Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Bumbling Novice

This is a document depicting a traditional style of teaching which is wrathful which I heard many times in the past but which is less common recently. I believe this style of discourse can be very useful because many obstacles are named explicitly without any specific person being accused of anything. This is because the discourse is towards a large group.

We are all bumbling novices, newcomers to spiritual practice, walking around with a head full of arrogance and advice for others. Yet our understanding of everything remains intellectual. We are surrounded by holy objects. Negative actions towards any of the Three Jewels incur heavy negative karma but nevertheless we barge into any situation involving these with the naive enthusiasm of an elephant, charging towards its object, knocking aside everything in its path. Then as we stand completely oblivious to those who we trampled, we look to see we even damaged the object of our desire!
Through this we need to see that when we deal with anything regarding the Three Jewels we need to take the utmost care. Whenever we talk to visiting people about the Dharma we need to not be like this elephant, in a great rush to give as much information as possible trampling down the person in the process.
When we are deciding or doing work on something that will affect the welfare of the Sangha we need to be slow and thoughtful, consulting others and taking time to ensure that no bad karma or difficulty is created. If we are like the elephant, quoting various sources haughtily before we do something clumsy that causes damage, even if it out of a genuine enthusiasm, we have not fully understood the importance of caring for the Three Jewels. We should check over and over before we make any difficult decision. If we do something that harms a Sangha community as we sit and see the damage develop, it will become a torment to us, and all we will be able to do is close our hearts and developed a glazed look. It is far better to consult with the community to decide together rather than to ask people to follow your advice or simply give it the nod, because if it was your idea alone the burden will be all on yourself if it goes wrong.
It is important to not misrepresent the Three Jewels also, by claiming to be Sangha or a representative of Buddha, and then harming others. We need to be careful once we represent the holy Sangha of Buddha Shakyamuni. If we cause others to lose faith and give up the practice of holy Dharma, the karma we will experience is inconceivable. Why do we not take immense care? It is because our understanding of karma and the dangers of these downfalls is only intellectual.
When we become old our arrogance will reduce and our foolish deeds will plague us like vultures swirling over a weakened animal. No longer able to fend off our responsibility for our own actions they will stare us down when we are at our most vulnerable, at the time of our death. As we desperately try to deny these karmic seeds water, our foolish intellectual arguments will be like wind in the ears of the henchmen of death. The fear we feel will open up the doorway to our heart and out it will all pour, regret, guilt, shame, and self doubt. We will descend into terror, panic and insanity. This is what we always do and why moral discipline protects us. This is why humility protects us. We do not reach old age with a legacy of destruction, surrounded by haunting images of people we have harmed, gathering around us like a plague of ghosts.

As the author of this website I wonder if I am being that elephant and if this deed will come to haunt me. Often when we have any doubt we quickly brush it away by checking we have a pure intention then carry on. But then it occurred to me that if I do this then my real intention is to protect myself. By 'working to develop a pure intention' I am simply engaging in an attempt to ensure my own welfare rather than considering how my actions will affect others. So what does it really mean to do something for others? When is a pure intention correct and when is it that our motivation is still selfish.
What of those who show us what not to do..........are they not the lifeguards and those who pull us back from the precipice to hell? Are they not Buddha himself?

We need to as ourselves honestly, am I nurturing the faith of others or destroying it.
A classic example to consider is this. Recently it was considered that the policy of the Teacher Training Program is that it is for life. Once you have completed all the books you continue to study them. This rule was enforced like the elephant charging. It was seen as inherently correct from its own side. Then a complete reversal was made with the new policy of sponsored people being able to stop the Teacher Training Program. Now this is seen as the inherently correct way to do things. Yet they are the opposite. So how can they both be correct? That to leave the study program is wrong and to stay on it is wrong?
Therefore we need to enforce and rules to the best of our ability but when it comes to a time by doing so someone will be knocked or injured we need to consider that if injuring people ultimately leads them to abandon Dharma, is it sufficiently important to ram them with our inherently existent rule. Especially if the rule might be changed in a few years time. When the rule is changed we might look around and think how that person could still be here accumulating merit for many years if we had not rammed them with our ultimatums so aggressively. Is it not better that a person remains in the Dharma with their small occasional transgressions of the rules rather than they are treated with the care and gentleness of a bull in a china shop. If we are forcing these rules too heavily and driving people out of Dharma centres we are putting the rules before keeping people in the Dharma. We are putting something that could disappear before our own dear mothers. Therefore it is my advice that we always be gentle and walk through anything with care and compassion for all concerned. If our main focus is to keep people enjoying rather than being an enforcer, people will naturally want to cooperate because they will come to love us.

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