Practice

 

Here are the eight steps of this program:

1) Meditation

2) Repetition of the mantra

3) Slowing down

4) Giving one pointed attention

5) Training the senses

6) Putting the welfare of others first

7) Spiritual companionship

8) Reading from the scriptures and great mystics of all

religions

 

Eknath Easwaran - Meditation

 

In order to perfect any practice seemingly useless experience must be undergone. Any disciple who has entered any kind of practice must begin with seemingly unnecessary, futile things. But of course these things are part of the discipline. Without such seemingly trifling things there can be no perfecting of the practice.

Reverend Kanero - Quoted in Merton's Asian Journals

 

Practice, for me, in the Buddhist tradition that I've been brought up in, has two facets. One is the question of insight; at the other is the question of karma homework. The insight part of it may be difficult, but it is not that difficult. It took me a great deal of effort and many years of intense practice, but I think that anybody who's sincere and patient enough is going to have some kind of deep insight at some point. Still, the aftermath is what Tungshan, a great T'ang dynasty described: "It's not that I'm not joyful," he said. "It's as though I have grasped a pearl in a pile of shit." Zen is very good at helping people open themselves to insight, and at deepening the insight. What doesn't happen is the follow-up; people, and even gifted teachers, quite often don't do the necessary work of flushing out their neuroses. The great Zen master Kuei-shan is one of the few teachers who even mentions this. He says: "Through meditation, a student may gain thoughtless thought, become suddenly enlightened, and realize his original nature. But there is still a basic delusion. Therefore he should be taught to eliminate the manifestations of karma, which cause the remaining delusion to rise to the surface. There is no other way of cultivation." So there may be a deep and clear insight, but it is sitting on top of layer upon layer of personal unclarity. Many teachers are teaching through the junk. You can only teach yourself. That is your dharma. . . . and you necessarily teach all of yourself, the unclarity along with the clarity. The less conscious you are, the more unfinished business you have then the more of it you teach. The scandals in all the various sanghas will testify to that. I think it is extremely important to be doing that karma work, especially after one's had an enlightenment experience. And that keeps being confirmed for me again and again, as the scandals get more horrifying. In other words, I feel that the more central or powerful a position you get into, the more important it is to be impeccable. "Impeccable" means one hundred percent light. In other words, you've become transparent, and you don't allow any of the karmic residue to cling. You become simply a vehicle for dharma, a clear pane of glass that lets the light shine through.

 

Stephen Mitchell interview "No Enlightenment"

Inquiring Mind: Fall 1990 (Vipassana Journal)

 

The saint is one who knows that every moment of our human life is a moment of crisis; for at every moment we are called upon to make an all-important decision - to choose between the way that leads to death and spiritual darkness and the way that leads towards light and life; between interests exclusively temporal and the eternal order; between our personal will, or the will of some projection of our personality, and the will of God. In order to fit himself to deal with the emergencies of his way of life, the saint undertakes appropriate training of mind and body, just as the soldier does. But whereas the objectives of military training are limited and very simple, namely, to make men courageous, cool-headed and cooperatively efficient in the business of killing other men, with whom, personally, they have no quarrel, the objectives of spiritual training are much less narrowly specialized. Here the aim is primarily to bring human beings to a state in which, because there are no longer any God eclipsing obstacles between themselves and Reality, they are able to be aware continuously of the divine Ground of their own and all other beings; secondarily, as a means to this end, to meet all, even the most trivial circumstances of daily living without malice, greed, self-assertion or voluntary ignorance, but consistently with love and understanding. Because its objectives are not limited, because for the lover of God, every moment is a moment of crisis, spiritual training is incomparably more difficult and searching than military training. There are many good soldiers, few saints.

 

We have seen that, in critical emergencies, soldiers specifically trained to cope with that kind of thing tend to forget the inborn and acquired idiosyncrasies with which they normally identify their being and transcending selfness, to behave in the same, one-pointed, better-than-personal way. What is true of soldiers is also true of saint, but with this important difference- that the aim of spiritual training is to make people become selfless in every circumstance of life, while the aim of military training is to make them selfless only in certain very special circumstances and in relation to only certain classes of human beings. . . The biographies of the saints testify unequivocally to the fact that spiritual training leads to a transcendence of personality, not merely in the special circumstances of battle, but in all circumstances and in relation to all creature, so that the saint "loves his enemies" or, if he is a Buddhist, does not even recognize the existence of enemies, but treats all sentient beings, sub-human as well as human, with the same compassion and disinterested good will. Those who win through to the unitive knowledge of God set out upon their course from the most diverse starting points. One is a man, another a woman; one born active, another a born contemplative. No two of them inherit the same temperament and physical constitution, and their lives are passed in material, moral and intellectual environment that are profoundly dissimilar. Nevertheless, insofar as they are saints, insofar as they possess the unitive knowledge that makes them "perfect as their Father which is in heaven is perfect," they are all astonishingly alike. Their actions are uniformly selfless and they are constantly recollected, so that at every moment they know who they are and what is their true relation to the universe and its spiritual Ground. Of even plain average people it may be said that their names is Legion - much more so of exceptionally complex personalities, who identify themselves with a wide diversity of moods, cravings and opinions. Saints, on the contrary, are neither double-minded nor half-hearted, but single and, however great their intellectual gifts, profoundly simple.

Aldous Huxley - The Perennial Philosophy

 

 

Most students come to spiritual practice seeking love, seeking the profound self-acceptance and peace for which most of us have searched for years. We can spend our whole life looking for this through worldly and spiritual efforts - only to discover, in the end, that what we sought is not a product of efforts to perfect ourselves, but of a radical letting go and acceptance of the world as it is. Part of the great beauty of non-dual practice is its emphasis on the inherent perfection and purity that already exist in all things. When we let go of our small sense of self, our limited identity, we rest in our true nature, our Buddha nature, and everything in the world becomes free for us.

When this quality of perfect trust is embodied in a great master like Poonja-ji or Urgyen Tulku or Ajahan Chah, students feel directly the spacious emptiness of the nondual, together with an enormously loving presence - like the Great Father or Great Mother who offers the blessings and love that we have longed for. This presence and loving acknowledgment is as powerfully healing as the "teachings" themselves.

The main question I have for students following the non-dual ways of practice is "what happens afterwards?" A taste of "awakening" is not so hard; it can be wonderful and transformative but what happens some months after a visit to Lucknow, a Dzogchen retreat, or a three month vipassana retreat, for that matter? For a time, we may experience a sense of great freedom, a clear and empty mind, and a heart full of love. But back at home after six months this experience fades and our old personality patterns and fearful habits reassert themselves. The personal problems we have felt we had "transcended" can arise. It is true that we still have the experience of our open heart and luminous mind to inspire and remind us of another perspective but even so, we easily get lost in the complexities of our human relationships and of modern life. How do we practice then? The truth is that real practice begins after "awakening." The practices of right speech, right livelihood, right mindfulness, of loving compassion which all arise from the non-dual, must be respected and fulfilled day by day. Only when our way of practice includes an awakening in every dimension of our life can we be said to truly embody the freedom of the masters.

 

I remember when I studied with Nisargadatta. After he felt that a student had really understood the empty and illusory nature of all things and the love that moves through the great universe, he would send them home. "If you wish to fulfill your awakening, don't bother coming back," he would say. "Return to your home and marry the girl or boy next door, find your livelihood, and work for your community and the world. Only remember to ask "Who am I?" while you do this.

 

Jack Kornfield - Inquiring Mind article