March 25, April 1 Discussions

A very small group met last Sunday and we ended up talking primarily about meditation and the meaning of “jhanas,” a topic I have just finished discussing on my Through-the-Looking-Glass blog. So this is was a hiatus from our ongoing discussion on the distinction often made between Arahats and Bodhisattvas.

In recent weeks we have talked about the relationship between “Doing Good” and “Purifying the Mind.” To what extend is a bodhisattva concerned with doing good as opposed to purifying the mind, and to what extend is a would-be arahat concerned with purifying the mind as opposed to doing good? We have discovered that the two are closely intertwined but still distinct. On April 1 I would hope that we we can consider the question:

Is purifying the mind always doing good?

For instance, am I doing good just by meditating? Are there practices that are engaged in the world, yet purify the mind in a direct way? I believe this question relates to the particular nature of Engaged Buddhism.

Suggested reading is something I wrote before I left the Austin Zen Center: Dogen and Gandhi on Liberation.




One Response to “March 25, April 1 Discussions”

  1. cory provost Says:

    If, by ‘doing good’, we mean doing good for others, then I suppose one answer is to think about it in terms of direct & indirect benefits. Meditation, according to some activist critics & others in genera (mostly non-meditators it seems), is labeled selfish. This perspective is predicated on the view that meditation only benefits the meditator. The case can be argued both ways, but I would disagree with the critique because I think that that perspective is limited in terms of truly understanding the indirect benefits cultivating the mind has on the world. It makes for an interesting complex discussion nonetheless, but if one is practicing the dharma & takes its principles to heart, it wouldn’t make sense to take the counter-argument: meditation is a selfish activity whose results only benefit the meditator. Cp.

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