The Liberation Stories of the Kagyu Masters – Day 14

If we truly want to follow the path of the Mahamudra in this life, is it possible to do this whilst engaging in an “ordinary life” with jobs, partners, houses and so on? Or, if we want to make the most of this precious human birth and follow the gift of dharma, do we need to take vows, renounce “ordinary life” and become monks and nuns?

We can think about it from two different perspectives. One is in relation to the dharma itself, and the other one is in relation to the individual practitioner. In the dharma of the Greater Vehicle and Secret Mantra teachings it is never stated that one must become a monk or nun, because in these vehicles the focus is on the mind – one’s view and motivation, not the actions of body and speech. In the lower vehicle it does teach that one should become a monk or nun in order to practise the dharma properly, because the focus is primarily on the body and speech.

But from our perspective as individual practitioners, we must think about what our aim is. If we wish to study and practise the dharma as well as we can, we need to give ourselves the best possible conditions. This is why many people go forth from the life of a householder. It is obvious that when we have a partner, children and a job that it is going to be difficult to dedicate much time to study and practice, and that we will have many more things weighing on our mind than if we were a monk or nun. Monks and nuns don’t need to worry about finding or keeping a partner or a job. They have less things in their life that will occupy their minds.

Going forth does not mean that one will not have any afflictions any more, but monks and nuns live a life where the triggers for afflictions are significantly fewer, mainly because of their vows, but also because of who they spend their time with; for the most part they will be associating with other monks and nuns, or at least those who are serious about the Buddhist path. So this gives us better conditions for making progress in the dharma.

So, no, one doesn’t have to become a monk or nun but it does make it much easier for someone to dedicate themselves fully to the dharma.

Mainly, to practise mahamudra truly, first you need to have the view of the secret mantra. Without the view, there is no practice. If we look at the lives of liberation we are studying at the moment, we do not see Tilopa and Naropa living a conventional monastic life, studying and meditating and so on. Instead, it seems that they only do bad and negative things. But are their escapades related to the practice of mahamudra? Definitely. No doubt about it.

Another very important point comes to mind, one of the reasons why there is no talk of going forth in Secret Mantra dharma is because the basic view of the Vajrayana is that the essence of affliction is wisdom. So there is no thought of afflictions being bad, something to be abandoned. For someone who has this view, it is okay for them to do things which may seem negative, because for them, that is not the way they perceive it. Everything appears to be good in their perception. But that is not how we see things is it. The habit of seeing things to be either good or bad is very engrained in us.

So in brief, we should consider our own level and consider what we need in order to practise the dharma as well and as properly as we possibly can, and work towards that step by step.

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