By the end of this month, the Spring Equinox will be upon us, although it does not currently feel like it outside in Upstate New York. The equinox is when there is equal light and dark to our day and is meant to be a representation of balance between extremes. The equinox periods of the year offer us an opportunity to check in with those extremes. It is a time to take it upon ourselves to reestablish some sense of balance.
Personally, I like to go back to the “basics” of Buddhist teachings: Eightfold Path, Six Paramitas (Perfections), etc. Am I generous with my time, energy, money? Am I virtuous, patient, diligent? Am I living with Right Action, Livelihood, Effort? And frankly… nope, I am not. Not as much as I could be, anyway. But I would argue that we should always answer no, always know that there’s more to do, that there’s always better. Otherwise, wouldn’t we be living Buddhas? This is not a time to be satisfied with “good enough”, to be complacent in our practice, in our lives. The Vīrya paramita and Right Effort (and others) speak directly to this.
I have taken it to heart that I must strive for the sake of the other. Being alive is to be aware, connected, and proactive. As Saicho, Dengyo Daishi, describes, “ichigu, wo terasu” – light up your corner.
For a long time, I went through my Buddhist practice for myself; calm my mind down, focus more, etc. This is natural, it does do those things, the teachings do help on a personal level. However, that sentiment can only provide so much and can only get one so far. Not to devalue it, but to distinguish it from what might otherwise hinder the Buddhist Path – namely inconvenience and complacency.
This whole awakening thing is tough, but we must continually engage with ourselves and our surroundings. This is why this time of year can be so rewarding. It provides a period of time when we can dive into what makes us, and the whole world, better.
This is why there is often a retreat offered at the Tendai Buddhist Institute during this time. There hasn’t been one for a while, due to Covid. But we finally get the opportunity this month, on the 20th, for a day long version. It’s a great way to endeavor together as a Sangha to deepen our practice.
Last month, we introduced that over the next several months, we are going to start having discussions on Wednesday nights about our own environmental impact and provide each other examples of how we each can mitigate those impacts. We will use these to guide major projects that we can do as a Sangha to hopefully make bigger beneficial changes for our Mother Earth.
The Buddha Dharma gives a way of how to be. Dropping the sense of self, diving into our interbeing and awakening to a universal Buddha nature is not easy. It requires all that we have, and more. But taking the opportunity to become alive to what the world needs as a community like this allows the difficulties of change, inconvenience, and complacency to not be as daunting.
May we all strive together to always seek to be better, to light up our corner, for the benefit of all.
Gassho . . . Koshin