Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on August 7, 2014

No, I am not trying to self-destruct this blog and drive readers away, but when it comes to dharma, my advice is to read less and do more. Do more what? Do more practice, of course, learning how to use these techniques. And by "practice," I don't just mean whatever practice you may be doing on the cushion. That may be working for you or it may be part of the problem by this time. Ultimately practice must spread throughout our entire day (not just on the cushion) for us to really accumulate enough merit. But learning to do that is not all that easy in my opinion.

And "practice" smacks of preparing for, and not yet doing the real thing. And well it should, for that is the case with dharma practice for each of us, at least for some time.

The dharma may start out for us as a blip on our internal radar screen, just another interest we have, but if we begin to realize its nature and value, the dharma is capable of becoming a way of life. After all, that is what the dharma is, the method or path that the historical Buddha took and left for us in a kind of freeze-dried form. Just add realization.

While it may start small, just as a boy scout I used to start a fire and get a spark using flint and steel, blowing ever so carefully to expand the flame, so that dharma can grow in us from the tiniest spark. Like a brush fire, once started the dharma has to continue to grow or die out and become just another thing we tried. Because the dharma is an authentic path, even if we abandon it for a time, sooner or later we will return and pick it up again, so prepare for it eventually to grow and spread.

As for reading, it is a mixed bag. Too often we read "about' something rather than actually do it. Sure, reading is good to spark our interest and fan the flames, but any real heat from that fire will come from trying the dharma out, and I don't just mean some personal practice like meditation. Of all the things I have studied in my life, and there have been quite a few, nothing is more inviting to test than dharma principles. We can read about them, but ultimately we have to take time out from reading to actually go and test the dharma out and see if it works.

I write blogs like these to hopefully provide some background on the dharma and to interest and encourage those of you who respond to it check it out for yourselves. And there increasingly are more and more general books on the dharma becoming available, so there is more there to read that anyone ever could.

As for myself, I have not read the general books, even many years ago. Of course there were none to speak of. I am sure there may be some new interesting personal accounts today, but I probably will not bother to search them out. When I get in the reading mood, which is very rare, I have a whole series of root texts that I read over and over again. Sometimes they make sense to me and at other times I can get little to nothing from them. I have to be in the right mood, with the right attitude, and then I can see and understand what is written. And then they are inspiring. Otherwise, they are words on the page that I can but understand with my intellect. I soon put the book down.

From my own experience I feel it is much better to spend time actually working with the mind than reading about it. It takes real effort to abstain from just reading another book about the dharma and instead launch out with some personal exploration, especially if we don't know what we are doing. It can be like feeling around in the dark. Yet, it is the only way to develop any real dharma experience. "Armchair chair" dharma is pretty much an oxymoron, but there is a lot of it going on.

We really do need someone to hold our hand, at least in the beginning, someone to encourage us and to answer whatever questions we have. I have worked with the dharma long enough to at least be just inside the door, although I am still just getting started myself. I do my best to encourage beginners because I had such a hard time as a beginning dharma student. Mostly I am writing to myself as I was back in the beginning of my own practice. I would have loved to know then what I know now, of course.

I find it ironic that the extant Buddhist teachings are said to be an order of magnitude greater than any other "religion," and yet all these teachings are basically about implementing actual practice rather than meant for just contemplating or musing. It seems it is very difficult to move from understanding ideas to actually realizing them in day-to-day life. It is so easy to just dream on, and reading another book is such a nice way to do just that.

So, while I am glad to have readers of this material, it is only written in hopes some of you will get off the 'read train' and learn to realize dharma teachings in your own life. It is not like cooking, where we can hold a recipe book in one hand and stir the pot with the other. The dharma cries out to be implemented real-time in everything we do. So, read, read, read, and then do, do, do. And I repeat, when I say "do," of course I mean learn basic meditation practice by rote. But that is just the ante-in, where we all begin. Don't stop there.

Of equal importance is to take what we learn from sitting meditation practice, which is to allow the mind to rest, and begin to transfer that ability to everything we do throughout our day, at work, at home, and at play. Incorporate the dharma into the very fabric of our life until we are practicing all day long in everything we do, and then it is not really practicing.

So, if you are tired of reading this blogs, which obviously many of you are, feel free to un-friend me. It is OK.

[Photo taken yesterday of the future Monarch butterfly.]