Dharma Teaching by Singha Thekchen Namdrol Rinpoche
A summary by Anne-Marie Wagonis
Today’s teaching addresses the topic of how to practice dharma. Rinpoche explains that dharma practice isn’t just a single method or form of any one thing. Dharma practice is multidimensional. It’s got many different aspects to it. Its focus is not based just upon chanting, or upon eating a pure vegetarian diet, or doing good deeds or only upon meditation. “None of these things are wrong, but if you are asking me for my understanding, I would have to say that focusing upon only one aspect of dharma would be imbalanced.”
“From listening to everyone tell me how they like to practice dharma, I can see that sometimes Buddhism is being used only to fulfil one’s own needs. That is because not everyone has a spiritual teacher. How you personally see the way that dharma should be practiced often tells a lot about your own personality. You should always try to find a Guru who can get to know you. Find someone you feel you can share your deepest thoughts and feelings with. And find someone you can ask for guidance. Spirituality is a path. It’s a journey. If you find a teacher, this person will share intellectual knowledge. But a Guru is going to go deeper into understanding you as a person and showing you how you should integrate your practice as a person. This is very important.”
“The way to practice dharma is for you to be able to open up your own box. On this journey we are always moving and always changing. And on this journey you are also moving on from your personal mind-set. Most of us have not moved on from our past. We feel that there is some duty on our part to preserve the past. But in many ways our past brings us more suffering than happiness. So, in cases of deciding whether to preserve the past, we also need to have wisdom.”
“Guru is here to tell you the things that you need to hear, not what you like to hear. Guru will ask you to do the practices that you need to do to overcome yourself; and to grow bigger than yourself. But if you don’t open up and you don’t share, then you don’t get to hear what you need to hear. Dharma practice, in the real sense of the word, is all about overcoming yourself. And the best way to overcome yourself is to put yourself outside of your normal zone.”
Volunteering is the most meaningful way to go outside of yourself. Rinpoche explains that this is because volunteering requires us to sacrifice the attachment we have to our own time and to our own targets. Our lives now are mostly only about ourselves. We are always looking for the mutual benefit when we offer ourselves and if we don’t see one, then we don’t want to get involved. “So we all must be willing to stretch our minds, stretch our time and to expand our consciousness. If we cannot do this then we are just like the fish swimming around in an aquarium. We are limited when there is no room for expansion and when we don’t see ourselves as part of the whole world.”
Rinpoche uses another example in explaining the importance of expanding ourselves. “A person whose mind believes that the only way to collect water is by using a single clay pot will never even consider the idea of working together to dig a deep water pond. Like the clay water pot we are so limited. We are all each just our own clay water pot collecting a small bit of water. We are willing to sacrifice a lot of resources to achieve small things for ourselves. But the purpose and the benefit will always only be small and limited. Look how much more water we will have if we all were to come together to dig a deep water pond for everyone.”
Rinpoche also gives us some additional meaningful reminders:
Think about everything you experience as an opportunity to practice and apply dharma.
If you find that your past beliefs are wrong, accept that and be willing to change them in order to move forward.
Think about your future lives and always about being of greater benefit to others.
If you are upset with your Guru, be THANKFUL! This means that your Guru knows you. Your Guru knows what you need, how to break open your shell and how to break you free from your own small system. Otherwise, you’ll always be stuck in your own shell.