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