- What is a Practice?
- Why do we Practice (and not Preach?)
- The Story of Buddha and the 3 Monks
- Practice is Not Perfect
- Balance of Time – Working with Karma
What is a practice? Pretty much anything you do. What is not practice? Thinking without action, although philosophically-speaking, inaction is still action, as it results in an outcome whether intended or not.
Practice in this context, is not limited to something specific you’re trying to learn, Philosophically, we could say we’re learning throughout our lives, each and every day, so that’s how our “practice” extends throughout our days, indeed throughout our lives.
But isn’t it good enough to be really loud and speak your thoughts like a broadcast?
What happens when you hear such a person? Is it a moment to stop, listen and contemplate carefully what they’re saying? Or do you mentally try to block out the extreme noise, and make a mental note to avoid that place in the future. After all, if it works for cheerleading, why wouldn’t it work for all communication?
If you observe the difference in context, you can see or maybe hear, the difference between an audience that wants to hear you (and can’t because you’re very far away,) versus one who is trying to tune you out and being viewed as an irritant rather than a example.
Master Shinjo once related how different types of people react to guidance with a story about Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciple Ananda walking home one night. They came across three monks who had been drinking something that was forbidden for monks at the time. The first monk quickly hid on the side of the road behind the bushes hoping not to be discovered. The second monk averted his gaze and walked quickly past the Tathagata hoping not to be noticed. The third monk thought that the money he spent was his own and boldly walked calmly right in front of the Buddha without care. Master Shinjo’s notes on this encounter mention that the first monk represents readily instructable people who are open to new ideas, the second person might need more specific examples and might question reasoning but are motivated by emotional care and compassion, and the third person might need actual correction and regulation in order to learn a new behavior. Depending on the person, your words and actions might be absorbed readily like a thirsty sponge, or discarded as so much hearsay and opinion. For those interested in delving further into this story, next month’s podcast will explore the realms of the three areas of Intrinsic, Compassionate and Strict styles of teaching (the 3-Wheel Turning Bodies of the Buddha, Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahavairochana Achala.)
About 2 years ago, I decided that collecting guitars was not the same as actually playing them and signed up for formal lessons. A long time had passed since I last had something that needed periodic and continued effort to get past my own mental and physical blocks to mastery, and this instrument had become one of those – the kind of situation where you can play “Stairway to Heaven” until people don’t want to hear you any more, but you can’t pick up a random music score and play it because you’re not familiar with how it goes. It’s very similar to saying, “I’m a very religious person,” and everyone nods their heads and thinks, “yes, and one day we’ll see it by actual example.” In this way, you can be doing or saying something quite clear, honest and with great intent, but without reflection upon the outcome of such actions, there really isn’t any measure for improvement or failure.
Just as much as every day we are sedentary, we lose some 1% of our muscle mass per year after 50, the same goes with both our minds, and our efforts to practice. Like that slowly leaking balloon that looks really great floating around, but it’s ever so slowly losing its helium and eventually grounds itself as a deflated rubber raisin, when we don’t do something each day to offset our little sack of karma, it too gets slowly heavier and heavier through natural entropy. To keep our momentum going and that sack staying as light as it can be, it takes daily efforts, and renewed exertion to offset the gentle though persistent waves of sediment that slowly build up over time, and eventually can solidify into much harder to break stone. This is an example of the same person transitioning between starting out like the first monk described above, and later developing into the third monk even without intent to do so.
/* That’s it for this session. Thank you for listening. For more information feel free to e-mail me at jlui at jlui dot net, or twitter @jhlui1 With Gassho, James*/