Our next Global Service Days are upon us - December 15-29! As if there weren't enough going on - Ango - Jukai preparations - Rohatsu - oh, I forgot to mention jobs, families and personal lives!
It's the holiday season and Global Service Days offer the perfect opportunity to remember those who are suffering, to share our fellowship and humanity with those who are ill, hungry, lonely, afflicted by anger, incarcerated, or just in need of a warm and friendly presence.
When I think about all the activities going on at Treeleaf, it occurs to me that they are all part of our practice lives as Buddhists, particularly for those who have taken the precepts. For the longest time I would feel harried or put upon (not another task or exercise!....don't they know I have a life?), and then without realizing it, these tasks became practices, which then became part of my daily life - which now seems empty without them.....
I've done a lot of thinking about my vows as a layperson - the first of the Four Bodhisattva Vows expresses our intention to relieve the suffering of others (Beings are numberless - I vow to save them)... this does not mean that we can or must try to save all beings... but it does express the intention of our practice, which is never ending.... Zen practitioners correctly interpret this to mean sharing the Dharma with others through practice in a Sangha and sitting Zazen - and I believe it can also mean engaging in meaningful acts of compassionate service to others - and that is what our Global Day of Service is about.
My own practice has a substantial (and primary) Zazen component - and I have the remarkable good fortune to be supported by many of you in the Sangha on G+, and during our weekly Zazenkai. I now realize that engaging in service to others is for me an increasingly important, necessary, and urgent expression of the vow I have taken as a Buddhist, in addition to Zazen. In the Mahayana tradition, we are Bodhisattvas - and in the act of committing ourselves to relieving the suffering of others, sacrifice the achievement of Buddhahood for the reason that we have "stayed behind" to be of service.
In this holiday season my family and I have decided to cut back dramatically on the gift giving and expenditures associated with presents, and instead focus upon our good fortune to be together and commit ourselves to spending time with those less fortunate. We will plan activities around preparing and serving meals during the holiday, and providing warm clothing (from things that we think we need, but really don't because we are attached to them). The Global Day of Service becomes not just an activity I do a few times a year at Treeleaf, but part of my life, and part of my family's life.
Thank you all for giving me the opportunity to practice and learn with you. I am truly grateful.
What are you going to do?