Thursday, December 04, 2008

Effective Practice

You don’t need a lot of initiations or shelves groaning with Dharma books and Sanskrit dictionaries to make your practice effective. Just reflect on what it really means to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha, and do you best to live in accordance with that. Perform the puja and try to absorb and really feel what you are chanting and saying. Reflect on the five or ten precepts and use them as a touchstone to see how your practice could be improved. Cultivate spiritual friends. Meditate regularly. Just one or two practices are enough: the mindfulness of breathing to develop clarity, and the metta bhavana for positive emotion. Perhaps you could reflect on the Noble Eightfold Path, and specifically on how to put it into practice. You might have a string of mala beads and one or two pictures, plus a few books, including one or two anthologies of the sayings of the Buddha, and a few favorite lectures on tape or disk. This is all you really need by way of intellectual equipment to take you as far as you want to go. If your practice does not keep pace with your theoretical understanding, if what you read is not being put into action, all that reading is probably hindering your practice. Milarepa goes on to explain that ‘in the teaching of Marpa’s line’ – the Kagyu or ‘whispered’ lineage – special emphasis is placed on actual practice as opposed to any kind of verbal proliferation.

(p.196-7 of The Yogi’s Joy by Sangharakshita)

He also writes later in his document "What is the Western Buddhist Order?" also known as his last will and testament:

"My teachings pertaining to method, and therefore those of my disciples, all centre,
directly or indirectly, on the act of going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma, and
the Sangha. These comprise all the practices that I have myself taught: for instance,
the observance of the Five or Ten Precepts; the performance of the Sevenfold and
Threefold Pujas; the practice of meditation, in the framework of the System of
Meditation; the group study of the Buddhist scriptures; the cultivation of spiritual
friendship, and the enjoyment of poetry, music, and the visual arts as aids to the
spiritual life. These teachings pertaining to method are connected, directly or
indirectly, with the Buddha’s teaching of pratītya-samutpāda through the sequence of
positive, spiral nidānas, for all these teachings contribute, in one way or another, to
my disciples' progress to ever higher levels of being and consciousness, even from
the mundane at its most refined to the transcendental. Looked at from another point
of view, they contribute to the deepening of my disciples' going for refuge, so that
from being provisional it becomes effective, and from being effective it becomes real
in the sense of being irreversible."

From that I take the basic of practice is meditation in accordance with his system of meditation, following the precepts, group study of the Dharma, Puja, cultivating spiritual friendship and enjoying beauty.

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