The purpose of this blog is to share my experience of practicing the Kadampa instructions in the context of my formal Dharma practice, my personal life and my professional life in the hopes that it may prove helpful to others seeking to transform their modern lives into the path to enlightenment. At a personal level, doing this blog helps me crystalize my own thoughts about the Dharma by putting it into writing and it helps me bring my bodhichitta (the wish to become a Buddha for the sake of all) alive. How so? At a practical level, the bodhisattva path is the improving of oneself for the benefit of others, in particular the process of gaining Dharma realizations so that we can help others do the same. By doing this blog, I can view each moment of my normal modern life as an opportunity to gain spiritual realizations which I can then share with those who read this blog. It gives purpose to each moment of my life: I must learn how to transform each moment so that I can help others in similar situations do the same.
The starting point of transforming every moment of our life into the path is to have a unifying narrative that binds every aspect of our life together into a common purpose, or more specifically, project. In this way, everything we do is directed at and contributes to this singular purpose/project. If we can accomplish this, then not a single moment of our life will be wasted. For me, this singular project is “to build my pure land.” At a very profound level, the project is to transform myself into my pure land. What is a pure land? A pure land is a realm emanated by a Buddha within which living beings can take rebirth and enter, progress along and complete the path to enlightenment. Quite simply, it can be thought of as a bodhisattva’s training camp. For maximum benefit, this pure land must pervade the entire universe and function to lead all beings from the deepest hell to the highest enlightenment.
The two characteristics of a pure land is there is no manifest suffering and everything functions as a cause of one’s enlightenment. Suffering is ultimately a state of mind that is dispelled by the wisdom knowing how to accept and use painful experiences for our spiritual advancement. Thus, the difference between living in samsara, or a world of suffering, and living in a pure land is our knowing how to use every experience, painful or otherwise, for spiritual development. With such wisdom, we will be able to enjoy every experience as fuel pushing us towards enlightenment, and from an experiential point of view, it will be as if we are in a pure land.
A modern Kadampa life has three main spheres: our formal Dharma practice, our personal life and our professional life. This is true for all Kadampas, not just those who are lay practitioners. A Resident Teacher living in a center, for example, still has their own family and many friendships and engages in all sorts of professional activities in the running of a center. If the unifying project of our life is to build our pure land, how then do we accomplish this project in these three spheres? In our formal Dharma practice, we strive to transform ourselves into the Yidam. In our personal life, we strive to transform ourselves into the Guru. And in our professional life, we strive to transform ourselves into the Protector. In this context, the Yidam, or personal deity, is the supreme spiritual doctor who heals the suble body, speech and mind of all living beings. The Guru is the supreme spiritual father (or mother as the case may be) and friend of all living beings who leads all living beings from the deepest hell to the highest enlightenment. The Protector is the supreme spiritual servant-king who forever and always arranges all the outer and inner conditions so that everything is perfect for the swiftest possible enlightenment of everyone. Practically speaking, this means in our formal Dhama practice, we strive to develop within ourselves the qualities and engage in the actions of a supreme spiritual doctor. In our personal lives, we strive to develop within ourselves the qualities and engage in the actions of a supreme spirutal father and friend. And in our professional lives, we strive to develop within ourselves the qualities and engage in the actions of a supreme spiritual servant-king. If we can do this, then our entire life will be integrated into our spiritual path, bringing both meaning to every moment and unwavering progress towards the final goal. Over time, these three spheres will merge into one and we will become the embodiment of guru, Yidam and protector liberating all beings in our pure land. We will have completed the path.
Some people mistakenly believe that certain life contexts, such as being ordained in a center doing formal Dharma activities all of the time, are more conducive to enlightenment than other life contexts. As a result of this ignorance, they either become dissatisfied with the life that they have or they judge others who are pursuing a way of life different than their own. The reality is all situations are equally empty, in other words created by mind, and so all situations are equally transformable into the quick path to enlightenment. This blog will attempt to share my personal expereince of being a Kadampa Working Dad as my quick path to enlightenment. Hopefully the lessons learned will prove beneficial to all Kadampas, working parents or otherwise. It is my hope that through sharing this experience others can learn from my mistakes and that I can live up to my bodhichitta wishes. Enjoy!
One thought on “A master narrative for your spiritual life”
Wonderful explanation of what a pure land is on a workable, accessible, practical level. I love the three spheres analogy and the idea of a unifying narrative. I can immediately apply this – thank you!