Awake in the World

James Shaheen

In case you haven’t already looked, our newly designed website delivers all the lay practitioner could ask for. At tricycle.com, we bring you today’s celebrated teachers by audio, video, and interactive discussion. Short of a live teaching, for the far-flung or short of funds—or for those who just want more support for their practice (don’t we all?)—it’s the next best thing.

Our online motto is “Awake in the World,” because, like all of us here at the magazine, most of you are no doubt lay practitioners. When I say lay practitioner, I keep in mind for inspiration the enlightened layman Vimalakirti, of the Mahayana tradition:

If he visited the gambling parlors, it was solely to bring enlightenment to those there; if he listened to the doctrines of other religions, he did not allow them to impinge on the true faith. Though well versed in secular writings, his constant delight was in the Buddhist Law. Respected by everyone, he was looked on as foremost among those deserving of alms; embracing and upholding the correct Dharma, he gave guidance to old and young. In a spirit of trust and harmony, he conducted all kinds of business enterprises, but though he reaped worldly profits, he took no delight in these. (trans. Burton Watson)

A tall order, really. Is it doable?

Can a member of the laity become enlightened, or is the best we can wish for a propitious rebirth—one conducive to the commitment to practice that we find in monasteries? In the Mahayana scriptures, Vimalakirti holds out the possibility of lay enlightenment, or of at least keeping awake in the world—whether in the gambling parlor or at the workplace or—why not?—online.

We are all encouraged by our teachers and the texts to honor the legacy of wisdom and compassion that the Buddha left us. We are fortunate to have an opportunity to practice in this lifetime, to benefit from what some traditions refer to as “this precious human birth.” Whether we attempt to cultivate the confidence the Buddha demonstrated upon his enlightenment to attain it ourselves, or in so doing hope for a better future life, this precious opportunity calls us all to practice with equal urgency.

Take a look at this issue’s Altar Card (see image above) and pass along it along to a friend. The most precious gift we can give is the gift of dharma.

—James Shaheen, Editor and Publisher

Image: Vimalakirti, by Hakuin Ekaku, ink on paper, 127 x 69.3 cm. Minneapolis Museum of Art

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