Shining Practice or Great Activity: Samantabadra

Samantabadra Bodhisattva is often called the bodhisattva of “Shining Practice” or “Great Activity.” He or she is traditionally depicted seated on an elephant because an elephant is a work animal. Our practice is our work — it is the ordinary activity of our lives. Curiously, the Buddha spoke of "appamada" as "the elephant’s footprint," meaning that mindful, diligent care is the largest "footprint" in the teachings, just as the elephant's footprint it the largest in the forrest.

Our everyday activity in the world may seem great or small. It may look like shining practice or dull practice, but whatever we do expresses our understanding of the dharma through our body. This is why we have forms in Zen training, because we are training your body in mindfulness, revealing patterns of attachment, aversion and delusion. Training in the body supports us in understanding relinquishment, wholeheartedness, stealing, killing, lying, intoxication, and seduction — all of the precepts and the paramitas (the practices of the Bodhisattvas). "The entire ten-direction world is the true human body" is an expression often used by Dogen Zenji.

Our work is the work of a bodhisattva in the world. This is the work of loving the world. Here are Mary Oliver's words about this kind of everyday work in the world:

~ Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

Here is the Inquiry: