Whatever Living Beings There May Be, Omitting None
Since its inception in the mid-1990s, Valley Insight has had a commitment to what is known in as “Engaged Buddhism.” Among our early founders were political and social activists who had discovered peace of mind and a greater understanding of the world in the wisdom of the Buddha, especially as expressed in the Insight Meditation tradition taught at IMS and BCBS in Barre, Massachusetts. In addition to greater mental clarity, we –– somewhat surprisingly –– experienced “hidden reserves of strength and energy that we didn’t know existed” (B. Bodhi, 2010) through our committed and deepening meditation practice.
Collectively and individually, our involvement in social, racial, economic, and environmental justice issues has continued to be a part of our spiritual development. For twenty-five years this relationship between our formal Dharma practice and our active presence in the world has been growing our sangha into a caring community, one that has relevance to the individuals within its shifting boundaries and to those we share this world with –– in our families and friendships and in the greater communities of which we are a part, locally and globally. Dharma teacher Gregg Kramer calls this approach “the Whole Life Path.” What we do in this world has an effect in the world and in our own hearts. Waking up happens everywhere. Altruism brightens our hearts.
The descriptive statement soon to be posted on the VIMS website’s Engaged Buddhist page, written by board member Joel Lazar, sums up our current understanding in stating that: “Our commitment to the Dharma informs and sustains our capacity to respond with greater mindfulness, compassion, resilience, and wisdom … Our social activism, in turn, broadens and deepens the significance of our aspirations toward inner transformation. The Engaged Buddhism Initiative offers opportunities and support to sangha members who wish to participate more fully in social justice activities as an essential dimension of greater personal and collective awakening.”
Ours is a multifaceted practice. As darkness descends towards winter solstice in northern New England and we remain in the social isolation imposed by the pandemic, may we remember also to take care of ourselves and to use our Dharma practices and teachings, which nourish a strong yet flexible heart that allows us to adapt and to face the difficult without collapsing –– and which also remind us to recognize and savor the joys and the motions of tenderness that surround us.
Peace and all best wishes.