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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 57 around in the midst of fear, anger, betrayal, and bitterness. Whatever toxic mixture we find our- selves in, we begin to question our worth, the worth of our practice, the worth of our teacher, and even the dharma itself. Or maybe this nag- ging doubt occurs because after several months or even years of practice, we still find ourselves yelling at our children, partners, or other drivers on the road. Somehow the expectations we have for the results of our practice just don’t match up with the reality of how we actually live. Great doubt, or great inquiry, is a crucial determining factor for our contemplative work and a significant fork in the road. How shall we proceed? One direction is down the path of help- lessness, resignation, self-judgment, despair, and bitterness. Sometimes we have to travel down this first path a considerable distance before realizing its futility and destructiveness. This path is not the path leading to the great death in which our life is transformed and lived fully PHOTO | JOANNE BEALY and courageously. Instead, it is lifeless. The other path is that of practice—through right effort, per- sistence, and courage, we use what seems to be an assault as an invitation to examine the ways of the thinking mind and know it more deeply, seeing clearly its attachments, deceits, and fears, and the ways it imposes arbitrary limitations. We use what has happened to us, and our reactions to it, as a mirror to see ourselves more clearly. The teacher Vimala Thakar once said, “Achieving some understanding is not so diffi- cult. The real question is, why do we not imme- diately live the understanding we have without hesitation?” Why is it that after seeing what is false, we hesitate to live what is true? What is the resistance we so often encounter? When Bahiya is told that his practice and attainment are utterly bogus, unlike many of us, he does not defend, rationalize, deny, or launch a counterattack. Instead, setting an example, he does two things: First, he asks if there is an enlightened person