Giving is a fairly simple thing to do: money to a good cause, time to a friend, food to the hungry, energy to a situation. But sacrificing what you hold most precious – your very own life – is an altogether different giving up. How, and why, would you give your life?
For an offering to be truly selfless, the ideals behind it need to be of the purest kind. Then you would need to examine how you relate to those ideals, since this forms the motive, and the ethical basis, for your offering. Then you would need to do it!
For Buddhists, of course, the Buddha represents those highest ideals. The Dharma is then the means with which you move towards those ideals, and the Sangha forms the context in which you do it.
All these areas are explored in this new issue of The London Buddhist. In a bold new essay, Devamitra examines the motives behind self-immolation, a potentially shocking form of self-sacrifice. Those motives may be quite different in the cases of the most widely known example, Quang Duc, the Vietnamese monk who burned himself publicly in 1966, and the more recent wave of young monks who are self-immolating in Tibet.
Another Buddhist monk, Chatral Sangye Dorje, who recently passed away in Nepal, is a vivid example of selfless sacrifice. Karunamati remembers the life that he gave so completely to the world.
Closer to home, in Bethnal Green, we hear from Sal Campbell, who shares with us her journey towards ordination into the Triratna Buddhist Order. We learn what she has given, and given up, in offering her life to transcendent ideals. In our photo feature, we see Sassirika giving herself to expressions of her ideals through the creation of beautiful works of art.
And finally we enter the day-to-day life of Ollie Brock and discover, through his reflections on living and working full-time at the centre, another way of giving one’s life to the Dharma.
I have been moved to read these stories of lives so fully given. After all, it is a courageous act to move away from the mundane ideals of possession and gratification, and face the challenge of offering yourself to the highest human ideals of compassion, energy in pursuit of the good and wisdom. But as we see, through doing so it becomes possible to transform yourself and change the world.
I hope that the articles you read here, and the events that are happening over the summer at the LBC, also move you to consider how fully you can give yourself to this great project of transformation.