I am currently practicing with the 10th Mindfulness Training in the Plum Village tradition of the Order of Interbeing (OI), with a friend and OI aspirant mentee of mine. We are spending two weeks on each of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings. We try to read whichever one we’re on every day for the full two weeks and then, if we feel so inspired, we also journal about any thoughts/ideas that arise based on the training. Then we meet once a month and chat about our experience with the trainings we worked on since last we met.
Working through the Fourteen Trainings has been a lovely addition to my practice over the past few months. The only other time I’ve spent this kind of elongated practice energy with the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings was during my own aspirancy process, before receiving ordination as an OI member in 2007.
The Tenth Mindfulness Training: Protecting and Nourishing the Sangha
Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the realization of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal power or profit, or transform our community into a political instrument. As members of a spiritual community, we should nonetheless take a clear stand against oppression and injustice. We should strive to change the situation, without taking sides in a conflict. We are committed to learning to look with the eyes of interbeing and to see ourselves and others as cells in one Sangha body. As a true cell in the Sangha body, generating mindfulness, concentration and insight to nourish ourselves and the whole community, each of us is at the same time a cell in the Buddha body. We will actively build brotherhood and sisterhood, flow as a river, and practice to develop the three real powers – understanding, love and cutting through afflictions – to realize collective awakening.
There are two lines in this training that have been especially standing out for me, as I’ve been reading the training each day for the past 9 days:
– We are committed to learning to look with the eyes of interbeing and to see ourselves and others as cells in one Sangha body.
– We will actively build brotherhood and sisterhood, flow as a river, and practice to develop the three real powers – understanding, love and cutting through afflictions – to realize collective awakening.
My commentary about these two lines:
We are committed to learning to look with the eyes of interbeing and to see ourselves and others as cells in one Sangha body.
When I simply read this line through and have a rather surface interaction with it, it’s easy for me to be like: Yep, sounds good! But then when I spend more time with it and penetrate it more deeply, I see how difficult this can be at times, especially when interfacing with sangha members who think, act, and see things quite differently than I do. When you thoroughly invest in and spend time with a group of people – regardless of what kind of group it is – it becomes quite clear that while we’re all the same, we’re also all a little different, too. Challenges and difficulties arise; differences of opinion reign supreme; disagreements happen and create strife and stress. Even among groups with a shared spiritual path and similar moral values, clashing personalities always exist.
Looking with the eyes of interbeing is an action that is easy to think we’re doing when really we’re not. Ah yes. Intellectualizing elements of this practice is so very common – intellectualizing instead of practicing (aka: actually doing it). What does it mean to “look with the eyes of interbeing?” As practitioners, this is an important question to ask our self from time to time, on a regular and ongoing basis. Especially for those of us who are ordained members – those who have taken the vow to build sangha and committed our life to the path of spiritual leadership in this tradition – this is a foundational question to keep fresh and alive.
Sometimes I can think I am looking through the lens of interbeing and then something happens to make me realize that I’m only using one eye, instead of two. Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – my second eye is still caught in looking through the lens of separation. Helping to take good care of my sangha and my fellow sangha members is a top priority for me in my life. And in order to do the best I can in this regard, it requires that I am continually practicing and learning how to hone and sharpen my ability to look through the eyes of interbeing – to deeply understand that we are each “cells in one Sangha body.” We are all on this path together, regardless of how differently we may experience and engage with the world.
To look with the eyes of interbeing means to, as Thay says: awaken from the illusion of our separateness.
We are not separate entities. We are not islands onto our self. We are – each and every one of us – connected and woven together. When I am judging someone or frustrated by someone’s actions or dislike someone, I know that in these moments, I am caught in the lens of separation. And when I am looking through the lens of separation, my heart is closed off from that person. When I am looking with the eyes of interbeing, my heart is open. I can feel the difference.
We will actively build brotherhood and sisterhood, flow as a river, and practice to develop the three real powers – understanding, love and cutting through afflictions – to realize collective awakening.
Spurred by this line, I penned my own definitions of understanding and compassion the other day in my journal:
Understanding: to look deeply at the possible or true-to-life causes and conditions of a person or situation. Compassion: to feel deeply for a person or situation, based on our understanding.
And, perhaps, understanding + compassion = love.
And, perhaps, the way to cut through afflictions (transforming suffering) is with the power of love.
I think it’s easy to underestimate these three powers; easy to overlook their potency for affecting change and cultivating goodness and kindness in the world. Developing these powers is a lifelong investment of time and energy.
Moment by moment, day by day, I am on the path of practice, with countless others, doing my very best to bring these powers into fruition, so that I may be of benefit and service to others.
To learn more about the three powers, check out Sister D’s talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsK7F_KbGjc&t=349s