For the practitioner of Buddhism, there are several ‘modes’ or phases of awakening that one can experience. First, there is awakening from suffering, in which the practitioner begins to understand the roots of their own personal suffering and has devised a practice to relieve that suffering, which might include meditation, therapy, recovery groups, yoga, or any manner of therapeutic and restorative teachings and techniques. The practitioner realizes (or always knew) that suffering is not just personal, but collective, and begins the awakening beyond suffering. The practitioner begins to see the suffering of the world in a new way, and finds ways to help alleviate collective suffering, again through any number of means, including dharma teaching, interpersonal caring, social service, political advocacy, and cultural development. Often the two paths, the inner work regarding one’s own suffering, and the outer work regarding the suffering of others, are undertaken at the same time, in turns, sometimes focusing more on one’s own work, and sometimes focusing more on collective suffering. Finally the practitioner reaches a plateau (Deleuze and Guattari) whereby they no longer suffer from suffering. That is, they are able to enter and work with the suffering world, without themselves being debilitated by the suffering of others. They enter the suffering world and see it in a new way, and undertake the work not as a way to work out their own issues, but as a way to help others and transform society. Understanding suffering, it’s roots and means of transformation as an ongoing process, they can undertake the work while maintaining their own sanity and well-being.
The following article, linked here, by Dan Zigmond in Lion’s Roar (5-31-22), is one of the best articles I have ever read on the relationship between meditation and socially-directed practice.
“Meditation is about facing suffering squarely and seeing reality clearly. That’s why it’s the best starting place if you want to help a troubled world, says Zen teacher Dan Zigmond.”