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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 79 that we have to take the teachings to heart. You may see yourself as someone who is trying to get as far as they possibly can on the path, or as someone who just wants to feel at peace and be in control of their mind. Either can be a trap. On the other hand, either viewing spirituality as a complete path to enlightenment or as a path to self-improvement can be work- able—provided we make a wholehearted commitment to whichever approach we take in this life. This is a genuine com- mitment to showing up and being there, on the spot—no matter what the goal is. Otherwise, we can go through all the motions, receive the instructions, do all the practices, mimic the experiences, and...go nowhere. Or we can try to use our practice to look good, feel good, be good, but still we have to work with the reality that we’re going to die and we’re going to suffer and it won’t always be pretty. That is the mes- sage of the four reminders. The good news is that the insidious endlessness of samsara implies its oppo- site: that cessation or relief is possible. That is why people contemplate these reminders: as the ground for making a genuine commitment to practice. Hav- ing contemplated the four reminders, we may ask ourselves how we can live our lives so that we don’t have huge regrets about what is left undone. As practitio- ners, that question leads us to investi- gate how we can genuinely practice this stainless good dharma. At the end of the day, what sense can we make of the panoply of forms and options presented to us? My teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, coined a phrase that I think is very helpful: buddhadharma without credentials. Being without cre- dentials is accepting the reality of life for what it is, without artifice, endorsement, or adornment, and it is practicing on the basis of that knowledge, with confidence in our own good heart. The proclama- tion of dharma must be fearless. It is not about building yourself up or building up someone else. It is not about pomp and circumstance; it is not about creating a refuge from reality. I say, let’s find that genuine dharma. Let’s insist on that, for ourselves and for others. Let’s give up wishful thinking. To be sure, we need help. We need teachers. This is obvious. We cannot con- stantly be reinventing the wheel. If you want to learn to cook great Italian food, you need to learn from a great Italian cook. The master cook will not make you a master. You have to do that for yourself, but without some instruction, without learning thoroughly about the ingredi- ents, the methods, and the tradition, there is almost no chance you’ll succeed at mak- ing a sublime bolognese. Similarly, if you want to learn to medi- tate, find a mentor. If you want to recover from the sickness of samsara, find a doc- tor. If you want to be enlightened, find a buddha. But don’t just buy what anyone is trying to sell you. Beware of buddha- dharma with credentials. You may hear reports of an approach- ing tropical storm. You watch reports of where it’s been and the kind of dam- age it’s done. The storm finally hits, with overpowering wind and rain. Perhaps your power gets knocked out and a tree is downed. The next day the storm has moved on, and you go out to witness the devastation. You see huge waves that are a little scary breaking on the shore, and you feel good that you’ve survived. Now you feel you can speak with authority about tropical storms or hurricanes. Those are your credentials. But you have just wit- nessed the storm. It’s not at all the same as being the storm—that level of surrender and letting go, beyond hope and fear, is quite different. When you look for a teacher, look for someone who is honest. If they tell you they’ve witnessed the storm, that’s pretty good. If they tell you they are the storm, be wary. Unless they truly are. If you can find that kind of teacher, I’d go for it. In the meantime, sitting down with yourself, with a well-trained instructor, sitting with yourself beyond any expectations: to me, that’s good wholesome carrot cake. Very sweet, a little gooey, good food for a tired old donkey. ♦ “A book that will be on the reading lists for sincere Buddhist students for generations ahead.” JACK KORNFIELD, author of A Path with Heart “A clear and practical guide to dealing with the unhappiness and frustration that come our way in life.” SHARON SALZBERG, author of Lovingkindness AVAILABLE NOW. For a schedule of Phillip Moffitt’s teaching tour visit www.dancingwithlife.org. DANCING WITH LIFE By Phillip Moffitt Preface by Venerable Ajahn Sumedho MAY 74-79.indd 79 MAY 74-79.indd 79 3/6/08 4:34:10 PM 3/6/08 4:34:10 PM