I met up with a fellow home-practitioner in Rapid City last night. We sat down for some tea at Bully Blends and talked a little Dharma. We come from two different venues of Buddhist practice. He affiliated with a large temple and practiced there for a number years in the Vajrayana tradition. I, however, began my practice with small, grass-roots groups with a largely agnostic bend which incorporated practical blends (read: non-esoteric) of Buddhist teachings. From that I moved to the a traditional Soto Zen practice.
Now sitting across from each other, I realize that we have each gone 180 degree from where we both started. He is now searching for root teachings (similar to the Stephen Batchelor’s book Buddhism Without Beliefs) that exist across most of the traditions and I am looking at incorporating more tantric and esoteric elements into my daily practice (which has been incorporating more ritualized elements from practicing Zen but still rather…bland).
So why the change to the exact opposite from where we each started? From my point of view Buddhism and home-practice (or practice in general) was never meant to stay static. We are not static people. We change from year-to-year, day-to-day and moment-to-moment. What and how we exist now is not what we were before and there is no reason that this diversity of change cannot be exemplified in our practice.
In a recent post, The Zennist talks about his past practice and study…
On this note, I am certainly reminded of my own ignorance over forty years ago when as a young worldling monk I thought I had Buddhism figured out. To be honest, about 98 percent of what I read back in those dark days I didn’t understand—not in the slightest. But I could sure pretend, pridefully, that I knew a lot…
Presently, I enjoy reading the Sutras. They are like old friends. But again looking back to when I was a young Buddhist whippersnapper I can’t help but laugh at that struggling guy. The only thing he did right was to persevere and keep an open mind. And this is what we all must do, even monks and Buddhist scholars. You may debate the issues until the cows come home, but until you have awakened the Mind (bodhicitta) you’re guessing, it is Buddhism by opinion some of which might be educated, some not.
I rarely agree with The Zennist but always appreciate and respect his comments. In this case I completely agree. An open and compassionate mind is essential to our practice. Otherwise we just trade attachments for attachments and our practice will stagnate over time rather than grow. Another point that is brought up is that of process – the process of awakening the mind (to paraphrase the Zennist) which we are all on.
Back to the point – It was a good talk. While I find it humurous that we are walking in opposite directions from each other in relation to our practice and its evolution, it is important to note that directions in practice are hardly ever linear. One way does not lead to “good” and the opposite to “bad”. The path we walk leads to the same goal even when it seems that the practices are diametrically opposed.
It was nice to be able to wave at each other from the path, stop a bit and shake some pebbles from our shoes.