The Teaching in practice
“There is this awful period that goes on and on, when we hear the beautiful words of the teaching, we acknowledge them, they are obviously right, it is lovely to hear them and we even recite them to others on occasion…….but you know we do not really believe them. We have got another set of ideas, which we use for practical purposes.”
The Tibetan Teacher Sogyal Rinpoche, the author of the book “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” described his Teachers’ advice to him when he was about to embark on his journey to the West. He said they told him that one of the problems with Westerners that he would encounter, was that they mistook the intellectual appreciation of a concept for the realization of the concept. Rinpoche, made the comment, as do the great Indian Teachers, that it is first necessary to understand the concept, but then it may take a life time of practice to actually realize it.
This is really the essence of spiritual work. It is first necessary to come to an intellectual understanding of spiritual principles. This same sentiment was expressed by a leader of the Whirling Dervishes who once said, I can teach a man the steps of the dance in a few minutes, it takes a life time of practice to understand the meaning.
People hear statements about the creation being “maya” or an illusion. They read in Shakespeare, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” or similar. They love to quote the things they hear and appreciate these are Truthful statements. They are so very attractive….. But as Leon MacLaren said,“We do not really believe them. We have another set of ideas which we use for practical purposes”
His Holiness Shantanand Saraswati repeatedly said that until you have realized something yourself, you cannot teach it to others. He was not talking about the intellectual appreciation of the concept. He was talking about realizing the principle.
In most of the schools of learning, people go along to their groups, discuss things, fall a little still, but then go home and carry on in their habitual way. They do not believe sufficiently in the Teaching to live it in the life. Indeed they really do not understand the concepts that are being put forward from their own experience. But this is not altogether unexpected. Some-one learns to drive a car, gets their license, but it is only after they have got their license that they really learn to drive. That comes with experience…… well hopefully!
Likewise, people go to University to get a degree. They come out often full of self confidence and ready to take on the world. They think they know something. Indeed they will have learnt something. What they should have learned are the concepts that they need to start putting into practice in their professional lives. However initially they have no real experience. Over time they will become more proficient as they start to gain experience and this deepens. Their actions will demonstrate the extent of their real understanding.
The schools which are preparatory schools, are basically teaching people the concepts which they then need to go away and practice in the life. There are many concepts and they include:
Surrendering claim and attachment
All of these appear simple on the surface. But the Wise recommend a man choose just one or two and spend the life practicing to come to a real understanding of them. If a man does that, then his life will move from operating under the other set of ideas which we use for practical purposes and gradually become an example of the particular principle in practice. This is an enormous step and one very few are able to undertake in reality. Most people prefer to be fed rather than to take the step of undertaking their own work.