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I will practice diligently what I learnt
September 20th, 2018
illustration

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

I will practice diligently what I learnt… yes, yes! promise! sure! In particular if it's simple and brief!

« Then, a mendicant went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him: “Sir, may the Buddha please teach me Dhamma in brief. When I’ve heard it, I’ll live alone, withdrawn, diligent, keen, and resolute.”
“This is exactly how some foolish people ask me for something. But when the teaching has been explained they think only of following me around.” »
— Saṅkhitta (Dhamma) Sutta (AN 8.63)
(tr. bhikkhu Sujato, https://suttacentral.net/an8.63/en/sujato)


On social media, people ask questions about the Dharma… However, after some answer was given, they tend to neither study nor practice any deeper. Should the answer be long and thoughtful, they'd mark it as "to read later" and usually never come back to it (unless they complain that social media is not for such long essays!). 'Wisdom' in a social media comment, or in a tweet, is the request!
A while later, something else pops up in their mind, and they simply ask other questions…

Always seeking the answer 'outside' of themselves (so they can save themselves from practicing, from doing the work, from challenging their own assumptions, own habits and own views), they get used to, and take for granted, the availability of teacher / teachings / answers… and they project some 'authority' onto their sources, so they don't need to "see for themselves".
By thus doing, they're caught in following and clinging to the 'source of answers'. The more fantastic the projection ("fully enlightened" teacher, or teacher with "unbroken lineage to the Buddha"), the more materialistic the projection (teacher with X students, or with Y followers on social media… or teacher with Z years of solitary retreat), the easiest it gets not to practice the Dharma but instead to practice clinging to certainties. A bit like some people never actually read the Bible and nonetheless cling to the idea that it holds all the answers.

People keep saying they will practice what they just learnt! It's the equivalent of "I start my new diet next Monday"; it's usually and repeatedly postponed. Should a teacher ask them e.g. to meditate one minute a month, or to burn one incense stick a month, and although it's clear the 'follower' couldn't possibly be so busy that (s)he cannot materially do so, those claiming to 'take refuge' won't do as instructed.
Yet they hope that they'll benefit "by association". They'll pretend that their 'intention to practice' is already a start, already wholesome, even if they fail… without realizing that, all along, their true intention was not to practice, and to find excuses to justify not to! Often, people perfectly know they won't do what they're supposedly committing to, and yet they hope they'd benefit from lying about it!

Most Buddhist teachers live off such projections. It's good for their ego that students look up to them for answers. If students hope benefits by association, then they spend much time seeking the presence of the teacher… The students are happy that they get easy answers and don't have to actually change their way of living, the teacher are happy they get to live off 'transmitting' the Dharma, everybody wins… or do they? Samsaric perpetuation is the opposite of the soteriological goal of Buddhism!
Good teachers don't give pre-digested wisdom or 'answers' or mantras-to-solve-this-or-that. In Tibet, it is suggested that your guru should be 3 valleys away (i.e. that's reachable when you're serious, but you won't easily spend all your time there…). Good teachers support study, they support enquiry, they give food for thoughts (not food for cheap reassurance): any 'apparent' answer comes with extra questions! They let the students reflect over the Dharma, which is not "brief". At the very least, like the Buddha on the above occasion, they draw the attention towards the fact that the message counts more than the messenger.

#Buddhism #Dharma
image: "reverent gathering at a Monastery in Sikkim listen as Dalai Lama tells them to follow the Buddhist principles of love and nonviolence", © Homai Vyarawalla, 1956 (via wikipedia)