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Lions Roar : July 2019
CELEBRATING YEARS We can’t just blindly meditate, says CHOKYI NYIMA RINPOCHE. Our practice must be illuminated by deep, critical study of the Buddhist teachings. IN THE TIBETAN tradition, the study of Bud- dhist philosophy is known as “learning and reflect- ing on the view.” Through a process of sustained inquiry, we can become free from all doubts about the true nature of reality as described by the Bud- dhist teachings. We understand the Buddhist view, at least in intellectual terms. But that alone isn’t enough for us to gain libera- tion. For that, we need to apply our understanding in practical terms through meditation. We need to follow the advice of Vasubandhu, a great Buddhist master from the fourth century CE, who declared that “a disciplined person who has studied and con- templated is able to practice meditation.” As Vasubandhu says, our studies must be based on a wholesome, disciplined lifestyle. We need, at the very minimum, to give up the ten unwhole- some acts. If we study in such a way, we will have a wholesome support for the meditation practices of tranquility and insight. Then what we have understood through our studies can be put to practical use, so that experience and realization unfold from within. Such an approach to learning Buddhist phi- losophy is particularly relevant these days. Across the world, people think differently than they used to. There is much greater access to education and learning than before, and the general sense is that everything is up for review, and everything can be investigated. That goes for religion, as well as for matters of the world. In general, the contemporary mindset wants to examine and investigate things. To do that, we would do well to utilize the Buddha’s teach- ings generally, and specifically the treatises on Madhyamaka (Middle Way), epistemology and logic, and the realization of prajnaparamita, transcendent insight. If we use these precious resources to examine things critically, we can understand both the way things appear and the way they truly are. We can accurately comprehend the Bud- dhist teachings on the phenomena of the external world and inner mind; the ground, path, and frui- tion of the dharma. We can cor- rectly understand how all this manifests and appears on the rela- tive levels, and also know what it actually is at the ultimate level. We can then become free of any doubt and gain confidence. With such confidence, we become inspired and motivated to prac- tice meditation. We will know how to practice correctly, and when we do that, experience and realization will dawn in our being. In traditional academies in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is called “learning and reflecting on the view.” It really is an academic approach, even in the modern sense, because there are no limitations to what may be questioned. If we feel unhappy with the position of our teacher, or some great teacher of the past, we are free to refute them. As followers of the Buddha, we live by his instruction: “Monks, when you listen to my words, you must examine them carefully, like a skilled goldsmith who tests gold by heating, cutting, and rubbing. Do not accept my words merely out of respect.” In addition to analysis and study, the Vajray- ana tradition includes two other, more direct approaches to realizing the truth of the teachings, making a total of three. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche is abbot of Ka-Ny- ing Shedrub Ling monastery in Nepal and founder of the Rangjung Yeshe Insti- tute, which in partner- ship with Kathmandu University offers BA, MA, and PhD programs in Buddhist Studies and Himalayan languages. Why Meditation Isn’t Enough also watch their own. Here’s another saying: “It’s very easy to reach enlightenment, but it’s very difficult to keep it.” We must watch our step! We should never lose sight of our need for courage, faith, and questioning. Drop all ideas and enter each moment with a wide-open mind. PHOTOBYCHRISZVITKOVITS LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 69