Editorial: Meeting the Challenge

 

Featured in Mountain Record 27.4, Summer 2009


Buddhism teaches that the virtues of wisdom, compassion and enlightenment express one side of human nature, while the three poisons—greed, anger, and ignorance—express another. We each possess the potential to manifest either aspect of our humanity. If we want proof, we just have to watch our own minds for a while. To see the poisons played out on a larger scale, we can open the newspaper on any given day or look out the window—we face poverty, violence, and an environmental crisis, among a vast range of challenges.

Daido Roshi often reminds us that each poison can be transformed into a virtue. So, how do we fill in the gap when it seems so wide? How do we meet the challenges when they look so daunting? The authors included in this issue of Mountain Record offer unique perspectives and insights into these timely, global koans and ask us not only to consider our challenges, but to look closely at the nature of challenge itself. What is its source? How do we understand our relationship to it?

Daido Roshi says, “Barriers are nothing other than ourselves. And the way we encounter a barrier, the way we practice it and pass through it is the way we live our lives.” He tells us that nobody else can do it for us. But, how do we do it? Maya Angelou and Gandhi reflect on love as a necessary force in confronting hatred and violence. In Angelou’s words, “Love affords wonder. And it is only love that gives one the liberty, the courage to go inside and see who am I really.” We can love our challenges, Ryushin Osho reminds us, even when they take the form of our deepest grief, anxiety, or rage.

Buddhism is the study of self, of mind. What can the school and prison systems, for example, teach us about our own minds? What insights, in turn, can self-study offer to help us meet the challenges that these less-than-perfect systems create? Shugen Sensei emphasizes that we must be willing to encounter our greatest obstacles without looking away. Taking “the backward step” of zazen can help us relinquish our fixed positions and self-centeredness, so that we may proceed clearly. Sensei reminds us that the challenges we face cannot be solved by our egos and our ideas, which means that we must find a different way.

Zen practice constantly points us back to our true selves, to our buddha nature. As Daido Roshi says, there’s no road map, no directions, no handbook on how to heal the world. The challenges we face demand nothing less than seeing and hearing with the whole body and mind—and replying with our entire being. How can we do it? The authors in this issue remind us that we must have the courage to look inside, get to know ourselves, forget ourselves, and step forward

by Valerie Meiju Linet, MRO
Mountain Record, Editor