Reflections on the importance of a spiritual narrative

One of the most important things to establish, within oneself or for others, is a good personal narrative.  What is the story we tell about ourselves to make sense of our lives.  It is our narrative that holds everything together and gives our life meaning.  A bunch of practices without an overarching narrative will have little power.  A powerful narrative will have great transformative power, even if only minor practices.  
 
My narrative for this period of my life is I am on a modern retreat organized by Dorje Shugden to give me a chance to gain the realizations the people of this modern world need to transform their modern lives into the path.  My overarching narrative for this life is I am striving to get to the pure land.  The narrative for all of my lives is I am building my pure land so that I may invite all beings there and liberate them.  The narrative for the NKT is we are the great wave of JTK’s deeds, forming spiritual guides who form spiritual guides to eventually liberate all beings.  These narratives have power to the extent that we buy into them, believe them, making them real, not abstract.  They work to the extent that we integrate everything we do in our life into them.  
 
 
The key, however, is one’s narrative.  If you can keep your spiritual narrative always present in your mind, and you integrate all of your daily activities into that narrative, then it keeps your intention virtuous and your activities spiritual as you go about your external life.  Our narrative is the story we tell ourselves that makes sense of our lives and gives it meaning.
 
In effect, we are living on two different levels.  Our external life and our internal life.  Our external life can be anything.  Since all things are equally empty, it really doesn’t matter what we are doing externally (as long as we are not harming anybody, that is).  What transforms any life into a spiritual life is what are we doing in our internal life.  Internally our job is to train our mind, purify our mind, overcome our delusions, cultivate virtues, progress along the stages of the path and transform our mind into the enlightened state so that we are able to spend the rest of eternity liberating all beings.  Our task is to become spiritually qualified to lead others to enlightenment, much like a doctor seeks to be medically qualified to help others.  We have to build up our spiritual qualifications, skills and abilities so as to be able to better help more and more beings until eventually we are a Buddha.
 
Our narrative, then, is what connects our external and internal lives and makes them harmonious and mutually reinforcing.  It takes the story of our external life and the story of our internal life and combines them together into one integrated narrative for our whole life.  We integrate our whole life into our narrative.  Our narrative will evolve over time as the depth of our spiritual understanding improves.  We need to work withour narrative over long periods of time, gradually freeing it from any trace of delusion and making it increasingly virtuous.  But it is useless to imagine the perfect narrative if we are not connecting it in a very real and heartfelt way to our actual lives.  We have to feel it is the actual story of our lives, not some ideal we make up but do not feel is the story that binds our life.
 
 
This narrative then provides the meaning of all of our activities.  This narrative shapes our intention for all of our actions, and thus determines the type of karma that we are creating for ourselves.  If we integate our every activity into our narrative, then everything we do moves us forward towards its accomplishment.
 
The narrative has to be simple and all-encompassing so that we can easily see and understand how all the different parts of our life fit within it.  The extent to which we have integrated everything into our narrative determines the extent to which we waste our time or our activites are fragmented and wasted.  The narrative can also have many different levels to it, so as to account for different phases or aspects of our life.
 
For example, I can say that my overarching narrative is ‘I am building my pure land so that I may invite all beings to it.’  This is like McKenzie viewing everything in his life within the context of building Heartyland.  Within this life, my narrative is ‘I need to get into the pure land myself at/by the end of this life.  This is my last life in samsara.’  The feeling of this is it is like trying to get into a good school or trying to get a good job where you have to work hard and build up your qualifications to be able to get into the school or get the job.  For this current period of my life, ‘I am on a modern day retreat to gain the realizations the people of this modern world need.’
 
Another way to understand the narrative is it is Dorje Shugden’s plan for us.  He has a plan for each one of us, and it is our job to discover his plan and to do our part within it.  We can make the request, ‘please reveal your plan for me.’  We need to align our intention with his plan for us.  We are trying to do what he has planned for us.  Tension arises when we resist his plan, therefore we need to surrender ourselves completely to him with faith.  We need to try not to impose our own plan and call it his, but be genuinely willing to completely surrender to his plan for us with faith.
 
