Saturday, January 30, 2010

I don't give details of my practice here

I know some people on the net do this, and I applaud them for the effort they put into their practices. Moreover, I don't think in any way that those who do this are doing this for any other reason than for good reasons, and if they find net benefit from doing this, well, don't pay my post credence or heed. It's not my province to tell other bloggers and practitioners what to do. I'm not a teacher. As for me, though, I am not comfortable with the idea of sharing my practice to others. The other 4 members of the Sangha I attend do not know my practice. My wife does not know my practice. My teacher and I know my practice.

Anyone who reads this blog though knows I've practiced for close to two decades, but whether I'm a mediocre horse or the worst horse not even I know. And I think it's good to keep it that way.

So, for myself, there are several reasons why I do not wish to share my practice:

  • It leads those reading this with a practice to want to compare their practice with my practice, and that's just adding more things about which to be attached.
  • It also leads to want to compare understanding or development. This would quite naturally lead to division in a meat space sangha, and I have concerns that this is true in cyberspace as well. Moreover, sometimes cyberspace meets meat-space.
  • It's natural for one with a good student teacher relationship to leave such matters in the province of the student and teacher, out of mutual respect. (I think therefore I lean towards getting a teacher, but not one who's a guru, but more like an accountable tutor.)

Whatever the practice whether it's shikan-taza, koan practice, breath counting, Vipassana, samu, chanting practice, sutra practice, Tibetan Buddhist practices, Namo Amituofo practice, Nembutsu practice, body practice, having a cold practice, or other practices, they're all good as long as they're practiced with effort, sincerity, great faith and great doubt.

It's not my place to say what relative merit can be obtained from one or the other, or how yours compares to mine. It's neither of our problems.

So I humbly offer these words.


Kyle Lovett said...

Yes, I realized sharing my practice is not necessarily the kosher way these things are done. And I agree, it can add up to a lot of 'dharma sizing' and this is very poor practice.

Of course you know a lot of my emphisis is on folks that don't have the benefit of a teacher. I'm not saying I am a teacher by any means, and in fact go out of my way to let people know I am not.

Sometimes we get the 'just go find a teacher' folks that chime in, yet I don't think many realize this just isn't possible for a lot of people, especially in rural areas, or even suburban areas. The closest sangha for me now is a Pure Land temple and a Theravada, neither of which I choose to practice. The closest Zen place is over an hour drive away.

I don't know if sharing my practice will help or hurt, i think the question that needs to be asked is no practice better than flawed practice? I don't know the answer to that.

Thank you Mumon!

Mumon said...

Thanks for the reply.

Every practice is flawed. And every practice is better than no practice.

I totally understand your point and, as I said, it's not my place to engage in "dharma sizing" of anyone's practice, even those who share it, though as I wrote earlier, your practice is quite admirable.

It's also not a question of distance, but of time too, in seeking out teachers. I'd recommend making the time and space for it, though, after some research. It's not necessary for one's practice to attend services and teachings every week, but the opportunity to meet fellow practitioners is a good thing to seek out.

Finally I'd say that many of the earlier teachers wrote for good reason. Time and space separated practitioners greatly 1,000 years ago. Hakuin's most accessible writing was in fact in the forms of letters to people he had met who had inquired about practice. And some of it, passed down by modern teachers can be found on the 'nets, e.g., here.

Some of my earliest practice was based on written correspondence with a teacher in the Kwan Um School.

Nowadays, of course, it's all different and the use of social networking gives rise to social networking about pretty much anything, so it fits many people, and I do see the benefit you get from it. I just thought I'd say something because often times I do want to shout what I'm doing from the rooftops, but that would do everyone harm.

Thanks again.

Kyle Lovett said...

Thanks Mumon,

I like that idea of correspondence, I think that is a wonderful idea. And although I have some reservations about Jundo Cohen, I think he does bring benefit to those seeking out a teacher. My practice is hardly as good as it sounds and some days I don't even sit.

Like I said, I am an awful Buddhist, but trying to do better.

Mumon said...

So am I.

Petteri Sulonen said...

I bet I'm worse than both of you and Joshu's dog put together. Neener neener.