Meditation Is Not Enough
Buddhists beware: You can't just sit there.
BY: Lama Surya Das
If we ask how to undertake and accomplish the path of enlightenment, and how to implement and practice these three trainings, they are broken out into the renowned Eight-fold Path taught by Buddha himself as the way to accomplish what he accomplished and eventually become just like him. Again, notice that in these traditional eight steps to enlightenment, there are practices such as Wise Livelihood, which are not solitary or contemplative but engage us fully in daily life, although mindfulness and loving kindness at our tasks is recommended and helps in many ways. Love at work, compassion in action, spiritual and social activism, karma yoga as well as devoting ourselves to the welfare of the world are an important part of spiritual practice in all the great traditions. Mother Teresa said that "We can't all do great things, but doing small things with great love makes them great."
The heart of every spiritual path without exception is some kind of basic morality and self-discipline. If we wish to live wisely and contribute to a better world, we must try to become better people--authentic people, honest, straightforward, decent and even unselfishly good. Practices such as truth-telling, non-harming, peacemaking, balancing, showing generosity and engaging in selfless service are too often overlooked in the grace race to achieve higher states of blessedness; yet all these are yogas, if you will, that help you connect with the divinity-- however you conceive of it--and the inherent beauty and sacredness of life. Yoga means union, that which yokes us to the highest and deepest form of spirit.
In olden days I was like a teenage Buddha statue and used to meditate a lot, often all day, in my teacher's Tibetan monastery in the East. Now, wherever I am, I meditate, sinking roots deep into the present moment and extracting (thriving on) its essence. But there are innumerable ways to worship and awaken. "There are countless ways to kneel and kiss the ground," sang the Sufi poet-saint Rumi. Especially in our diverse, multicultural, pluralistic era, I feel we must be respectful and tolerant of the many options people have discovered for pursuing spiritual development, even within each faith, not to mention among the different faiths. Moreover, we must be patient with ourselves and our karmic condition, and avoid indulging in guilt, shame and self-bashing in the name of deep spiritual aspiration.
Of course, to a Buddhist monk or nun or dedicated Buddhist practitioner, meditation is an important part of every day, as it is for me and has been for over thirty years. But I am a slow learner! How long does it take to wake up? Perhaps you can do it your own way. The rich and deep Dharma teachings are all there, freely available, for whoever wants to avail themselves of them. Help yourself. As the Buddha said, "Come and see."
One of my favorite Christian mystics, Meister Eckhart, wrote: "If the only prayer you ever say is `Thank You,' that is sufficient."
Here is an instant mini-meditation for you. l bet you can do this every day, without too much stress, anywhere, anytime, with or without closing your eyes.
Breathe, relax, and smile.
Breathe, relax, and smile.
Breathe relax, and smile.
Outdoors or inside,
Enjoy the joy of natural meditation.