Normally, these articles are about something at the Monastery that points to the principle of Everything Is the Buddha -- the old oak, the annual paperwhites, the fallen pine trees -- as powerful reminders of the Buddha Nature in all things. This month a monastic process illustrating Everything Is the Buddha has presented itself to be explored.
Periodically, we meet to look at an issue that has arisen related to monastic life, perhaps an overlooked task or a schedule change requiring the community's input. We discuss the issue with the intention of moving forward with greater clarity. These meetings always leave me with some version of, "Wow. What an amazing process. How I wish this for the whole world."
Here is what happens in these meetings:
- A person will present an issue or concern. They will frame the issue and say what they are seeing about it.
- There will often be moments of silence as the others look to their own experience to see what arises for them.
- Someone will "make gassho" and say what they are seeing. Others will follow, and the conversation will unfold.
- At some point, either we reach clarity and the next steps are obvious, or we see that further guidance is needed, in which case the issue will be "tabled" until guidance is sought.
Here is what doesn't happen:
- People don't interrupt or talk over each other.
- Nothing personal is brought into the discussion.
- People don't argue a particular point or position.
I have been a part of many, many public meetings and community discussions in my life, and never have I seen the decorum, wisdom, and patience that is modeled in these community meetings. What I have seen as the fundamental element -- what makes the most difference -- is Awareness Practice and specifically, the Privileged Environment.
Simply stated, the Privileged Environment consists of the practices and protocols that support us to practice Awareness safely and effectively. The Privileged Environment is not something "out there" as a moral or legal code that is imposed or enforced. It is internal. It is a way of being that anyone who choses can practice at any time, in any place. It stems from a desire to be free from the tyranny of the voices of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate. In my view, the only reason we are still practicing together as successfully as we are is due to the deep love for the Privileged Environment embodied by Sangha.
When I see the strife and struggle in other communities (and nations) in the world, I feel great compassion for us all. Ignorance causes so much suffering. How fortunate we are to have a path and to be walking it together! The very process of walking this path and practicing together in the Privileged Environment is, indeed, modeling "Everything is the Buddha."