Inside the first issue of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun), we asked 14 Buddhist teachers to tell us, “What is the most important teaching to proclaim in today’s troubled world?” Here’s what Rebecca Li — a teacher in the Dharma Drum lineage established by Chan master Sheng Yen — had to say.
I think the most important teaching people need to hear today is that everything happening in the present moment is a manifestation of innumerable causes and conditions coming together and constantly changing.
This understanding motivates us to cultivate clear awareness of every emerging moment and to appreciate how each moment is entirely new. When things are going well, we are thankful for how numerous positive conditions have come together, including our own actions and those of many other people, to make it possible. When things are not going so well, we are less likely to fall into despair when we recognize that despite our best efforts, the causes and conditions needed to bring about the desired outcome were not fully present.
This understanding helps us embrace the ups and downs of life with equanimity and gives us the will to persist in the face of difficulty. Since causes and conditions are constantly changing, past failure to fulfill a goal does not mean future success is not possible. We know that through our actions, we can still cultivate the necessary causes and conditions for success.
This attitude is particularly important for solving complex problems requiring long-term commitment, such as climate change, social injustice, and war and violent conflict. We simply do our best, while knowing clearly that we don’t have full control over the outcome because many other causes and conditions are at play. In this way, we do not become discouraged and fall into hopelessness.
If we truly integrate this understanding into every aspect of our life, the way we respond to situations will be slowly transformed. As our capacity for wise and compassionate action grows, we will lessen the harm we cause others and be a more positive force in the world.
Also in the premiere, March 2016 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine were responses from Sharon Salzberg, Ethan Nichtern, Sylvia Boorstein, Larry Yang, Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Gina Sharpe, Lama Rod Owens, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Josh Korda, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Kate Johnson, and Norman Fischer.