For the getting to the pure land in this life, the feeling is we establish a doable goal, and then we do whatever it takes to make it happen.  It is a fine balance.  One extreme is becoming attached to the result.  The other extreme is becoming lazy and not really going for it under the guise of ‘trying to do my best.’  
 
Eventually, over time, we need to harmonize the narrative of our life with the narratives of others in their lives.  We can draw them into our narrative, just as the NKT functions to draw people into its narrative.  It seems to me the narrative of the NKT is to be the great wave of JTK’s deeds.  They form spiritual guides who form spiritual guides who, in this way, gradually liberate all beings.  I need to harmonize my personal narrative with their wider narrative.  We are building VGL’s manadala in this world, and each one of us is a part of that.  His mandala is very vast, and has as many parts as there are practitioners with their own unique karmic circumstance.  It is important to anchor your personal narrative in the meta-narrative of the NKT, otherwise you risk going off on your own and you lose the power of the collective blessings and energy.  You become an isolated bristle, and not part of the larger broom.  In being part of this larger broom, it is important to not grasp at there being only one way to be part of his mandala and his project.  Even if externally you are not teaching and part of the mainstream, if internally you see how what you are doing fits in with the larger project and you dedicate your actions to the accomplishment of that project, then you will feel very much a part of it and keep yourself in alignment with his blessings.  It does not matter if the people in the mainstream misunderstand what you are doing.  If you are clear on the inside, there are no problems.  
 
I need to harmonize the narratives of the NKT, all of my lives, this life, and this period of my life so that they are fully integrated and coherent into a master narrative.  They fully interrelate and mutually support one another.  
 
 
1.  NKT – great wave of JTK’s deeds.  Building VGLs mandala.  My role in the building of his mandala is to gather and share the wisdom necessary to transform a life like mine into the quick path.  
 
2.  My lives – my project is to build my pure land.
 
3.  This life – This is my last life in samsara.  I need to live my life as if this is the case and at the same time do what is necessary so that this is the case.
 
4.  This period of my life.  I am on a modern retreat.  Dorje Shugden is my retreat master.  I have been given this time to collect realizations.  
 
Everyday I need to remind myself and build into my practice the narrative, so that it becomes the binding force of all of my practice.  The elements of my narrative are:
 
1.  I am on retreat right now.  “Please protect and guide my retreat (so that I gain the realizations the people of this modern world need).”
 
2.  This is my last life in samsara.  “Please help me prepare to leave.”
 
3.  My main project is to build my pure land.  “May everything I do be aimed at building my pure land.”
 
4.  Collectively, we are building VGL’s mandala.  “May I take my place within VGL’s mandala.”
 
Internally, I should wish for GSBH to take over my life.  Externally, I should wish for Dorje Shugden to take over my life.  Temporally, I should wish to transform myself into Heruka.  That is the final goal, and the internal and external support from JTK and DS help bring me to that state.  I want to become Heruka and build my pure land so that I may invite others to be my guests there, so that I can help them train in all of the stages of the path.  This is to be combined with the idea of the great wave of JTK’s deeds.  We transform ourselves into Kadampa Spiritual Guides who then train other Kadampa Spiritual Guides, and so forth.  This is the macro narrative of all my lives.  The micro narrative is in this life I am to focus on gaining the realizations for how to transform a ‘normal’ life into the quick path, specifically with respect to family, relationships and work.  This is part of the outreach of the Kadampa tradition to be able to make its teachings and practices more accessible and integrated into modern daily life.  At the same time, my understanding of how all of the Kadampa teachings fit together and the resolution of seemingly deep contradictions is well developed.  So both vast in terms of outreach and profound in terms of understanding.  At the same time, I have an ability to write and express my thoughts in a clear and easy to understand manner.  So I need to get these things written down.  I am to write what I am learning so that I can share it with others.

6 thoughts on “Reflections on the importance of a spiritual narrative

  1. KR : This is yours, is so wonderful , how do i have to start my own narrative upon my simple life style ? of course i also want this to be my last time in samsara,but i don´t thing i have the same skills that you have, your wisdom and all your great qualities.Where could i begin from? beside doing all my practices and trying to see and work against my delusions ?

