Most of us think that impermanence or enlightenment is a complex idea. Everything that gives us the very opportunity to realise our primordial enlightened nature is not reachable or not possible in this life. Even those who have forsaken the material world and decided to travel the spiritual path meet the same challenges. In fact, it is those who have chosen a spiritual life who face the biggest hurdles.
When we do not live up to expectations, or make errors or feel that we have let down the guru, we begin to think that spiritual enlightenment is unreachable. Some of us feel that since it’s not possible to achieve it, why not get intoxicated in samsara, engage in worldly karmas and forget about enlightenment. Sometimes, under stress we forget the moment that we were so inspired and moved when we took refuge under our beloved guru and when we shared the joy of understanding with our spiritual friends and family. All these good and positive feelings begin to disappear after a spiritual honeymoon.
The result is that we let our minds indulge in negative thoughts, our speech becomes negative and our actions become negative. It is most discouraging when spiritual friends go against each other, it doesn’t matter whether openly or secretly. The beauty of understanding, tolerance and forgiving is not only reduced, but also lost. Some people become more judging towards others after becoming involved in dharma; instead of encouraging the newcomers, they introduce doubts and superstitions in the name of dharma or spirituality. This is how our time is wasted and the seeds for spiritual enlightenment are slowly killed.
We should always watch our mind and our motivation; if our mind and motivation are positive, then the energy we send out to others is also positive. Doubts are the number one killer of our motivation and intention to be a good being and of our relationships with others. Of course, we all come from different backgrounds and join in one big spiritual family due to our own karmic connection. Since we have this great karma to meet, we should support and encourage each other. This spiritual path that we are walking together is full of bumps, rocks and potholes and we have to carefully hold hands together and walk together with warmth, sincerity and understanding. Nothing is impossible unless we ourselves think that everything is impossible!
One has to be loyal and sincere to oneself, or one’s own conscience. I have recently heard about people saying that they are dedicating their entire life to spiritual practice, whatever they are doing, they are doing for all the beings. I want to applaud when I hear this sort of thing, because to do that every second of your life is not an easy task. But when you check their activities, everything they do brings so much harm and pain to others, sometimes they do that in the name of dharma. Spiritual practice is about training your own mind, training your own inner self, it is not about training others, and it isn’t about how much you know in terms of knowledge. It is really about how much you are able to expand your inner space, so that ‘I’ becomes smaller until ‘I’ is in unity with space. If you have this notion of ‘I’ and ‘others’ and you can’t stop seeing others’ negative qualities, then you have a lot to work on. You have not travelled enough of your own inner bumpy path.
The spiritual path is all about sorting out yourself. To start with, there is a need to experientially understand that making others happy will make you happy; understanding this experientially and not only by knowledge will sort out a part of yourself and make the bumpy road inside you a little smoother. Everyday you try to be a little nicer to others, you become a nicer person yourself, step by step, little by little. This will be an effective practice in the long run, but you have to keep doing it. This also becomes a practice of keeping your own awareness in the present moment, this is how you begin to make the path less travelled, a more travelled path until even the bumps sort themselves out!
(Gyalwang Drukpa is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas.)