Dharma Practice and Human Affairs

Yutang Lin

Dharma practice is not limited to outside human affairs;
Mature and skillful practitioners give guidance at times.
In view of the pursuit of perfect liberation for all beings,
How could one be bothered by transient smoke or cloud?


The goal of Buddhist practices is for the practitioners to become liberated from suffering of transmigration within the six realms, and to realize the originally pure and limitless oneness of all. In order to attain this goal practitioners follow the principles of No Grasping, No Attachment to Forms, Open-mindedness, Compassion, etc. in their daily activities, and thereby gradually experience disengagement from blind entanglements.

With the exception of extremely few practitioners who remain in complete solitude beyond the reach of other human beings, to most followers of the Buddhist path the sphere of their Dharma practices naturally encompasses experiences in human affairs. Since Dharma practice is their chosen devotion, in handling human affairs they need to follow Buddhist principles and rules of conduct in order to obtain the benefits of training and to make progress on the path. Out of genuine concerns and considerations for Dharma practice and propagation naturally they may also hold certain positions and adopt certain activities in human affairs.

Walking under the name of Dharma practice and yet deeply involved in human affairs, or based on worldly considerations and motivations to engage in or manipulate Dharma activities or organizations, such unhealthy practices are often seen in the world. A sincere practitioner would naturally stay away from such causes of downfall.

Human affairs are mostly transient and illusive, while Dharma practice is connected to the endless salvation of all sentient beings from suffering to enlightenment. Therefore, in general, practitioners that are sincerely dedicated to the eternal quest would regard human affairs as too insignificant to get involved with. Even for matters that would affect many beings, they would just get involved temporarily and stay only within the sphere of Dharma activities so that there could be no endless entanglements, lest, instead of saving others, they would be pulled into ruins.

For novices their right views are often not fully comprehended and their determination to be dedicated to the Dharma may not be sufficiently well-developed, therefore, it is advisable for them to stay away from human affairs and to decline worldly bothers. As to seasoned practitioners, even though they are capable of staying in mud without getting dusty, since their goal is the ultimate liberation for all but not a transient up or down on the societal scale, they would at most give some guidance to human affairs, but not to linger therein.

Recently some Buddhist inquired about politics and religion, and that person's view seemed to regard the two spheres as incommunicable. This is far from sound reasoning. Hence, I offered briefly my view on the relation between Dharma practice and human affairs above to help clarify the matter.

Written in Chinese on May 15, 2003
Translated on May 16, 2003
El Cerrito, California

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