What it is to be human and to practise the dharma. Worms, 1993

James Low

Worms, 30-31 October, 1993

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The purpose of eating is to satisfy the taste sensation in the mouth and the hunger in the stomach and to make sure you take in enough nourishment to sustain body and mind. The purpose of meditation is similar. First of all, it has to please our mouth: we have to actually enjoy doing the meditation.  I don’t like broccoli. I refuse to eat it, so there would not be much point for me to pray to the Broccoli Buddha or the Brassica Buddha.  Similarly it is important to find a practice that tastes sweet on your tongue and gives you increasing clarity. It is not enough to just do it because somebody told you. You need to check into your own experience, your own sensation. What am I getting out of this?  Buddhism is pragmatic in that way. We don’t do it for the sake of just doing something but because we want to get something.


Being human is only one option among many. We are not innately human in our real nature, this is simply a momentary display and the pattern of the display, the manner of the display, is not the main thing. What is important is the relationship between the expression that we have – how we take up the way of being human – and the ground of that expression.


We do not need to radically change our external behaviour because, as Patrul Rinpoche points out, what needs to shift is not the manner in which phenomena arise, but the manner in which they are dissolved.  That is to say, life continues as usual, getting up, washing, going to the shops, cooking food. But the particular style, the particular mood with which we engage in this activity is very different.  Whatever is arising, is arising as the manifestation of the state of openness. That is why it is called dzog pa chen po meaning ‘great perfection’


It is common for people who have been around in Tibetan buddhism for a while to have many different initiations from different teachers.  The initiations may be in different lineages, with different requirements for daily practices and so on. Consequently people may have commitments to recite many different mantras every day.  It can become easy to get overwhelmed and lose the sense of the whole endeavour, which is: we do the meditation to get a particular result.



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