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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
SPRING 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 23 truly willing to renounce ordinary life, being in a monastic setting can have advantages. It can protect your focus. It is more important to understand that it is not the method used, but the readiness of the person for a particular method. If a per- son is mature and ready to become a monk or nun, then taking vows and entering monastic life can be powerful. In general, one vehicle is not better than the other, but considering the capacities of a person, one may be more suitable than another. You cannot say this medicine is better than that medicine but must consider to whom and under what conditions is a particular medicine appropriate. So it is the condition of the person and their ability to process the challenges they face that makes the difference in determining the best medicine. In my own situation, I spent twenty years as a monk and now twenty years as a house- holder. As a monk, I didn’t have a partner or child to raise, so in some ways my life was easier. But now as a householder, a husband, and a father, I find many opportunities to grow through relationships. While the prac- tice of recognizing and abiding in the nature of mind has remained a constant throughout my life, the gifts and challenges of raising a child and providing for my family are person- ally more enriching for my spiritual develop- ment than being a monk was. I experience more growth both in terms of dealing with issues and also am nourished by heartwarm- ing and loving experiences. Many years ago, one of my students asked me whether I believed that through taking the teachings to heart and applying them through the practice of meditation, one could live the ordinary life of a householder and attain liber- ation from suffering. I answered her yes. Today my answer is still yes, and my appreciation of the opportunities that ordinary life affords the spiritual practitioner has deepened. whether you are practicing in a wholehearted way. Whether lay or monastic, it is possible to drift. Let’s all do our best to wake up now. To me, the benefit of either path depends on one’s inner commitment. TENZIN WANGYAL RINPOCHE: According to my tradition, the path from suffering to freedom has three vehicles. One vehicle is a path of renunciation, or avoiding worldly attach- ments, which is the sutric path. The second is described as a path of transformation, the tantric path, and the third, as the path of liberation, the Dzogchen path. There’s an analogy about the different ways a poisonous substance would affect an ordinary person, a doctor, and a peacock. The ordinary per- son must renounce or avoid poison, as eating poison will cause harm. The doctor has the skill to transform a poisonous substance into medicine. The peacock eats poison directly and is nourished in so doing. So while the poison is the same, the relationship with the poison differs for the ordinary person, the doctor, and the peacock. In following the sutric path, one enters monastic life, or the life of a renunciate. But as far as attachment is concerned, monks and nuns do not necessarily have less attachment! It isn’t a question of not having attachment, but rather, through maintaining vows, to not express those desires. Desire is renounced. In tantra, the methods aim to transform attach- ment. There are many vows, but the vows do not renounce worldly activities and have more to do with transforming one’s relation- ship with emotions. In Dzogchen, attach- ment is self-liberated. Instead of avoiding or manipulating poison, you host the poison. You bring naked awareness directly to the pain or poison, and discover the true ground of being has never been poisoned. In so doing, the pain liberates by itself. All three paths engage the practice of medi- tation as the method to overcome suffering. Monastic life is designed to afford more time to meditate, but the schedule is not deter- mined by you. If the bell rings, you go! If you are drawn to enter the monastic life, it can be a beautiful support for your meditation prac- tice. But if you are avoiding the challenges of life and leaving a mess behind as you enter the monastery, you will find opportunities to cre- ate a mess in monastic life as well. If you are If you are drawn to the monastic life, it can be a beautiful support for your meditation practice. But if you are avoiding the challenges of life and leaving a mess behind, you will find opportunities to create a mess in monastic life as well.