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Buddhadharma : Summer 2013
SUMMER 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 41 be both practical and pragmatic. Why do we lose our heads when it comes to the dharma? If we do not cultivate a practical attitude focused on cre- ating the best possible conditions to support our practice, an attitude of willingness to cut through all inner and outer distractions, then the dharma will not penetrate our heart and mind. The practical practitioner puts forth all the effort necessary to bring about meaningful change. We must support our practice by being mindful, deliberate, and undistracted. These qualities help us integrate the dharma in every situation we might face. Beyond developing these supports, if we wish to achieve realization, we need to increase our spiritual capacity and deepen our practice. Left to our own devices, many of us find that our spiritual practice doesn’t deepen. We try all kinds of things to wake ourselves up. Like dharma tourists, we chase after different spiri- tual teachers. We sit weekend retreats. We prac- tice daily. We listen to CDs and read books. We do cleanses and work with healers. Sometimes, when we are in the presence of a spiritual teacher, we may feel we understand the practice of medi- tation, but when we get home that understanding eludes us. This brings us to an even bigger ques- tion Western students often ask, which is, “Is realization even possible for Western Buddhists?” Logically speaking, it must be possible, since we all possess buddhanature. Provided that we rely on the right methods, realization is possible for everyone. I, myself, follow the methods of the tradition called the Secret Mantrayana Vajray- ana. This Tibetan tradition has led countless yogis, both ancient and modern, to realize and manifest completely omniscient wisdom. I find it pragmatic to follow a tradition that other yogis who came before me have followed in order to achieve realization. I would hesitate to follow a tradition that has been changed or modernized, because the results of following such a path are unknown. In our culture, we have a certain affin- ity for doing things our own way and for doing things that have never been done before. This is just the sort of impractical attitude that can cause obstacles in our dharma practice, because if we were to follow methods other than those taught and practiced by the lineage holders, we would have no idea what the results of our prac- tice would be. The tradition of the Secret Mantrayana Vajray- ana teaches that spiritual capacity can only be developed on the bedrock of certainty. Certainty is the topic of one of Mipham Rinpoche’s most famous texts, Beacon of Certainty. The theme of certainty also permeates the tantric, or Vajrayana, tradition as a whole. Whether we are on the path of sutra or tantra, we benefit from being certain of our practice, being certain of the instructions for the practice, and being certain of the way the practice should unfold when done correctly. When we’ve developed certainty, we become a practical practitioner, because we become mind- ful and cognizant of our entire experience and our progress on the path. Gaining Confidence and Certainty Certainty is an ever-deepening principle. When we work with developing certainty, we have to start right at the very beginning, with intellectual certainty. We relate to the ordinary world around us with our intellect, so it makes sense that we also connect with practice using our ordinary, everyday mind and intellect. We use our intellect to analyze the words of a teaching and to try to make sense of the nuts and bolts of it. This is how we glean some understanding of the prac- tice. But many of us mistake this basic under- standing, this intellectual certainty, for wisdom and realization. They are not the same. We could say that this intellectual process we go through is an aspect of wisdom, but it is ordi- nary, everyday wisdom rather than transcenden- tal wisdom. That means it is based in dualistic mind. When we apply intellectual certainty, we see that it is quite practical, but it is not enough to cut through our deeply ingrained habits of doubt and skepticism. For example, the root of the entire Maha- yana path is the development of bodhichitta, the awakened mind that experiences compas- sion for all beings. In the beginning, we need to develop intellectual certainty in bodhichitta as a concept, so we investigate. Bodhichitta is divided into the classifications of conventional ANYEN RINPOCHE is the founder and spiritual director of the Orgyen Khamdroling Dharma Center in Denver, where he leads a shedra for Westerners and offers traditional teachings in the Longchen Nyingthig lineage. He is the author of Dying with Confidence and Momentary Buddhahood (Wisdom). GREGCRADICK