simhamuka wrote:You make me think of a comment my teacher made: "I have a great deal of respect for those who take their time to decide." I think it's better to be stable, stubborn about it, than to get all excited and then -- fwip! -- you're off chasing the next shiny thing.
I talked to one of the teachers at Nitartha Institute who did the three-year retreat in Nova Scotia. He said he hit a point in the retreat when he was playing the damaru and ringing the bells, and he just went "what the hell am I doing here?" He had to reevaluate his whole path and it was pretty tough. He'd been practicing I think twenty years at that point. And he had great results from that retreat according to his teachers.
He told me this story in response to my own period of questioning, where after about ten years of practice, I had to go back to basics and decide if I believed any of this stuff. Reviewed the four noble truths, all the way up through the path. Sounds like you're doing that hard review now. Good on you. You won't have to do repair work on your path ten years from now.
Thank you very much. That is exactly what I'm doing. I'm going from the Four Noble Truths into the philosophical underpinnings of the Dharma to make sure that I know what I'm doing, why I'm doing it, and that I have realistic expectations from the activities. I think that part of it is that I was/am asking the Dharma to do stuff that it wasn't really meant to do.
From what I'm reading the Dharma isn't there for the purpose of(to name a few) to increase overall happiness, to treat serious and innate psychiatric conditions(such as extreme anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, etc), or to treat extreme cases immediate physical suffering(for example, tuberculosis or HIV). The purpose of the Dharma seems to be Enlightenment. Those other things are possible side effects but if I need those specific things I would be best served to go via other avenues(a therapist, doctor, etc.).
Of course, there are example of very accomplished practitioners for whom that may not be the case and the Dharma(for lack of a better term) can fulfill the capacity of doctor, therapist, whatever. However, they are the exception and perhaps a goal to work towards but not where I am now(or most likely will be for quite some time). For now a healthy dose of albuterol and reciting the Medicine Buddha mantra will cure an asthma attack much faster than the Medicine Buddha mantra alone(with apologies to John Dillinger).
Another thing I've noticed is just how profound the disagreements are in regards to even significant parts of the Dharma. For example, in the Pali canon it seems that if you get Enlightened your consciousness is gone from this cosmos while here in the Nyingma approach it is more nuanced and complicated but basically even after Enlightenment there is something-ish there. Or some people who think that if you meditate it will make you absolutely miserable for a good portion of your life with little reward while other schools seem to think that Enlightenment only takes slightly more effort than finding blood orange greek yogurt in a grocery store. And then there are the Stephen Batchelor schools where Buddhism is basically new atheism and/or a school of psychotherapy but with cooler outfits and more laid back.
Next month I'm attending the annual public teaching for my group which is basically on the three fundamentals of view, action, and meditation. I hope that this will be able to clear up some of my doubts. I won't lie. I do feel a little slow because most of the people in my group are doing super complicated and elaborate practices with mandalas, phurbas, drums, channels, visualizations, and all that(they are doing a two week retreat right before the public teaching) while I'm still trying to perform the very simple task of trying to answer the questions, "What are we doing here? Why are we doing this? Is this even a good idea? Should we have hobbies/doctors/therapists?" which everyone else seems to either already know the answer to or just don't care about.
And yes, this is whining. But as you pointed out this is my hard review. And when I'm done no matter which path I end up on I will know exactly why I'm on it and be able to defend my decision against anyone. Which if that is the only result of the Ngondro practice I would find it worth the price of admission.
IN THIS BOOK IT IS SPOKEN OF THE SEPHIROTH & THE PATHS, OF SPIRITS & CONJURATIONS, OF GODS, SPHERES, PLANES & MANY OTHER THINGS WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT EXIST. IT IS IMMATERIAL WHETHER THEY EXIST OR NOT. BY DOING CERTAIN THINGS CERTAIN RESULTS FOLLOW; STUDENTS ARE MOST EARNESTLY WARNED AGAINST ATTRIBUTING OBJECTIVE REALITY OR PHILOSOPHICAL VALIDITY TO ANY OF THEM.
Wagner, Eric; Wilson, Robert Anton (2004-12-01). An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson (Kindle Locations 1626-1629). New Falcon Publications. Kindle Edition., quoting from Alister Crowley