The Importance of Practicing the Dharma

What Does "Practice the Dharma" Mean?

  • It doesn't mean just going through the motions of meditating, bowing, chanting, reciting mantras, etc.
  • It means giving up attachment to the happiness of this life and transforming your mind.
  • We give up attachment to the happiness of this life because we want a greater happiness that comes from Dharma practice.
  • This doesn't mean we deliberately put ourselves in suffering situations or try to avoid happiness; what we're giving up is the attachment to the happiness.
    • If happiness comes our way, we enjoy it for what it is.
    • We don't have to feel guilty because we're happy, because we have sense pleasure, because people praise us, etc.
    • We're not giving up the objects, but rather the attachment. It's the attachment to getting them and the aversion to not getting or losing them that causes the obstacles to practice—and the problems in this life.

What Makes a True Practitioner?

When the teachings are mere words and not put into practice, they're no different from what a parrot recites.

  • To avoid merely going through the motions of practice, listen and study the teachings well.
  • Think about what you've learned until you gain a proper understanding.
  • Then familiarize yourself with it until it begins to influence how you think and feel. This will affect how you act and speak.
  • When your physical, verbal, and mental actions begin to accord with the Buddha's teachings, you will experience happiness and become a trustworthy example to others.

We must overcome longing directed towards the things of this life in order to make our practice pure and develop the determination to be free from cyclic existence. Thinking about the preciousness and transience of this human life helps you to do this.

You are not a true practitioner until/unless you have let go of worldly matters; authentic practice will never mesh with worldly ways.

  • Real practice depends on your thoughts and intentions.
  • This doesn't mean you have to leave your family and give everything away; it means you must overcome attachment.
    • The gist of Atisha's advice to his students was to let go of attachment and be kind-hearted (cultivate love, compassion, and bodhicitta).
  • The problem is that concern for this life prevents practices from being authentic; the motivation has to be to escape from cyclic existence and to become enlightened for others' sake.
  • If letting go of our attachments is the door to pure practice, we must look within to see where we stand. It is not easy to be a true practitioner.
  • Remember that the only thing that's valuable at the time of death is the good karma that we've created and the transformation that we've done in own mind.
  • If we really see our inner potential and our Buddha-nature, then we see that we have the potential to actualize bodhicitta and wisdom. We have the potential to break the cycle of existence and to make our lives meaningful for ourselves and others.
  • With this potential, we don't need to make every little detail in this life how our ego wants it to be. Let's concentrate on what's important instead of wasting time worrying about things that just disappear at the time of death.

Some Good Reminders from Geshe Sonam Rinchen

  • "Though a certain degree of understanding can arise from listening to the teachings, insights will only be stable if they result from deep personal reflection and experience… Your insights must enter and become deeply embedded in your heart."
  • "Just understanding what the wish to leave cyclic existence and the altruistic intention entail does not make you a real practitioner. These attitudes must be so deeply ingrained that they become the motivating force for everything you do."

The Diagram

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