Extending Compassionate Action

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Staying the course

Now that we have reached the outer ring of the Wheel, we are in a better position to note some of the ways in which the various paths relate to one another. For example, the present path forms a complementary pair with its visual opposite on the Wheel, the path of ease amid activity. Both are concerned with the integration of contemplation and action, but this path inclines toward action, while the other inclines toward contemplation.

If you are using the Wheel as a guide to practice, you can choose to connect the path of compassionate action and (for example) the path of working with others—by committing yourself more deeply to your job or by finding new ways to serve others through your work.

The present path also relates meaningfully to the path of moving into the world, depicted in the Wheel's hub. There one clarifies the intention to awaken and serve; here one checks to see how that initial resolve can be strengthened and amplified. In other words, this mode of extending compassionate action is conducive to rebalancing and intensifying one's efforts.

Find a meaningful way to bring together two paths of the Wheel in your current life situation.

If the above reflection was fruitful, act accordingly.

The practice of engaged Buddhism has its share of pitfalls. Preoccupation with the ills of the world may cause one to lose sight of fundamental obstructions in one's own mind. Overattachment to good causes may stem from a sense of inner insufficiency. Doubts may arise about the validity of activities that bear little resemblance to traditional forms of practice.

We should have this compassion from the depths of our heart, as if it were nailed there.

Dalai Lama

As well, satisfaction from the ability to incorporate diverse spheres into one's practice may lead to diminished vitality in seated meditation. Staying the course, and staying on course, are ever-present challenges.

An old Zen capping phrase speaks of "a single iron rail extending ten thousand miles." The image is a metaphor for seamless Reality, but it also evokes the qualities that make bodhisattva practice strong: single-mindedness, staying in touch with one's deepest intentions, and perseverance over the long haul.

Samantabhadra's vehicle of choice is an elephant. The actual vehicles of compassionate action are beyond number. Here is a short verse for the road:

magnificent Samantabhadra
master of compassion in action

treading the path
as an elephant

tender heart
as a lotus

magnificent Samantabhadra
our own deepest nature