I have received several articles and poems about the current crisis and reams of world-improving e-mails. I wondered whether to publish some of these heart felt statements in this journal. Thank you all for them - but events have moved so fast. The writing is so quickly out of date, the feelings of today not clearly related to those of tomorrow; horror; fear; relief; hope; worry; succeed one another bulletin after bulletin. At this moment it seems that there is some hope for Afghanistan and its people after all and the possibility of retributive justice may indeed arise. Not that we will ever see the Buddhas of Bamyan again.
It seemed more important here to look at more restricted contexts wherein our reflections might make more direct a difference. Our issue this time takes up themes where our thought and our actions can have some effect - in ''cultures of enquiry" (p13). The Dalai Lama's wish for us to practice, Shi fu's careful description of the Precepts and their meaning, a deeply felt encounter with Prison life, concerns about Schooling, some personal experiences and a book review revealing dangers in some western thought about the Dharma - all these take up themes that are the contexts of our lives. In considering these themes the Dharma becomes active and maybe we can see opportunities here for its actualisation.
The notion of context is important. The Buddha's Law of Dependent Co-Arising argues that causes lead to consequences under the influence of conditions - that is context. The understanding of context thus becomes very important for us. If we can adjust context the outcomes of past Karma may be very different. Context is always present but in our concern with events we sometimes fail to notice its importance.
At the level of mindfulness let us note that practice is the context for precept just as precept is the context for practice; that the sickness in society is the context of prison just as criminality is often a context of society; that schooling is the context of emotional growth just as emotional growth can effect schooling; that the Guestmaster conditions a retreat just as the rules of retreat are the context for him; that food is the context of meditation and meditation the context for cooking - which is why a Chan cook is so important; and, finally, that the adequacy of thought and philosophy determine Buddhist understanding just as insightful Buddhist practice conditions philosophy. So it goes. Practice at these levels has wide implications.
Please think about these.
1 December 2001