Some people like to call meditation practice. But what the hell does that mean? It can be looked at from a few perspectives. Namely, we can examine it from an outsiders perspective and an insiders perspective. In this case the outsider is someone not familiar with meditation and the insider is someone who meditates. Cut and dry right?
Practice is seen as something that helps us be better. We practice, like sports. We practice being, so that we can be better at being. If we practice a lot we can assume we care and are trying. The people who practice are better than the people who do not. This is the outsiders perspective.
The outsider perspective is that we practice because we are imperfect. We aren’t perfect enough, we fail to convey the point, we miss chances to make the world a better place. It’s not so much practice, I mean sure it starts as practice, but it doesn’t end as practice. Starting a meditation practice is being willing to let our every action benefit other beings.
Some people like to pretend that their hard life is practice. But this is sad. What is a hard life practice for? Is it practice how to deal with a hard life? Is it practice for the next life? What is our hard life? Is our hard life the fruition of our action?
These are important questions in regards to meditation, that start the cut from practice right to the core. Meditation may start being practice, but it’s practice cutting karma. That is to say in a less technical way, that meditation practice is a way to shed ourselves of letting our thoughts and habits dictate our future. Meditation cuts through our garbage lives like a razor through butter. It has to be hot to work.
If we have a hard life, and we’re simply living the hard life, or even making ourselves comfortable in a difficult situation; this is not enough. This is not practice, or meditation, or meditation all, this is conventional living with a spiritual cloak. Meditation goes beyond. Like the Buddha mantra.
TAYATHA OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMAYA GATE BODI SVHA
It is thus, go beyond, go throughly beyond, go fully beyond, established in enlightenment.
The point of meditation is not practice. The point of meditation is developing a complete understanding of the situation and our simple place in it. Meditation is about learning about ourselves and our world, but especially ourselves. We must understand what we are manifesting, what our karma is about, we have to let it arise, which is safest done on a meditation cushion, for when it arises and we fail to react, that is said to be cutting karma.
Now this isn’t to say that practice isn’t important. Though we started from two seemingly opposite views, both the insider and outsider views converge. First we have to practice, then it comes to life. Practice, in describing the act of meditation, creates a place for us to establish space and for our mind to bloom into that space. This kind of practice requires discipline, for several reasons, the foremost of which is what blooms into that space will often make us uncomfortable. This is why we need the space and the discipline.
Creating the habit of discipline helps us to continue when things get uncomfortable, rather than flinching and filling our newfound brilliance. This discipline is known as practice in the beginning, and this culminates in movement, abiding and awareness.
The difference between a meditation master with a difficult life and an average person with a difficult life is joy. A master has turned practice, with the every opening experience into something greater. The irritation becomes the practice and the practice becomes a widening life. Us average folk, well we hope that our hard times are going to be over soon, so that we can enjoy a reward for dealing with challenge.
It is however possible to go beyond ourselves. What I have prattled on about above is one way, and it is necessary either way, but there is something else that helps us with discipline and that is devotion. Buddhism is high on devotion. Devotion is special, now we know the definition of devotion don’t we?
When we have this odd kind of faith, in the fact that enlightenment exists, it is capable to achieve, that people who have come before us have become enlightened, and that our teachers are indeed enlightned or much nearer to what we’ve been talking about this whole time than we are. When we are able to really believe that it’s possible to overcome all of our imperfections and be established in a non dual reality, and can see that embodied in someone else, well then, we don’t need quite as much discipline. Nor do we need faith.
Maybe we should ask, does Buddhahood, the perfect state, need practice?