Deepening Spiritual Practice

The notion of practice may seem to imply a sense of obligation.

It certainly involves a commitment to work on oneself with effort and regularity. That is an indispensable condition for a student to progress toward enlightenment.

If a beginner does not practice regularly and does not adopt a certain discipline, it will be quite impossible to stabilize the mind and cultivate altruistic love and other essential qualities.

The practice involves both (1) turning inward and (2) openness to others.

It begins with an introspection that makes one aware of the positive and negative aspects of the mind and allows one to encourage the former and correct the latter.

Then, while continuing to purify one’s own mind, one broadens the scope of one’s attention, developing heartfelt concern for all beings who suffer under the influence of those negative aspects of the mind.

Regular practice is also necessary to be able to progressively assimilate the profound teachings of an authentic master.

It is essentially a process of inner growth and freeing oneself from the ingrained habits that keep one in the circle of suffering.

The duration of the meditation sessions of a practitioner’s day may vary from a few minutes to many hours, or even day and night, in the case of a retreat.

Then comes a time, after many years, where the division between meditation and post-meditation dissolves and the mind, finally free, no longer makes a distinction between practice and everyday life.

The instructions in Buddhist writings are designed (1) to help practitioners to develop and deepen their practice while avoiding the obstacles that will inevitably hamper its development, and (2) to establish a continuity and balance in the spiritual training, until it permeates every moment of one’s existence.

These instructions given by the sages of the past or present are a direct expression of their own experience. They offer them as if, as the traditional expression has it, they had opened their bosoms “to show us the redness of their heart,” without hiding anything.

When we meditate on them, we have to connect them to our own inner experience because only then can they take on their full meaning so that their truth, depth, and beauty can become a constant source of inspiration.

Source: Ricard, Matthieu. On the Path to Enlightenment: Heart Advice from the Great Tibetan Masters. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2013.