Some elements of Buddhism might sound ethereal or abstract. Other teachings are down to earth and practical. A modern practitioner establishes a steady diet of things that are interesting, wholesome and bring wellness for themselves and others. So it makes sense there are teachings we can use right now and others that take a few days, weeks or years to develop, mature and blossom.
The classes that introduce Buddhism for a complete beginner are perhaps the most difficult to teach. That’s because where the mind, ego and worldview are already set – there is little room to learn something new. An aspiring Buddhist needs to put some things aside for now. A spiritual wanderer doesn’t need to make a commitment.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said it is not necessary for a person who wishes a meaningful spiritual life to become a Buddhist. In fact, it is better for that person to look within his own culture. That said, it is every person’s right to explore other religions, especially if there was something lacking in their original faith system. Each person has a unique temperament and unique spiritual needs. If Buddhism provides the solace, logic, meaning and fulfillment, then by all means, they should practice the Dharma.
Finding books, tapes, classes or video of the Dharma teachings is one of the great benefits of being born in this age of vast communication. Likewise, a benefit to being in Boise at this time, is the ability to freely form a community of like-minded fellow practitioners, no matter what the tradition.
But easy access has the counter-effect of taking access for granted. To support one’s spiritual aspirations, the reflective side of one’s self, means making time for teachings, for retreat, for practice.
I can’t help wanting to encourage the practice of gratitude. This means taking stock of what we have available – our minds, our hearts, our loved ones, the leisure time we have available, the teachings, our Dharma friends. These are all qualities the Buddha spoke about. The practice of gratitude is where all other practices begin. Through it, we utilize the tools we have to create our own flourishing, our own genuine, authentic best selves.
I am in awe of Ven. Robina Courtin, who clearly teaches how to look within, take stock of one’s personal resources and expand our capabilities. Maybe we’ll practice together when she’s here March 8 & 9. I’ll post details very soon.
- Dan Black
(Sources: The Dalai Lama lectures on the importance of reflecting on the precious human rebirth at nearly every teaching. Likewise, the beginning chapters of the Gelugpa School of Tibetan Buddhism in the Lam Rim genre of texts on the Gradual Path, and all the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism recall the same. The Buddha’s discourses on Mind and its Functions emphasize awareness itself as the liberating quality of the path. Clearly every being with a mind has the potential for extricating itself from the habit energy that creates causes for repeated suffering. Its catalyst is a meta-cognition of those habits – self reflection, and assessment or gratitude for the virtuous states.)