It’s Not Where You Might Expect
Real Buddhism is not in the texts, not in the monasteries, not in the retreat centres, not in the shedras, not in the dharma centres, nor are you likely to find it in the towns and cities.
And you might think, ‘If Buddhism, the dharma, is not in the monasteries, where is it?’ What we find in the monasteries is money making and worldly work with a dharma face. These are not, and do not become the dharma. The practice and study of dharma has become secondary in the monasteries.
Nowadays, you find more and more people teaching the dharma, both in the East and West, but for the most part the teachers are presenting the dharma as a tradition, rather than reality and a path to realise reality that we too can tread.
In truth, dharma is not a tradition: not a Buddhist tradition, nor an Indian or Tibetan tradition.
Understanding dharma is understanding desire, and desire is not a tradition. Understanding dharma is understanding anger and ignorance, and these are not traditions either. To teach the dharma is to teach how to give rise to renunciation, how to see suffering as suffering, and how to become more caring and kind. Renunciation and bodhichitta are not traditions. To teach the dharma is to teach the truth of things, and that is not a tradition.
For myself I have received dharma teachings from over twenty different lamas and khenpos, genuine lamas with a practice of what they taught, and not once did they present, hint at, or speak about dharma in any way that would suggest it is a tradition.
There are some people in the West who do not know me very well, who think that I’m a traditionalist. That is not the way I see myself though, and I cannot imagine that is how those who know me see me. The irony is that many of those who see me as a traditionalist are quite happy to accept the word of someone who is seen to be an authority in the tradition (who has H’s E’s V’s etc, affixed to their names), when they say, ‘This child is the reincarnation of so-and-so, and you should have faith in them.’ When the tradition makes this decree, many of them will happily prostrate to the child. That is not something I can accept so easily though. I certainly believe in that there are real tulkus, but I have reservations about the tulku tradition. So this, among other ironies, makes me wonder who among us are the stronger adherents to tradition.
So where will we find the dharma? We will find it in the minds of those who have given up all worldly pursuits and have gone off to isolation to practise; in those who have few desires and are easily satisfied. It is in their minds that dharma will be found, and we can see that this is exactly as the dharma teaches.
If I were looking for a ‘root guru’, I would not think of going to a monastery, or to a shedra or a retreat centre, I would go to the countryside, to empty mountain sides, to the forests or other isolated areas. I’m sure there are still real practitioners to be found in these places that have the dharma in their minds.
True dharma is not about words, it is about our mind. So, under the guidance of someone with experience of their own mind, and through our own practice and investigations, we must ascertain our own mind for ourselves.
Please do not forget this.