In these last four chapters we have looked at The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind to Practice. We have examined the precious nature of our being – that our existence is in itself an opportunity. We have looked at the impermanent nature of our existence, and understood that death and birth are a continuing moment-by-moment dance of being. We have explored karma and seen that it is fuelled by the patterning of perception and response. We have seen that our inability to let go of addiction to form, and our fear of emptiness, create continual dissatisfaction.
Perhaps we are attracted to the idea of awakening, but feel the process is too challenging or beyond our ability. In fact, what would be ideal would be to watch ourselves awaken – to attain enlightenment, but retain our relationship with form as well. Letting go of form addiction feels like cutting the cords of our parachute when we are 3,000 feet above the ground. We wish that we could just see a video of us doing it first, to be sure that it was safe. If we could only taste the nectar without actually having to place it on our tongue. If we could only arrive at our desired destination without the rigours and delights of the journey.
Khandro Déchen said,
There are many
‘Armchair Buddhists’ – particularly those interested in
Vajrayana. They love to read about advanced practices.
They love to read about wrathful Lamas and the Crazy Wisdom
Master – but they would not want to find themselves in a real
relationship with such a master or to be
authentically engaged in such practices.
To be an ‘armchair’ anything is relatively harmless – but to be an
‘Armchair Buddhist’ usually leads to unpleasantness, to
antisocial behaviour, and to gossip-mongering.
Those who pretend to be practitioners give a bad name to Vajrayana.
They are people who would often be better served by emulating the
kindness of decent ordinary people who have no aspiration to
What we need to comprehend is that the rigours and delights of the journey are the path and the destination.
We have the ability to discern and appreciate; we have the intelligence to understand the importance of the present moment; we can recognise the distortion we inflict on perception and response; we can see that even through the successes of our life there is still dissatisfaction. Through this skilful opening of view, we know that our current view and approach to our lives will not bring true happiness for ourselves or others. At this point we have the choice – to actively retract into ignorance, or to engage with Dharma. We can settle for eternal dissatisfaction, or practice – and learn to dwell in the sparklingly infinite, vividly present continuity of now-moments. We can decide to go back to sleep and ignore our understanding of The Four Thoughts, or we can take this understanding further and continue to wake up.