As Kadampa’s who realize we have a precious human life, it is relatively obvious that we should focus 100% of our attention and effort on practicing the Dharma. If we truly realized how we have been trapped in the self-imposed insane asylum of our delusion-created samsara since beginningless time and that by some miracle of miracles we have found the doorway out, not only for ourselves but for all of our fellow patients, and we realized that we could lose at any moment this opportunity to get out through either become distracted by the shiny things inside samsara or by simply dying unexpectedly, we would realize it is really foolish to do anything other than concentrate on practicing Dharma 100% of the time. If we genuinely realize the truth of our circumstance, this is the only sensible conclusion one can draw.
Our biggest problem is grasping at a fixed conception of what it practically means to concentrate on practicing Dharma 100% of the time. We have such a narrow conception that this only means renouncing our friends, family, jobs and normal lives and instead moving into a center, becoming ordained and doing pujas, attending classes and working for the center all day. Then, when we realize that practically we can’t live such a life due to the other karmic constraints we face (such as responsibility to our family, student loan debt to repay, retirement to plan for, etc.), we start to become frustrated with our life, we start to view our family, friends, finances and jobs as obstacles to our spiritual life, and paradoxically, the more we meditate on our precious human life and our impending death, the more miserable, neurotic, stressed out and frustrated we become.
Just to be clear, there is of course nothing wrong with somebody who dedicates their life to formal practice in a center. Such practitioners are to be praised and appreciated, their lives rejoiced in. But we shouldn’t mistakenly think that this is the only way to concentrate on practicing Dhama 100% of the time. Since every life is equally empty, every life can equally be transformed into 100% Dharma practice. In every situation, we should always remain focused exclusively on the Dharma, but as revealed through our life.
Every life situation, one way or the other, reveals the truth of the Dharma. This is true for the lives of the lowest beggar to the highest king. If we trust that this is true and we keep our mental attention focused exclusively on how this is true, we will quite naturally discover in every moment a hidden gem that reveals to us the truth and meaning of the Dharma. We will come to understand how the life we have, with all of its challenges and constraints, is actually a “gift from the Gods” (or more specifically, a gift from our Dharma Protector), and is, for us, the most perfectly tailored spiritual life we could possibly imagine. Instead of being frustrated and discouraged, we will be inspired and energized to probe deeper into the mystery and magic that is our life.
If we only relate to our life on its most surface levels, we will quickly become bored and feel as if our life is empty of meaning. We need to get fully involved in every activity of our life, no matter how mundane or no matter how challenging. Life is to be lived fully – only in doing so can we derive the maximum spiritual benefit from the opportunities we have been given and that we have created for ourselves. So paradoxically, it is by fully engaging yourself in your personal and professional lives – while maintaining laser-like focus on how the Dharma is revealed through your life – that you can discover the deeper spritiual lessons your life has to offer. You then wake up each day like a joyful adventurer who can’t wait to see what’s in store for today. With this approach, you can be both 100% engaged in your family and professional lives while remaining 100% engaged in your Dharma practice.
To really take this to the next level, we must also move beyond the simple mechanical and work-horse like aspects of getting on with what needs to be done. We need to develop a deep sense of marvel at the magical beauty of the life our Dharma Protector has created for us. As an economist by training, I have rececently come to realize I have a very poorly developed sense of appreciation of beauty. I arrogantly dismiss such sentiments as a waste of time. I couldn’t be more wrong. Instead of always being in such a hurry (which I always am), I need to learn to take the time to appreciate the beauty, elegance and sheer genius of the conditions that have been arranged for me. I can’t imagine cities more beautiful than Paris and Rome. But is we develop a sense of appreciation of the spiritual beauty that is our life, we will discover that we are actually abiding in the most spectacular city of enlightenment – right where we are in the life that we have. I don’t believe we can truly reach the pure land in this life before we die without developing the mind of a spiritual artist – someone who can transform their life into spiritual art.
Cultivating these perspectives takes time and effort, but doing so brings a great joy and satisfaction. Our life becomes a fully experienced Joyful Path of Good Fortune!
Your turn: Describe how some major condition in your life can be viewed as Dorje Shugden’s greatest gift to your practice.