Buddhist Vision: Enlightenment
Knowing the Differences: Vision, Mission, and Project
In this brief video teaching, Phakchok Rinpoche gives advice on how to approach our practice. If we keep these steps in mind, we will be able to make progress and to evaluate our practice. And importantly, we will not become discouraged. Here, Rinpoche borrows terms from the business community, terms that we all can relate to about how to set our priorities. He also explains why we should recall the differences between vision, mission, and project. Keeping these core principles in mind will help us navigate our path and practice more effectively.
When we practice meditation, it helps to have a vision. And we can set our vision really vast. As Buddhist practitioners, we practice to awaken and to become Buddhas.
If we don’t keep that in mind, we might soon find other ways to spend our time. For example, we can become calmer by taking a nap: it’s faster and easier than learning to meditate!
Our mission is to become bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are true heroes. And we can acknowledge that we are not yet heroic, but we are working toward that. Basically, this means we are courageous beings who are aiming for enlightenment. As bodhisattvas, we are Buddhas-in-training. When we begin, we have aspirations to benefit all beings. And as we practice, we eventually reach the stages where we can actually do that. Slowly and steadily, we don the armor and achieve the powers of true bodhisattvas.
Project: Our Milestone
We approach our mission and vision in small steps: it is a gradual process. So we start very small with manageable projects. For example, our first project may be to simply change our short tempers. We can begin by working on our patience and acceptance. If we work with our temper, we can learn how to catch ourselves to become more smooth and calm. And our individual projects become our practice milestones. We need to be clear about this! Projects are achievable goals. We can see how we are improving and changing by moving from one project to another.
Please don’t try to make the vision into a milestone. Enlightenment is something we work toward, but if we make it a milestone then we will feel very incapable. Every day we will feel disappointed because we haven’t reached that vision. Of course, we inspire ourselves with our vision and our mission. That is important and motivating. But in order to get there, we need to focus on projects.
Project: Practice Every Day
In the beginning, it is especially important to focus on daily practice. And then we set milestones for our practice that deal with our own situations. For example, we may decide to stop complaining. So we set a milestone to watch ourselves for a week and try to complain less. That’s an achievable goal and it is an important improvement! If we can achieve this small milestone, we will be happier and so will the people around us. It moves us in the right direction toward achieving our mission and vision.
For more instruction on meditation, be sure to check out our on-line support course: Training the Mind: An Introduction. Here, you can find more teachings by Phakchok Rinpoche. We also offer support with reflections and practice exercises.
Spend some time to identify a small project: what aspect of your behavior would you like to change? Start with just one element so that you can clearly focus on one milestone. Then think about a measurable goal. It may help to write this down and keep a journal. For example, if you want to be more patient, think about how you can count to ten before reacting to upsetting situations. This may sound simplistic or silly, but it really does work!
Or, remind yourself to take three calming breaths before speaking — especially if you are in a tense environment. Notice how this changes you. Remember to keep the focus on your response instead of the outer circumstances. The traffic may be really heavy and you may have lots to do, but you don’t have to add to the stress. Instead, observe the situation and consciously decide to be accepting. See how that feels in your body and in your mind. Again, you might want to journal your experiences and watch how your own reactions start to shift in subtle ways.