By: David Xi-Ken Shi 曦 肯
In order for us to have an engaged practice we must recognize the importance of community. That seems to be an obvious given. An interesting thought-experiment could be to imagine going into the woods for an extended stay, or in a 90 day retreat without contact with others for that time period, then emerging back into our bustling world once again and see if what you value has changed. To discover the importance of community we often must step away from it far enough to really see it’s full dimension. And only then can we develop a sense of the relation our practice must have to it to know how our interests and talents are best employed to promote human flourishing. We must work to find what we truly value, discover or re-discover what motivated us to come to Buddhism in the first place that resulted in the current state of our practice, than re-focus our motivations toward finding ways to reflect social justice in meaningful ways to make a difference. Even if it is one person at a time. But remember that we must spend time in the beginning for ourselves, no matter how long it takes, for us to really be effective in community.
I do not devalue the importance of living a traditional monastic life, because it is also in community. For me I choose to engage a wider and more diversified community, hence I live a monastic disciplined life outside the confines of a temple, yet under a monastic rule. But no matter your life experience and accommodations, it is almost impossible to avoid interaction with the community around you. The challenge is to look at it in a new light. Your practice will teach you to see opportunities for social engagement that you may not have seen prior to developing a Buddhist worldview. Continue reading