Good in the Beginning: Motivation

Over the last few years I have realized more and more how stressed and wound up I am. That was a really good insight. It helped me understand, why my mind is wild and agitated and that it is expected if my energy all stirred and wound up. My problem is that even though I like the Buddhist teachings and the idea of actualizing them very much, I love being busy, doing things. I get a lot of satisfaction from getting things done, much more than from enjoying the process of doing. Practice is really a process of getting to know your mind, just enjoying the process of practice regardless of the content of the experience without labeling one kind of state of mind as desirable and another as undesirable. This requires patience and learning to just paying attention and being mindful of whatever is happening. It is also about learning to let go of doing things with the idea of achieving something. All these are qualities I need to develop more.

I also realized I need to begin by acknowledging where I am at and start working with where I am right now. When body and mind are stressed and wound up, it is important to have a simple practice. I have found out the hard way that when I try to  work with detailed instructions, visualizations or mantras, it doesn’t work very well. That’s why I am so enthusiastic about clarifying for myself what the main point of practice is and keep asking questions like: What is the most simple way to practice Buddhism? What is the minimum I need to have a genuine practice? Okay, I admit it. I am also a very lazy person and like to have the most simple practice possible! Maybe all the above reasons are just a good excuse!

I think the answer to the question “What is the most simple way to practice Buddhism?” is given in “the three noble principles” that I wrote about in my last post. Begin with the right motivation, understand how to practice and seal with dedicating the merit. I think there is a lot to reflect and understand about each of these points.

What is the right motivation?

Sogyal Rinpoche by Mathilde Ferry

Sogyal Rinpoche wrote in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying that “Good in the Beginning springs from the awareness that we and all sentient beings fundamentally have the buddha nature as our innermost essence, and that to realize it is to be free of ignorance and to put an end, finally, to suffering.”

It seems to me that the heart of all spiritual traditions is to understand a deeper truth about ourselves and our life, to help us cope with the challenges, obstacles of life and to protect us from suffering. The uniqueness in Buddhism is that the best solution to our problems is said to be a true and complete understanding of reality.

Our fundamental nature is perfect, pure and unstained by our faults and problems. So if we can realize our Buddha nature and embody this truth then we will find lasting freedom, happiness and will have brought suffering to an end once and for all. What we are is so much bigger than how we presently think of ourselves and if we can see ourselves in this light then we will know how to live and die well. We will know how to live well because we will be able to see all our problems with a bigger perspective and we will know how to die well because we will have confidence that our essence is indestructible and will continue.

Freedom comes from truly understanding ourselves and the world and from this understanding comes unceasing love and compassion from which effortlessly and naturally manifests compassionate action. That’s why it is said that the Buddhist teachings are about wisdom and compassion.  For example the Dalai Lama has said that “the essence of Buddhism is deep and transforming compassion, coupled with wisdom, penetrating insight into the nature of reality.

So for me the first step of motivation involves being clear about what the teachings are about, which is realizing our Buddha nature. The second step is about seeing that we are all in the same boat with this and giving rise to the wish to practice not just for ourselves but to help all beings to reach this perfect state of enlightenment.

The motivation that is recommended is to look beyond our own self-centered interest and to resolve that once we attain enlightenment we will not tire until all other beings awaken to their true nature. It may seem impossible, but is there anything more noble we could work towards?

In my next post I want to reflect more on Good in the Middle, the crucial points we need to have in our practice so that it brings us closer to enlightenment.

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One Response to Good in the Beginning: Motivation

  1. Leland Fletcher says:

    Dear Bernie,

    May all beings enjoy happiness.

    “What is the most simple way to practice Buddhism? What is the minimum I need to have a genuine practice?”

    I was struck by these words as this has been my approach to Tibetan Buddhism, to keep it as simple as possible by distilling instructions/practices to the essence/s.

    In order for that to work, we must invest meaning into the practice. This seems to be a spiritual law. We invest meaning, then the meaning is there when we need it. Sogyal Rinpoche often gives us the essence of practice. It is up to us to invest.

    A Luthern pastor once told me of a parishoner that was dying. She, the parishoner, was afraid and totally at a loss of how to approach death after a lifetime of being a devout Lutheren. She hadn’t made a spiritual investment that she could draw on.

    Real faith, not blind faith, is the investment.

    In terms of “I get a lot of satisfaction from getting things done, much more than from enjoying the process of doing,” when the investment of real faith has been made and felt, it is done. It will need maintenence, but everything that is done needs maintenance.

    A standard of simplicity could be that if you can do a practice in your sleep, it is simple enough.

    May all beings attain enlightenment.

    Yours truly,
    Leland “Pema” Fletcher
    Thubten “Pema” Sherab

    P.S. If this is not appropriate, just ignore it.

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