Thursday, November 24, 2011

Personal Dharma versus The Dharma

Thanksgiving thoughts:

Here in the USA we celebrate Thanksgiving. Today I am thankful for the variety of Dharma teachings and practices. I am thankful for the many teachers and the different sects of Buddhism. I am thankful for those who preserved and recorded the teachings, no matter how imperfect. Indeed, I appreciate all the spiritual traditions now that I've found mine.

You hear about teachings: "Well, I see people in the distance in the fog, and I say to some, 'more left' and to others, 'more right'. It seems to contradict, but I see things from a different vantage point."

The Buddha was inclusive. He allowed householders to be part of the fold, when he could have just thought monks were the only way. There were some monks who wants the forest tradition to be The Tradition. The Buddha declined narrowing the path. The path is inclusive, wide.

I gave a talk on generosity at the last practice day. I articulated what was useful and interesting to me, and hoped that it was so for others. I honestly couldn't presume to know what the people in the group needed to know, even if I know some of them as well as I know anyone. Anyway, my short talk provoked a good discussion and thus it's a success on that level. I love the discussion.

I think sometimes people mistake their path for the path. There is an ocean of Dharma to choose from. OK, so yes, the path isn't just about reading books. But is it a problem if someone likes to read books? Yes, we need to take what we know and put it into practice. There can be a kind of indigestion, when you eat too much of a rich meal. Westerners are producing a new kind of Buddhism, that is well read. And if you go deeper into the path, you want to give back and not just accumulate your own deepening insight. Altruism is very important in the spiritual life, it counters spiritual individualism.

But in the end, I think there are many different personalities and kinds of people, and that the Buddha built a big tent, for them all to come in. There are many traditions. And when someone works to enforce their personality view, criticizing others path, well, I think that is a mistake. Whether you're a monk or a householder, whether you're a wisdom type or a faith follower. What ever type you, that is just right.

We are modifiable by our spiritual friends. People outside of us often see us better then we see ourselves.

And there's the danger of vagueness and lack of depth in inclusion. I'm not saying you shouldn't go as deep and as clearly into your path. I think that's the tension really. When we find out what really works for us, then we want everyone to have that. But what I'm saying is that pluralism, tolerance and respect for people's autonomy on the path is also something you can be clear about and feel deeply.

So on this Thanksgiving, no only am I thankful for all the spiritual traditions with their oceans of Dharma, but I'm also appreciative of all my friends who provide such a rich and stimulating life. All my relationships. Thank you.

No comments: