sudden recognition, and a new picture came into view—this is my seat.

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A Daring Compassion

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by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

The news on environmental activism rarely makes headlines, despite some prominent demonstrations and the groundswell of change they can lead to. Occasionally there are clashes or even violence against those who continue working, courageously, to protect and defend. Communities are torn apart, resources are depleted, our human greed and destruction takes its toll. I feel anger, a familiar despair. When facing these feelings of discouragement, or simply not knowing what to do, how is it that being on the path and having a spiritual practice can sustain us?

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Photo by Dean Morley

Bright, Dancing Aliveness

· Editorial, Open Access · ,

by Suzanne Taikyo Gilman, Mountain Record Editor

Fire draws our attention with its light. The aliveness dancing in a candle flame is made from the cotton in its wick, the moisture in the candle wax, oxygen feeding its burning. I name the different parts and feel their separateness, grasping at difference. As I return to the experience of the flickering flame, I return to warmth, the light, the aliveness.

While we understand that all the elements combine to create the life of our magnificent planet, we tend to focus on the separation— between candle, wick, wax—as between what we want and what we have, between the human and the natural world. Separating our self-consciousness and our disregard for other perspectives—of people, animals, insects and even protozoa—ultimately justifies destructive acts against living beings. Feeling the distress of the earth and its creatures as deeply personal, this awareness can open up the heart to respond with genuine caring actions which are of benefit to all.

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