Moving into the World

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Two sides of the same coin

One of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism is that everything in the universe is interconnected and interdependent. Actions and thoughts have repercussions far beyond the immediate and the familiar. Although we may speak of moving into the world, from the standpoint of interdependence the distinction between self and world becomes transparent. We can't run after the world, and we can't run away from the world.

Other conventional distinctions also collapse. The journey "out" becomes a continuation and a deepening of the journey "in." Work on behalf of others and work on oneself become one. Ram Dass writes:

We can, of course, help through all that we do. But at the deepest level we help through who we are .... We work on ourselves, then, in order to help others. And we help others as a vehicle for working on ourselves.

Practice and engagement are two sides of the same coin. Both could be called practice; both could be called engagement. Victoria Kieburtz, a doctor, mother, and seasoned meditator, concludes:

Practice is bodhisattvic, whether we intend it to be or not, and the aim or purpose of practice, as much as we can talk about an aim or a purpose, is to alleviate suffering. In fact, the drive to realize one's true nature is the same as the drive to alleviate suffering. Even going further, the alleviation of suffering is the flowering of our true nature.