To know when to stop,
to know when you can get no further by your own action,
this is the right beginning!
– Chuang Tzu
Monday 28 July, 2008 we met for the Monday Shambhala meditation session, for a Dhamma talk and meditation. A summary of the talk follows:
How do you become a guru?
This question has come up in several instances, and is a difficult one to answer in short, namely, how does one become a spiritual Guru.
By Guru is meant the capacity that all people have inside themselves to be someone of great spiritual quality. Maybe we can all it the Buddha-nature, or the Inner Guru. We have all met some great teachers, meditators or otherwise, who have radiated spiritual qualities. Often they come from different traditions – new age, Catholic, Mahayana and Theravada, young old … It is natural to seek to emulate those qualities, and make them ones own. Natural, but seemingly impossible. How do you develop the ‘youGuru’?
You can hold an ideal in your mind, such as being a person of great loving kindness towards others, but you can only maintain it for so long. Very quickly the universe will engineer a test to knock you from your new perch, and the resolution will fall away. For example you may wish to be the kind of person who meditates twice a day for 2 hours, or maintains a regular and rigorous practice. Quickly however you find that it is not so easy – distractions arise, tests come and shake your resolution. The problem is, by trying to ‘become’ someone else, become an ideal, you are not starting from where you are actually at, and are wanting to be someone else through a desire or ego grasping. Noble as aspiration is, it is doomed to fail when stemming from this basis.
With all the Buddhist emphasis on self-reliance, on Buddhas only pointing the way – but you walk the path yourself, on your developing the gradual path … it can seem as if it is by your own power you will become your Inner Guru. There is a battle to be fought, but it is not by trying to ‘become’ an ideal.
If the Guru-you cannot be generated through desire, the next step is usually to try and figure it out. If you can just understand, get the right teaching, figure out how God, the mind, the universe works then it will all fall into place. Of course, this does not work either. Study is good, and finding a teaching that works for you will help in the practice, but like anything, if you grasp at it, then suffering will follow. There are so many different schools and religions because there are so many different ways to try and interpret the world around. But how much can you ever really penetrate?
Is God willing to stop evil, but unable?
Is God able to stop evil but unwilling?
Either way he is not God.
These kind of questions can’t really be answered, at least not with the logical brain. What happens to a Buddha after he has died? Can an person really postpone enlightenment by the force of a Bodhisattva vow? All kinds of questions and we still have not touched on how the universe really works. Karma, Devas, Heaven and Hell …
Your dog has an understanding of the human world – enough to let it live, move, play and survive. But it has no idea of democracy, money, death, stress etc…. this is not unlike the way humans live in the world with a working understanding that gets them by, but no real idea on the big questions. However you think God and Religion are to be understood, there is a group that somewhere someplace have had that same teaching. Reading the History of God, by Karen Armstrong, is a humbling experience – you see that you cannot have a truly original thought on these questions. You also see that no one has ever conclusively figured it all out.