In these interviews, recorded by a team from studybuddhism.com, Venerable Thubten Chodron answers questions about her life and what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century.
What is the importance of social engagement as a Buddhist practitioner?
I think it’s quite important, and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] has been encouraging people to do that.
Again, there are different people with different mentalities, so I’m not saying everybody should do this. And I think this is really the beauty about Buddhism, some people can emphasize study, some people meditation, some people social service.
And, it’s fine, you can do it many different ways. What I personally think is very helpful is, in our lives, to have a combination of the three of those. Because, if you study, you learn the Dharma, and you can teach it. If you meditate, then you begin to integrate it in your mind. If you do socially engaged work, then you’re actually putting it into practice in life. And I think you need all three, no matter which one you want to emphasize.
Because if you emphasize social engagement, working as an activist or on any of the different wonderful projects that can benefit people directly in this lifetime, in order to keep doing that, you need to have a strong meditation practice, so that you can digest all the experiences that you have working with people, so that you can rejuvenate your motivation, and keep your motivation very fresh. And, you need to study, because when you study, when you hear the Dharma, again it gives you so many new ideas, and different ways to look at situations.
So I think all three of these things, in different balances for different people, are quite important.