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Mindfulness Matters

A recent Tricycle Daily Dharma (click here to receive these daily emails with brief excerpts of writing from Tricycle Magazine) the great Thai teacher Ajahn Chah gave the metaphor of plowing your own field. 

When people genuinely meet the dharma, they realize it directly within themselves. So the Buddha said that he is merely the one who shows the way. In teaching us, he is not accomplishing the way for us. It is not so easy as that. It’s like someone who sells us a plow to till the fields. He isn’t going to do the plowing for us. We have to do that ourselves. Don’t wait for the salesman to do it. Once he’s made the sale, he takes the money and splits. That’s his part.That’s how it is in practice. The Buddha shows the way. He’s not the one who does it for us. Don’t expect the salesman to till your field. If we understand the path in this way, it’s a little more comfortable for us, and we will do it ourselves. Then there will be fruition.

We are a culture of convenience. Look at all the inventions designed to make our lives easier. In spiritual circles we can succumb to the same mentality. Instant enlightenment. Instant transformation. There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands of self-help gurus (myself included) who promise transformation.

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And as Ajahn Chah reminds, no one can do the work for you. Not even the Buddha. I’m reminded of the Buddha’s admonition, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” Beware of teacher’s promising instant transformation. Change is hard and requires long effort. Real change requires a fundamental restructuring of our concepts — the deep frames and metaphors that shape how we see ourselves and the world.

I have found that meditation practice is a reliable way to do this restructuring. We deconstruct our concepts and stories when we sit and familiarize ourselves with unfolding phenomenological reality that lives furtively beneath the stories. We can reconstruct ourselves in a way that is more free. 
The Buddha’s wisdom and emphasis on mindfulness can be the plow that allows us to do this work.

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