In short, unless you mingle your mind with the dharma, it is pointless to merely sport a spiritual veneer. Keep to the bare necessities for sustaining your life and warding off the bitter cold; reflect on the fact that nothing else is really needed. Practice guru yoga and supplicate one-pointedly. Direct every spiritual practice you do to the welfare of all sentient beings, your own parents. Whatever good or evil, joy or sorrow befalls you, train in seeing it as your guru’s kindness.
Tai Situ Rinpoche
The thing that really surprised me when I first went to the West was to hear people saying, “I hate myself”, I could never understand that. But now I think I understand; when people say, “I hate myself” what they really mean is, “I love myself too much”, and they are always disappointed for not fulfilling the expectations they have of themselves! I think what they mean is, “I am always disappointed in myself.”
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
The British have this very romantic idea about ancient culture and wisdom, which is reflected in their academia. If an Englishman wants to study Buddhism, he begins by examining the root texts in original Pali or Sanskrit, and he studies the code of conduct Buddha prescribed for Indians twenty-five hundred years ago, and he feels loyal to that ancient atmosphere.
Many of us have these romantic notions, not realizing the contextual nature of these early rules. When we see a serene Theravada monk begging in the streets of Mandalay at sunrise, it makes our day. But if the same smooth-shaven, maroon-robed man was seen begging alms on Kensington High Street next to the Hare Krishnas, it would offend the sensibilities of the uptight British. Removed from his romantic setting, the monk is little better than a pest. My English friend seems to have forgotten that after Buddha offered these rules and regulations to his immediate sangha, he said the Vinaya will have to be determined by time and place. Aside from the four root vows — abstaining from sexual misconduct, stealing, killing a human being (born or unborn), and major deceit — there are no rules that apply across the board. But Trungpa Rinpoche taught that you can be a Buddhist and still be a successful banker or entrepreneur. This was a huge contribution to modern Buddhadharma.
If Trungpa Rinpoche had manifested as a typical monk from Surmang — wearing robes, exuding serenity, begging alms, and behaving perfectly from a vinaya point of view — at least he would have entertained those romantic, ancient morality–loving British. But would he have been able to reach all the others? Could he have inspired thousands of people to adopt the ancient vinaya rules of shirtless, dinnerless monastics? It’s well and good to daydream about the glory days of shaved heads and wandering ascetics, but if the venue and the times have changed, the methods must also change.
If we try to practice meditation without the foundation of goodwill to ourselves and others, it is like trying to row across a river without first untying the boat; our efforts, no matter how strenuous, will not bear fruit. We need to practice and refine our ability to live honestly and with integrity.
How do you decide whether or not to do something? Ask yourself how much benefit the activity is likely to bring.
Rejoicing in the success of others means letting go of competitiveness, jealousy, and envy, and nurturing the capacity to celebrate the virtuous activities and merit of others, which at the same time generates merit for ourselves.
The commitment to morality, or non-harming, is a source of tremendous strength, because it helps free the mind from the remorse of having done unwholesome actions. Freedom from remorse leads to happiness. Happiness leads to concentration. Concentration brings wisdom. And wisdom is the source of peace and freedom in our lives.