Dear Dharma brothers and sisters,
As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy. On this Guru Rinpoche day, I would like to give some short advice to all of you, which is really advice to myself as well. But first, I wish to tell everyone who is reading these emails that I appreciate you very much, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for embarking on this path to seeing your own true nature.
My advice consists in a few fundamental points one needs to understand with regards to one’s Dharma practice. First, a basic mistake many of us make is to think that studying the Dharma, and learning how to do one’s session and so on, is actually doing the practice. But that is just learning about the Dharma, not practicing it. Dharma practice begins when you start seeing yourself as you are, identifying your faults and negative habits, and transforming yourself, and your negative thoughts, emotions, habits, and behaviors into positive ones.
The second mistake we make is that we like to think that as long as we are practicing the Dharma, we are practicing correctly. But just because you practice, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are practicing correctly. Therefore, it’s important to know the correct way to practice.
Our third mistake is that we tend to listen to the opinions of our friends and companions regarding our spiritual practice. However, many of them don’t really know what they’re talking about. Yet, instead of relying on our teachers, and on our own experiences and understanding, we rely on other people, on the Internet, and so on. We should instead learn to rely on ourselves, check ourselves, and remember the words of authentic teachers.
That being said, the main advice that I would like to give you today is about the importance of aligning our conduct with our practice by always checking our motivation and our view.
Thus, we first need to be aligned with the correct motivation, namely bodhicitta, the compassionate wish to realize awakening. We need to check how sincere this motivation is in our everyday life, as well as in our practice. If we are not aligned with this motivation in both meditation and conduct, then we are not practicing correctly. If we are aligned with it, then our meditation and conduct are correct.
Second, we need to be aligned with the correct view. The basic view of Buddhism is selflessness. Selflessness means freedom from ego-clinging, that is, clinging onto pride, jealousy, attachment, aversion, and indifference towards the true nature of things. It is essential to understand ego-clinging in order to free ourselves from it and thereby realize selflessness. That is the foundational view of all Dharma practitioners, whether they engage in mind-training, in the Mahāyāna, the Vajrayāna, the preliminaries, or the Great Perfection. All of these practices are based on the view of selflessness.
When we are aligned both with the correct view and motivation, then we are a true practitioner, and our practice will transform our minds and our habits. Thus, alignment is the mirror of self-reflection, in which we can see ourselves and where we are on the path as clearly as Mount Kailash is reflected in Lake Mansarovar.
We also have a few key aids in this endeavor. Our first aid is mindfulness, not in the modern sense of being present in the moment, but in the traditional sense of drenpa, which means remembering to check our practice, our motivation, and our behavior.
Our second aid is carefulness in our daily lives, in our practice, in our motivation, in checking whether or not we are aligned with the view, and so on. Being careful is very important.
However, whatever you do, please don’t judge yourself. When we judge ourselves, we get carried away by positive emotions when we’ve done something good, feeling happy and inspired. And when we feel we are not improving, or that our practice is not developing, we feel sad, low, and uninspired. This type of self-judgment chips away at the possibility of a genuine Dharma practice.
We all have ups and downs, but we shouldn’t let that interfere with our practice. Instead, we should strive for stability, because without it, we will always be swayed by our emotions, or our likes and dislikes. We shouldn’t treat Dharma practice like all the trends we have a habit of following in our mundane lives with regards to clothes, food, make-up… Don’t turn your spiritual path into a fashion statement.
This was my message for today’s Guru Rinpoche day: the importance of truly looking at ourselves and our practice through the mirror of alignment. My hope is that you all practice correctly, and don’t discourage yourselves.
Finally, please make sincere aspirations and dedications that you never stray from your spiritual path of transformation no matter what happens, but always follow the right path up until the very day of awakening, whenever that opportunity come. So please practice genuinely, gently and, most importantly, in the correct way. Thank you.