Remaining in a bliss of single-pointed concentration for eons while other beings are suffering is cruel and inhumane. If one would let one’s parent suffer for one single day without doing anything, one would be prosecuted by law. As all beings have been our mothers, we have responsibility towards them.
This though from today’s The Light of Meditation class made me think.
So often Buddhism is presented as a remedy for one’s own alleviation of suffering and nothing more than that. The problem is in “nothing more than that”. Buddhist path starts with firm and strong renunciation of samsara. Cosmetic changes that alleviate immediate suffering without taking in consideration its causes and the very nature of samsara are highly likely to create obstacles to it, possibly for an awfully long time. The conditions that we have now are extremely rare and hard to find, this is not just a phrase. The masters of the past worked hard to find horrifying examples that evoke an urge to renounce everything that binds us to samsara right away. Nevertheless often we do not take them seriously or we avoid contemplating it enough to take action.
Our life follows our mindset, which makes study is so essential. As samsaric beings we are submerged deeply in the swamps of ignorance, surrounded by other ignorant beings, and bound by our own mental habits that have been drawing us in the depths of samsara for infinite lives. It is not easy to change our habits, faith and wishful thinking do not suffice. It is necessary is persistently remove infinite layers of misconceptions, one by one, thus obtaining clear understanding of what is valid and what is not and integrating these distinctions in our mind so that we cannot fall back anymore. In Tibetan Buddhism we talk about learning – contemplating – meditating, where the first two parts, aimed as establishing clear view, are essential and take the longest time.
Do you think that study is reserved only for monks and nuns?
Do you think that lay people do not need it?
The same subjects that ordained people study in monastic universities need to be understood by lay people as well if they want to progress on the path. There is no difference about that. Even the tantra is functional only as much as it has a foundation in sutra – the stronger the foundation, the higher we can build.
Sometimes people talk as if study is only for monks and nuns. This does not do any harm to ordained people, but it presents a huge disservice to the lay community. Do you think that monks and nuns are using a stairway to liberation, while lay people use an elevator?
Do you think that ordained people study because they are especially dumb type of beings, while lay people are too clever to study? Do you think that the Buddha established ordination to cause obstacles?
Monks and nuns have the advantage of dedicating their entire life to dharma, which makes one’s progress on the path significantly easier (also because the vows prevent many distractions of lay life), but the requirements for the path are the same for all beings, without discrimination. Study is useful and necessary for everybody. Lucky those who understand it.
People have different dispositions and abilities. For those of higher capabilities, it would be a serious waste of this fleeting lifetime if they did not use them. For those who do not have such potentials, let us hope that they gain merits and causes which support them. Developing a good heart is the basis, but not the end. Dharma path is more than this. Like His Holiness said in his recent teaching, quoting Aryadeva:
First prevent what is lacking in merit,
Next prevent [ideas of a coarse] self;
Later prevent views of all kinds.
Whoever knows of this is wise.