Buddhafield’s Danaraja explores what our 2017 theme ‘Embracing Simplicity’ means for him, as a practising Buddhist.
I find it useful to view simplicity on three levels. Firstly there is external simplicity. This involves removing from one’s life anything that may hinder one’s ability to engage in Dharma practice. Obvious examples would be hunting animals or selling arms. Other examples might be simply giving some activities up so that we have more time for meditation and reflection, more space to open the heart to what is.
Secondly there is the internal aspect. To be able to give up craving and aversion would dramatically reduce mental fabrication, leading to a refreshingly simple way of being with our experience. Imagine having no mental proliferation! We are told that our experience would be infused with generosity and the joy of selflessness.
Thirdly we can approach simplicity from the standpoint of wisdom. Through practicing the Dharma we can have a life free from the entanglements of confusion and ignorance, a life dedicated to the liberation of all beings.
One way to approach these three aspects, to embrace simplicity, is to serve. This is training in the compassionate side of wisdom, the altruistic aspect of enlightenment. At Buddhafield we try to set up conditions for people to practice the Dharma and free themselves from the torments of greed, hatred and delusion. We dedicate our lives to this. This means we must live simply, frugally even, and yet with this simplicity, with this apparent ‘giving up’ what is left is a sense of abundance and joy. The simplicity embraced at Buddhafield is very rich, involving service to the Three Jewels, community living, right livelihood, regular meditation and devotion, friendship and the invitation for the world to hear the Buddha’s teaching that points to liberation.
Dana or generosity is the aspect of practice found within the Buddha’s teaching that, I think, best encapsulates this idea of service and at the same time leads us through the three stages of simplicity I’ve outlined above. Dana is a practice that is prone to underestimation, however it is present throughout the Buddhist tradition and exists on many levels. Firstly we can develop the spirit of open-handedness through practicing the second precept “With open-handed generosity I purify my body”. Dana is also the first perfection of the Paramitas (Perfections of Wisdom), setting up conditions for ethics, patience, energy, concentration and wisdom to emerge. This is the practice of a Bodhisattva, where generosity is conjoined with wisdom. It is also one of the four Sangharavastus, which are concerned with the creation, development and strengthening of the spiritual community. Through these Dana practices we embrace simplicity by giving up unskillfulness which causes us suffering and distress, complicating our lives and we move towards wisdom, while also benefiting others.
So Dana is about non-attachment to I, me, mine. With true generosity there is no sense of gift, giver or recipient. It is where wisdom and compassion fuse into one path. Dana it could be said is both a cause and a fruit of embracing simplicity, it is the open road to wisdom and compassion, it is the awakening of the heart. The Triratna Community at its best is not just on this path but is this path. If we take care of our personal practice through embracing a simpler lifestyle and allowing space for the truth of the Dharma to flower and giving up craving and ignorance; and our collective practice of serving the Dharma, we can offer an alternative perspective to people. The world is burning with greed and hatred, fueled by fear and ignorance. People need, we all need, confidence in a perspective that comes from generosity, love and wisdom. We can each contribute to this revolution. By embracing and living the great renunciant’s teachings we can offer a perspective revolutionised by wisdom and compassion for all beings.