God made everything out of nothing, but the nothingness shows through. -Paul Valery

July 14, 2015

A Bodhisattva’s Approach to Activism

Excerpts:

“According to the traditional definition, the bodhisattva chooses not to enter the state of perfect peace, nirvana, but remains in samsara, cyclic existence, to help all sentient beings end their suffering and reach enlightenment. Instead of asking, “How can I get out of this situation?” the bodhisattva asks, “What can I contribute to make this situation better?” Today, more than ever, we need to understand the bodhisattva path as a spiritual archetype that offers a new vision of human possibility.”

“The equanimity of the bodhisattva-activist comes from nonattachment to the fruits of one’s action, which is not detachment from the state of the world or the fate of the earth. What is the source of this non-attachment? That question points to the fruits of the bodhisattva’s inner work. The Diamond Sutra says that we cannot lead all living beings to liberation because there are no living beings to liberate. The bodhisattva realizes shunyata, emptiness — that dimension in which there is nothing to gain or lose, no getting better or worse — but is not attached to that realization. As the Heart Sutra emphasizes, forms are empty, and emptiness is form. Emptiness is not a place to dwell that is free from form; it is experienced only in the impermanent forms it takes, the forms that constitute our lives and our world. For the Buddhist activist these are the two dimensions of practice — form and emptiness, personal transformation and social transformation, opposite sides of one coin. As Nisargadatta might put it, “Between these two the bodhisattva’s life turns.” Our world needs both.”

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