This advises us to not wish for results from our practice for ourself alone, but should dedicate all of our merit to others. It also advises us to not use Lojong for worldly goals.
In my experience, the biggest problem of those between year 1 and year 10 of Dharma practice is attachment to results. This is the number one thing that creates problems for us in our practice. Generally speaking, those who have been practicing for more than 10 years gave up on expecting results long ago. They have realized it is a long slog, and each year that goes by they increasingly feel they haven’t really started practicing yet. This is a good thing – it means we stabilize ourself in the mind of a beginner.
When we have attachment to results, several problems arise. First, it takes away all the fun of practice. If we enjoy our practice, results will naturally come, and then we will relish the opportunity to practice more. If we are attached to results, then our practice is a source of constant frustration when they don’t come. When we are concerned about results we start having things like “good meditations” and “bad meditations,” where the former is one where things came easily and the latter is where we struggled the whole time. When we let go of attachment to results, our assessment of what constitutes a “good meditation” completely reverses. The one where we struggle is the better meditation because we know we are working through much more in our mind than when things come easily. This doesn’t mean a formerly “good meditation” where lots of results ripen is a bad thing. For a pure practitioner, it is equally good as the “bad” meditation, but just for different reasons. It is not good because of the good results, it is good because with the new insight we can later go on to struggle with something deeper.
Attachment to results creates great tension in our mind as the gap between our intellectual understanding and our actual ability to practice grows. When we expect results, we can quickly develop a Dharma neurosis where the more we learn about how we “should” be the more frustrated we become with “how we actually are.” We think just because we know how a Buddha thinks and would respond that we are somehow supposed to already be capable of doing so. The more we intellectually know, the more we judge our practice as faulty and inadequate and we quickly become frustrated. But when we let go of attachment to results, the more we intellectually understand the better we get at practicing right where we are at. We accept where we are at and therefore attend to improving the quality with which we practice.
With attachment to results, we can easily grow discouraged and lose faith in our practices if results do not come right away. We have countless aeons worth of bad habits built up in our mind. It is completely unrealistic to assume just because we have been practicing for a few months, years, or even decades that we should somehow be able to respond in completely different ways. When we can’t, we conclude the Dharma doesn’t work and we abandon our practice. A pure practitioner is unconcerned with such things. Their sole concern is the quality of their effort, not the results they attain. They know that if the cause is created, the future result is guaranteed, so they worry not about results and instead care only about creating good causes for the future.
The function of attachment is to separate you from whatever you are attached to, so the more we become attached to results, the further we will remove ourself from them. This is the cruel truth of attachment. It is because we want to have results that we must completely let go of attachment to them. When we do let go, then results start falling into our lap naturally. And if they don’t, it is not a problem because we are focused on creating causes. In the end, it is very simple: if you want to experience a result, then you need to create the cause. So there is no sense in grasping at results, only sense in focusing on creating its cause.
The opponent to all attachment to results is learning to be content to try. We need to learn to enjoy practicing itself, independent of any results. Probably the purest practitioner I have ever met was somebody who has spent the last 15 years in a mental hospital. He has terrible psychotic tendencies which often manifest in psychotic thoughts towards the three jewels and especially towards Geshe-la. Every day, he will be assailed literally hundreds of times with deeply negative thoughts. Most people would either kill themselves or drug themselves into a stupor. But his view is completely different. He makes a distinction between “the ripening of past negative tendencies” and “the new creation of good causes.” When a psychotic thought arises in his mind, he recognizes it as the ripening of a past tendency. In and of itself, this thought is only harmful if he assents to it – in other words he believes it to be true. But if instead he trains in “not believing” and “not assenting” to it, then he is not only not creating new negative karma, he is actually creating incredibly powerful virtue. It is said that one action of moral discipline of restraint is enough to create the cause for a higher rebirth. In his view, if he has 50 negative thoughts in an hour, and he practices not assenting to them 50 times, then he just created for himself the causes for 50 future precious human lives. Who needs money when you can create karma like this? For him, the ripening of deluded tendencies is simply an essential condition for him to train his mind. Far from being discouraged, he thanks his protector for giving him continued opportunities to practice. He says, “we are living in increasingly degenerate times. It will not be long before everybody has a mind like mine. I have been given this mind now so that I can learn how to practice in the face of such an onslaught. By learning this now, I will prepare myself to be the most helpful to others when times are at their most degenerate.” I am not making this up. This is a real person. His name is Taro, and he is one of the most amazing practitioners I have ever met. A shining example of what it means to practice without attachment to results.
When we practice we should do so for the sake of others. Our job is to learn how to control our mind so that we can teach others how to do the same thing. Kadam Lucy once said to Geshe-la that her main job is to cause the Dharma to flourish, and Geshe-la sternly corrected her saying that her main job was to practice Dharma, and our ability to cause the Dharma to flourish flows directly from that. Any other benefit we receive from our practice is a side effect of our main aim, which is to serve others. We do receive benefit, but that is not why we are practicing.
Training in Dharma will actually make us more successful in all of our activities. Practically speaking, our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to focus on the task at hand. Of course we should not use the Dharma for accomplishing worldly success. Dharma is like internal physics, it is just how things work. So it is possible to study Dhamra with a worldly motivation and use its science to succeed in our worldly aims. This is like using hundred dollar bills for toilet paper. This does not mean, however, that we shouldn’t use Dharma to solve our daily problems. Of course we should. The issue here is we learn how to use Dharma to overcome all samsaric problems for the sake of getting ourselves and others out!
4 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Abandon any hope for results.”
I read a post like this and I get flooded with affectionate love for your words and the source of those words, for your experience and for the source of that experience and it just feels incredibly blessed!
That’s so sweet. Thank you for your kind words. Kadam Bjorn once said that the only way you will have anything useful to say is if you have made a lot of mistakes.
Every day we dream of making our escape.
We dream meditate and dream breaking vows.
We dream about failing and falling.
We dream for it to be over.
We dream about things that will save us. We dream for another distraction.
Tell me, where is it you want to go? Want to be?
You carry enlightenment around with you. Every moment.
You’ll tell me that it’s a state and so forth.
I say, enlightenment is made up of a billion trillion parts without end.
Each one is enlightenment.
A loving smile, a helping hand, a gift, a patient ear.
You are living enlightenment. A precious human life in this world is a pure land.