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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 76 A few years ago, I planned a trip to Eu- rope with my family. In addition to the guidebooks we studied, we had access to the Internet. The experience of this virtu- al reality can blur the distinction between researching a place online and actually go- ing there. You can get confused while you’re on the computer or the iPhone. When you actually set out, however, you soon dis- cover the difference. We had found a great little hotel online, in the fourth ar- rondissement in Paris. The hotel and the neighborhood were much as advertised, but nothing prepared us for Le Smoke in the airport when we disembarked at Charles de Gaulle. And we had no idea that the sandwiches they sell in French train stations were so good. When we moved on to Italy, the quaint hotel in Milan was cute, the room was fine, and breakfast was complimentary and plenti- ful, as promised, but we hadn’t counted on the fact that the establishment rented out rooms by the hour during the day, for activities that probably wouldn’t be classified as family entertainment. In a similar way, the journey we make when we commit ourselves to the Bud- dhist path is full of uncertainty and the unexpected. It doesn’t necessarily go smoothly. Sometimes it feels as though we are going nowhere for a long time. We don’t progress from stage to stage as though we were riding an elevator that takes us upstairs without any effort. So while it is not just advisable but indispensable to survey the wisdom and skillful means of the Buddhist path, we need to keep in mind that, in doing so, we are just getting on the on-ramp of that broad highway, setting out on a long journey across the continent. Many of the great teachers have said, “It’s better not to begin, but if you begin, you should go all the way to the destination.” So if you don’t want to make the whole journey, it’s bet- ter to get off at the beginning. The karmic price you pay for leaving the path in mid- stream is much steeper. You can have what might be called a journey without goal, but you have to be h h h h h h h h h A Practice for the Mind: Master of Arts in Eastern Classics at St. John’s College Accepting applications for fall 2008 www.stjohnscollege.edu/GI/EC/EC.shtml 505-984-6083 EXPAND your practice by reading classical texts from India, China, and Japan. JOIN lifelong learners in engaged discussions of original texts. STUDY either Sanskrit or Classical Chinese. EXPERIENCE conversation as a challenging and fulfilling practice for the spirit. MAY 74-79.indd 76 MAY 74-79.indd 76 3/6/08 11:34:55 AM 3/6/08 11:34:55 AM