Everyday Life is Buddhism
The teachings of the Buddha relate to our everyday experience, the way we perceive life. This is true across the board, from the most basic teachings to teachings on the ultimate view. So of course this is true in our practice of the dharma too. Our practice must relate to what we see, hear and experience, and not be like a fairy tale.
We may see many of the contemplative practices taught in Buddhism to be irrelevant to what is happening for us here and now; we often feel we need to imagine something new, to conjure something up that is not currently real to us, yidam deities, divine palaces etc. But in truth, Buddhist practice is to look into the truth of things, to see and accustom ourselves to true reality. Of course such things are reality, but maybe they’re not so readily apparently to us at the moment.
So take for example, the contemplation on the preciousness of human life – how rare it is to find the freedom and opportunity to practise the dharma. In this practice we think about the lack of freedom other types of beings experience in order to see how precious our own situation is at the moment. Although we are not able to see the hell beings or deprived spirits that are taught in the texts, we do have an idea of what it is like to be burnt by fire, to be freezing cold, to be wracked by hunger or thirst. Such things are not beyond our experience. We know for ourselves the sufferings endured by human beings and animals, which are similar to those in the hell and deprived spirit realms. We do not need to imagine into existence the suffering of humans, as these are an everyday reality for us, are they not?
Based on our current human experience we can quite easily contemplate whether it is possible to practise the dharma while oppressed by extreme heat or bitten by piercing cold; or when lacking food and clothing. When we take this approach, the contemplation of the hell realms, for example, become very accessible; we are not dealing with anything unknown to us. We don’t need to conjure up images of something new or weird.
It’s the same for the ultimate views, such as the middle-way, the great completeness and the great seal they are not something made up and to be ‘meditated’ on or conjured up – they are the direct and real experience of advanced practitioners. They are not like ‘the horns of rabbits’– that everyone goes on about but do not exist.
The dharma is not pie in the sky, it is reality, how things really are. But if we dismiss the basic teachings on causality (karma), samsara, and so on, while at the same time being unable to access the higher views, we will remain in a state of blind belief, and will not make any progress in our practice. We will have nothing to think about or look into; the lower being ignored and the higher being out of sight. So it’s very important that right from the beginning, we link our practice and our everyday experience as much as is possible. If we continue to see our practice as something we merely imagine while sitting on the cushion, unrelated to the rest of our experience that we call ‘real life’, we will never come to understand what is taught in the dharma and nor will we ever make any progress on the path. There might be something to think about here.