The Buddhist teachings and practice are very rich and I often do not have time to practice as much as is ideally recommended. I have been introduced to many practices and often get overwhelmed when I try to do them all. I end up rushing through my practice and at the end of day I don’t feel fully satisfied. That’s why I have been thinking a lot recently about the essential elements that are necessary to have a complete practice that will bring me closer to the ultimate goal of awaking to my true nature.
When I reflected on this I realized that Sogyal Rinpoche and my other teachers have been explaining exactly this point again and again. I just keep forgetting. Maybe not completely forgetting the advice, but forgetting that this is the heart of practice and applying it.
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying there is a section entitled “The Heart of Meditation” which gives a simple framework that helps us to establish a good motivation, practice with an understanding of the main point of practice, and at the end close the practice in a way that ensures that our efforts are not lost afterward. It is said that to attain complete enlightenment more than this is not necessary but less than this is incomplete. It recently dawned on me that I better try to understand these point better.
In the section “The Heart of Meditation” Sogyal Rinpoche explains that:
“In the teaching of Buddha, we say there are three things that make all the difference between your meditation being merely a way of bringing temporary relaxation, peace, and bliss, or of becoming a powerful cause for your enlightenment and the enlightenment of others. We call them: “Good in the Beginning, Good in the Middle, and Good at the End.”
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. So each time we begin our practice of meditation, we are moved by this, and inspire ourselves with the motivation to dedicate our practice, and our life, to the enlightenment of all beings …
Good in the Middle is the frame of mind with which we enter into the heart of the practice, one inspired by the realization of the nature of mind, from which arises an attitude of non-grasping, free of any conceptual reference whatsoever, and an awareness that all things are inherently “empty,” illusory, and dream-like.
Good at the End is the way in which we bring our meditation to a close by dedicating all its merit, and praying with real fervor: “May whatever merit that comes from this practice go toward the enlightenment of all beings; may it become a drop in the ocean of the activity of all the buddhas in their tireless work for the liberation of all beings.” …
These three sacred principles—the skillful motivation, the attitude of non-grasping that secures the practice, and the dedication that seals it—are what make your meditation truly enlightening and powerful. They have been beautifully described by the great Tibetan master Longchenpa as “the heart, the eye, and the life-force of true practice.” As Nyoshul Khenpo says: “To accomplish complete enlightenment, more than this is not necessary: but less than this is incomplete.”
Isn’t it really good news that to attain complete enlightenment more than these three noble principles is not necessary? However, I believe there is a catch. I don’t think it is as easy as just reciting these three points to ourselves whenever we practice. That alone is of course a good start, but will not be enough. In a way, it would be too good to be true. These points are very deep and profound and I believe we need to understand them fully and learn to actualize them in our practice to obtain the desired benefit. We need to bring them into our being not just on an intellectual level but on a deep emotional level.
I think it is still fantastic news that even if we are busy and cannot practice a lot these three noble principles will ensure that our practice will be genuine and bear fruit. Of course, if we are not able to practice a lot it will take longer, but we will still eventually get there. That is the most important, isn’t it?
I have decided that I wanted to focus on understanding and applying the three noble principles more in my practice. I should have done this a long time ago. But better late than never!
To be continued …