Monday, October 31, 2005

the dharma in my life

an important part in my life is the dharma, which means something like "the true nature of things". I believe that every human being should have some time for reflection and spiritual practice in their daily lives. For me, at least, my dharma practice allows me to not get completely caught up in the speed and agression of life her in the US. Contemplating the Four Thoughts - about the preciousness of our human lives, and how short they are, about how all that we do will come back to us and how we do so many things in our lives that lead to suffering - helps me to refocus on what is really important.


Floris van Vugt said...

There is a story of a Zen master whose student failed to completely trust him, and, by means of a test, put a needle on the cushion of his master before a ceremony. When the master sat down he jumped into the air and screamed "ouch!" The student was instantly convinced the master was not truly an enlightened spirit. After he left, the recovered teacher was sad and Alas, poor man! If only he had known that in reality neither I, nor the needle, nr the 'ouch' really existed!.

As fascinating and inspiring I find this story, I fear it is clear that to many in our society this will be taken as a proof that the Zen buddhist master has fallen victim to the world of contemplation and lost all connection with present life.

The question that came to my mind when reading Marieke's post is whether devotion to dharma and a successful Western professional life conflict?

Marieke van Vugt said...

I think you are asking a complicated question that is definitely worth thinking about (and it is indeed one that occupies me a lot). To a certain extent the practice of Tibetan Buddhism seems in conflict with a successful career, in that it demands a lot of time, and you do not see any measurable or "objective" results, not like you have done something. On the other hand, through persistent practice you do change the way you are. This new way of being, more mindful and more open, less occupied with hopes and fears, will make you more productive in your daily life. So I guess like everything this is very much a question of balance.

Floris van Vugt said...

Forgive me for playing the Devil's advocate here, but would it be thinkable that upon reaching a certain spiritual level the material world loose its interest and one would be compelled to spend the rest of his life in a monastry? (A similar attitude, it would seem, speaks from the words of the Zen master.)

Another question would be, would this be undesirable?

A philosopher once said
Life is a hazardous undertaking, and I have decided to spend what remains of it in contemplation.

Marieke van Vugt said...

Hi Floris,
I really enjoy this discussion! I like your quote. However, in a Tibetan context this often does not not apply (read for example the stories in Blazing Splendor ( the stories of many realized Tibetan masters: they go back in order to help people once they have achieved some kind of realization. They teach and contribute to society. How that would work in a Western context however, I don't know. I think a contemporary example of a Western contemplative is Tenzin Palmo, who spent 12 years meditating in a cave and is currently back to society where she teaches, set up a monastery for nuns (read e.g., "Cave in the Snow" for her biography).