In the vast domains of the internet, the process of how we receive information is undergoing a never-before-seen revolution. Anybody can post anything. Anybody can Google, Bing, Yahoo! Search, or Wikipedia anything. When I was growing up, if I was watching Knight Rider or Dukes of Hazard and I didn’t understand a reference, I just didn’t know what they were talking about. I was in the dark. Now on my iPhone, while watching that same show again, I can look up any reference at any time. I don’t need to physically get out and open an Encyclopedia, or to make time to ask someone whom I believe might know what they are talking about.
In May, m’lady and I’s first born is due. She’s a well known yoga teacher, and I’m reflecting on the life I want to be able to present to this child - gender yet unknown to us. As a former Theravāda Bhikkhu, the practice of meditation and BuddhaDharma has been an integral part of my adult life. One of my teachers, and spiritual fathers, PhraRājāBhāvanāchārya (Luang Por Dattajeevo), once told me that there are three critical resources every child has in the formation of their character and behavior: Parents, Teachers, and Spiritual Leaders.
He went on to say that this trinity must work in unity within any community, in order for the community to fully prosper and successfully continue to usher in new generations which benefit their society. Moreover, in order for it to work, the people in this trinity need to take responsibility and be proactive; understanding that they hold a position of such great influence. Preparing to be a father, I take heed of this advice and look out to my communities to find the best resources and teachers available to expose my child to. That is, until they venture out to find their own.
Today, we live in a society where actors, actresses, professional athletes, musicians, and pop-culture icons hold incredible sway and influence over children, teens, and adults. Meditation is growing rapidly. That said, I can’t help but state that I am concerned at how meditation and BuddhaDharma is becoming presented, marketed, and sold. Traditionally, a student would spend one-on-one time with their teacher, practicing and coming back to that teacher with experiential questions. They would develop a relationship, and connection; one that may last a lifetime.
I recently read a beautiful quote from Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche dedicated to the late Chatral Sangye Rinpoche:
“And yet if I may express one thing from the little I have known of this man it is this: The BuddhaDharma has so many challenges, including all the charlatans who do outright damage to the image of the Dharma. These may be overcome by those who seem to do the right thing, who appear serene, proper, and moral, and who never upset anyone. But that often leads us into another challenge that is harder to overcome. Because in doing things correctly, properly and morally, and in bearing the burden of not upsetting people, one ends up being the victim of political correctness and becoming hypocritical.
In my limited life I have seen very few anti-hypocritical beings, and he was one of them. He meant business, there was no negotiation, and of course he never traded one single word of the dharma for money. Time and again, he refused to bow down to the mighty.
He made a lot of us hypocritical beings shudder. Just knowing he was alive and breathing…made our hearts quake…His mere presence on this earth shattered hypocrisy.”
Receiving Dharma instruction directly in the presence of such a being as Chatral Sangye Rinpoche cannot be described in words. I believe that how we receive information with such essential life topics as Dharma and meditation instruction in today’s mainstream world should be revisited.
How? I think a major contributing factor to problem is convenience. It is not convenient to leave one’s internet device, magazine, or book even to actually travel to go listen, receive, reflect, discuss, and wisely practice these subjects under the tutelage of qualified masters.
Then again, perhaps that was the whole point. BuddhaDharma was never taught for convenience. These teachings, are meant to shake up our personal paradigm in Saṃsāra. Proper practice creates an earthquake inside, showing the full-fledged, full-monty reality of the practitioner’s life and life-situation. Dharma and meditation is meant to remove ego and all the mental junk we all have inside our minds. It does this by empowering the individual with the tools and wisdom to take their lives in their own hands and realize the Truth.
Not long ago, I asked Luang Por Dattajeevo, “What is really needed to taste the fruit of Dharma within?” He replied, “ทำถูกวิธี และบำเพ็ญวิริยะ”. This means: Practice properly with consistent, continuous enthusiastic effort. By proper practice, he is referring to using the correct method received from proper instruction by someone who has fully realized Dharma themselves.
As I look out in to the global and commercial Buddhist communities, there is so much to see. So much to tap into. It can be overwhelming for people starting, or restarting, out. Taking the significance of Parents, Teachers, and Spiritual Guides into account, I find myself having to use a fair amount of honest and compassionate discernment. I hope to continue to see the importance of the human-to-human connection emphasized. I hope and want to see a my child’s teacher take extra moments with their students, to ensure they understand the material. I pray to see the parents of my child’s peers make quality, wholesome, loving time with their children and be concerned in their behavioral and character development.
There is a reason why our old school ancestors decided on a teacher-disciple model of study and practice. I believe that the principle of the model and the reason behind it, moreso than the culture and rituals around it, should be revisited. Now more than ever. Otherwise, teachings and teachers will surely be watered down and out. One of the greatest benefits to having a true teacher - an accomplished life role-model - is that they are essential for our accountability and continued development.
Making time and seeking out a true teacher, and then practicing, milking, what it is that they taught you is incredibly profound and immensely fulfilling. They become like a second Father or Mother; that close to you, that important to you. You can’t compare it to books, articles online, or articles in a magazine. It is alive. You are living it, in that moment, with all of your senses. Moments like those are precious. And those are the moments I wish my child has, when -hopefully- they come into the world and begin to make footsteps of their own in the big journey of life.