Vows, commitments and modern life:  Being spiritually decisive

Train with certainty. 

To gain realizations of training the mind we need to practice wholeheartedly without hesitation and doubt.  First we need to understand and study how to practice, then we need to practice steadfastly until we achieve our goal.

In the beginning of our spiritual training, the only thing we know for sure is that despite having tried our whole life, we are still not happy.  We know what we have done so far hasn’t worked.  The first many years of our spiritual training are largely about just gaining an intellectual understanding of what the path to enlightenment is all about.  We come to understand what is the nature of our problem and what can help.  We are still unclear about what are the objects of abandonment and what are the objects of attainment on the spiritual path.  But there does come a point where things are clear to us.  We see through the lies of our delusions.  We see the truth of the Dharma.  We know what we must do.  We know where our effort will take us.  Venerable Tharchin says, “once we see how the path actually can work, effort becomes effortless.”  In other words, when we know what the methods are and that if we do them they are guaranteed to give us the promised results, it is easy to generate the effort necessary to enter, progress along and complete the path.  So our first task is to become clear about what needs to be done and why it will work.  On this basis, we can then begin to actually practice, in other words, actually begin changing our mind.

There are two types of doubt:  deluded doubt and virtuous doubt.  The technical definition of deluded doubt is a doubt that tends in the opposite direction of correct belief in some object of Dharma.  Practically speaking, though, deluded doubt says, “I am not sure, so until I am, I won’t believe anything.”  The technical definition of virtuous doubt is a doubt that tends in the direction of correct belief in some object of Dharma.  Practically speaking, though, virtuous doubt says, “I am not sure, so until I am, I am going to keep experimenting and trying until I do.”  Deluded doubt stops us dead in our tracks, virtuous doubt pushes us to delve deeper, explore more, keep trying.

Deluded doubt is the death of practice.  Doubt causes us to hold ourself back so that we don’t engage fully in our practice.  We hedge our bets, trying to get the best of samsara and the best of Dharma.  We never really allow ourselves to change or believe anything for fear of being wrong, but as a result we never do anything and therefore make the biggest mistake of all.  Many people can become completely paralyzed by their doubts, or worse they become a habitual doubter about everything.  Doubt lies to us telling us that it is protecting us from believing something that might be wrong.  We believe our doubts are protecting us, but in reality they keeping us at square one.

When a baseball player swings a bat or a golfer swings a club, they put their whole body into it.  When a sprinter races towards the finish line they hold nothing back and they give it everything they’ve got.  When a scientists performs an experiment, they do everything they can to give the experiment a chance of succeeding, they don’t sabotage it beforehand thinking, “this will never work anyways.”  An actor on the stage literally forgets who they are as they plunge themselves fully into their character.  This is how we should practice.  We should put our whole mind into.  We should hold nothing back.  We should give it everything we’ve got.  We should do everything we can to give our practice the opportunity to succeed.  We should forget our ordinary self and plunge ourselves fully into our new identity as a bodhisattva or indeed a Tantric deity.

A powerful leader is somebody who is able to be decisive, and never look back.  They know hedging and trying to split the difference often just guarantees failure.  Once they have committed to a course of action, they carry it through to completion, despite all adversity and everyone else around them having given up long ago.  Once the die are cast, they know there is no taking it back.  When a general launches a battle, they don’t stop until their objective is reached.  This is how we should practice.  We decide to leave our delusions behind, and we never look back.  We don’t hedge between samsara and the Dharma, but instead we burn our bridges back to samsara behind us.  Once we have taken vows and committed to the Bodhisattva’s path, we never give up no matter what adversity we may face, even if everyone who started with us has long ago given up.  Once we have become ordained or generated superior intention towards our family, we know there is no taking it back and we continue on no matter what.  Once we embark upon the Joyful Path, we never stop until all beings have been freed.

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