Moving into the World

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Being moved

The prerequisite for this path on the Wheel, "moving into the world," is none other than being moved to enter the world.

The story of Shakyamuni's exposure to suffering is archetypal because it happens so often: deeply felt pain, one's own or others' or both, is the most common precipitant of spiritual searching. The yearning to alleviate suffering is at the same time a seed of engagement.

Are you able to open to the suffering you see in the world? How does being open to suffering affect your inclination to respond to it?

A contemporary Zen practitioner, Vanya Palmers, recalls a specific incident that sparked a change in his life:

It was a picture that first triggered my interest in animal rights. It showed a monkey in a "restraining chair," immobilized in the technical surroundings of screws, wires, and plexiglass. My one-year-old daughter probably had something to do with the fact that this picture grabbed me. In the frightened, confused face of the monkey, I saw--not just with my eyes but with my heart and body--the face of my daughter.

Palmers went on to develop campaigns for animal rights in Europe and North America.

Was there an experience in your life that precipitated your spiritual search? Is there an experience or observation of suffering that has spurred your engagement in the world?

Another engaged Buddhist, John Seed, reports a comparable experience:

Somehow I found myself involved in what turned out to be the first direct action in Australia--or in the world for that matter--in defense of the rain forests. All of a sudden, the forest was inside me and was calling to me, and it was the most powerful thing I have ever felt.

Seed is now head of an international organization that works to protect rain forests.