The Dalai Lama and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay) have shown that engaged Buddhists develop wisdom and compassion by selfless service to their communities. Both of these great minds have inspired thousands of people to get off of their cushions (or other meditation seats) and go out and serve the people.
My teacher, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh coined the term, engaged Buddhism in the early 1960′s by starting the School of Youth for Social Services (SYSS). The purpose of the SYSS was to go out into the country and help rebuild the villages destroyed by the war in Vietnam. They also helped evacuate villagers caught in the crossfire in the war.
Since then, the movement of engaged Buddhists has grown. Monks, nuns, lay men and lay women volunteer their time, energy and material resources to serving their communities and relieving suffering wherever possible.
Other Buddhists teachers have taken on the mantel of engaged Buddhism. One in particular was Shinjo Ito who founded the Shinnyo-en school of Buddhism. The sect is currently led by his daughter, Shinso Ito.
This interview with Shinso Ito appeared on the Tricycle Magazine website.
Engaged Buddhists Develop Wisdom and Compassion
Selfless service brings balance to your practice. Since it engages the body, it balances the tendency we have to think and theorize rather than act. By channeling your energy into acts of service, you transform the ideal into the real. So cleaning the inside of a temple, or picking up trash at a public park, not only cleans the space used by others (this is where the selfless part comes in); it figuratively polishes your buddhanature. It’s palpable in the joy and satisfaction you feel…
Read more here.
Many of my dharma friends (fellow Buddhists in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and other masters) are engaged in obvious service to the community. Two dharma teachers (people acknowledged by Thay or other Buddhist masters to be capable of teaching meditation practices) I know teach prisoners in San Quentin on a regular basis.
Another close friend leads a support group for cancer patients and other people suffering from any kind of illness. The goal of the group is to present mindfulness practices that can inspire the members to take charge of their own healing.
Several others volunteer their time in other socially engaged activities to relieve the suffering in the world.
These engaged Buddhists develop wisdom and compassion through their selfless service to others and their communities. They hold days of mindfulness for anyone to attend and freely offer meditation instruction to anyone who asks.
In almost ever situation I’ve heard of, these dharma buddies (=dharma friends) dedicate the merit of their practice to all beings and desire to bring peace.
How Do You Serve Your Community?
What are the ways that you can give back to your community? How can you help others? What are your strong point and how can you serve others with them?
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