    • I find one of the most effective narratives is that our entire life is a training exercise organized by Dorje Shugden. He knows who we have the karma to be a Spiritual Guide for, and he gives us now the problems and challenges our students will have in the future. He gives us these challenges now so that we learn how to use the Dharma to work through those challenges. Then, once we have gained the necessary realizations, we then have something useful to share with them in the future. This is a narrative anybody can adopt.

      In terms of believing in your potential, in Buddhism we define self-confidence differently. We don’t say, “boy, I am so great”, rather we base our self-confidence on our infinite potential. Because we all equally have Buddha seed, we all equally have infinite potential. This means we each can accomplish anything if we are ready to work hard enough to make it happen – all it takes is effort. Whether our journey will take a few years or a few million years, what difference does it make when you know you are on a definite path of liberation and enlightenment and nothing can stop you from completing the path? To attain enlightenment, all it takes is (1) a wisdom knowing we can do it if we apply effort at the methods we have learned and (2) a decision to never give up striving until we attain the final goal. Our narrative is we are a being bound for freedom, a joyful journey(wo)man who has begun the march and will never look back.

  2. Intention is the key ingredient and everything is ALREADY in mind. I should say this again because it is so, so illuminating.

    What this means is that you don’t have to do anything special to get to the pureland, it’s actually very, very easy. What is difficult is knowing what you are intending.

    It’s good to be honest about our abilities but there must also be a faith in believing from the beginning/end. Understand they are dream-like, nothing more.

    You are Heruka/Vajrayogini. This is ultimate reality. This is the end and the beginning.

    Some people dream of not having the qualities or skills to get to the pureland. So their mind responds by creating just that (which appear as obstacles to having those skills) this keeps happening until that karma is purified by realizing who they are or the appearances ceasing.

    Any thing, place, person you want to appear in your life is already in your mind. I intend, i create my masterpiece within my own mind. Believing in samsara is totally mistaken but obviously it must be practical at a work in progress state of mind. This is why there is a need for purification (so we remember who we really are). The more purification, the more you remember. This is why purification works and is essential in realizing emptiness. A person needs believing faith in emptiness before they directly realize emptiness.

    I have already completed my retreat. I have infinite wisdom, patience, love, compassion and so on. Everything else is mistaken appearance, mistaken conception which can be and must be purified. Or these mistakes can be used in such meditations on suffering, renunciation to unveil certain minds.

    Tantric practitioners vow to stop believing in samsaric appearances/conceptions which is why they purify (remember the truth) that it is mistaken. They decide enough is enough, they intend and use their mind to unveil what has been there all along.

  3. Dear RK:
    Thanks a lot for your answer,i am a tantric practitioner,and i would like to end my samsaric minds,you say intentions are the clue… and i believe you . And about purification practice i try to do it everyday some time twice a day. with faith. could you recommend me some other way to increase it? a tip?
    i agreed completely with you about this wonderful practice.
    Thanks again : )

    • For me, bodhichitta is the ultimate purification practice. Bodhichitta is the wish to become a Buddha so that we can free all living beings. If you check, this is exactly opposite to all past negative karma you have towards everyone, thus it serves as the antidote not just to some of your negative karma but to all of your negative karma simultaneously.

  4. I’m gonna write a lot about this on my blog soon, how to memorise Bodhisattva vows in 2 minutes using a memory palace etc but right now i will add:
    several summers ago Venerable Geshe-la said that enlightenment is not far away. The city of enlightenment is within.

    Whilst Gen Tharchin was leading our Understanding the Mind retreat he spoke at length about movement. He said that if we think of the moon our mind can travel there, move there. Mind is at the site of cognition. We can and should reside in the pureland right now.

    This means that to move out of samsara, we must first wish to, we must see it as impure. After several years of meditating on renunciation, i actually felt a shift in my awareness. I actually made the decision to leave samsara. After seven years of being a Buddhist i finally learnt my refuge vows! I wanted to FEEL pure.

    Samsara is an impure way of experiencing things, especially oneself. Making firm decisions (such as vows) to yourself will enable you to live in a pure world more and more until it becomes more reality than the reality yo. u may experience at present.

    Focus on the feeling of purity lots and lots more. Bathe in Vajrasattvas light. Feel totally cleansed of all your delusions. As Vajrasattva emanates as impure things to reflect your inner purity you can be certain you will see him around.

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