Following the Path of Action

Path of Action: Day 23

Most Westerners think of the Buddhist path as centering on meditation, but sitting on a cushion is not the only practice that leads to enlightenment. Dedicated action, as expressed in the six paramitas, is also essential.

In our community, we act to educate, to preserve, and to promote knowledge.

We offer the Sangha and Westerners alike access to the art and texts of the tradition. Focusing our energies in this way, we postpone till later the time when will we translate and study the texts for our own use.

It seems good that our practice is rooted in action, for doing and acting are natural to human beings. The feet are for walking, the hands are for taking hold; the eyes and the other senses are for obtaining necessary knowledge and directing appropriate responses; and the mind provides creativity. Our practice turns this natural activity toward the Dharma, making it the foundation (in Sanskrit, “bhumi”) for the path we follow.

Making work our path and our way of life guarantees that we will ground our practice at the immediate physical level. Whether we are producing books that contain the teachings of the Buddha, creating statues and sacred images, constructing the mandala, gardening, raising funds, or seeing to practical issues of administration, we are active in the world; we are doing.

Year by year, we are perfecting our capacities. At the physical level, we are becoming more creative and competent, learning to act with the skill and grace of a skier twisting and turning on an icy slope or a dancer giving form to beauty. At the same time, we are studying the workings of mind. Gradually we are finding ways to act that evoke the power of realization.

If you understand the connection between work and Dharma practice, the tension that so many people feel between time on the job and personal time instantly vanishes.

If you know from your own experience that you are learning from your work and also serving others, you want to work more and more. Work becomes the place where you find fulfillment, and the idea of “needing time off” starts to seem like a contradiction. Everything you do gives you enjoyment and increases your understanding. Even if your work is routine and repetitive, you can take on the role of artist or skilled craftsman, because you are doing what you love best.

Path of Action, by Tarthang Tulku is an unpublished work. Please do not copy, remix or republish this post or any others in this series without express permission from Mandala Training.