Sad but true
We think that by practising the dharma we will only improve, but over the years I’ve seen many people, if not the majority of people, deteriorate as they spend more time in the dharma.
The first year when people enter the dharma they are very enthusiastic, even though they do not know very much about Buddhism.
The second year, they feel the dharma is wondrous; they believe what’s taught and want to follow it whole heartedly. This is the best time for them.
But then after having gone here and there, relying on different lamas, listening to lots of dharma teachings, things start to change. They start to see issues and problem and their wish to study and practise gradually weakens.
The next stage is that they lose any heartfelt motivation to study or practice. They will rarely acknowledge this but what they are inclined to do now is to go out and about doing things other than study and practice, while telling themselves that these other things are still the dharma.
For example, if by this stage one has become known as a decent practitioner or scholar, one will start a Buddhist organisation, a dharma centre or a group. The sort of thing that can easily pass as ‘dharma’.
In the end, they officially become their ‘lama’s lama’. How so? Because they start to poke their nose into the affairs of their lamas, telling them what they should and shouldn’t do.
It can be a useful exercise to compare ourselves to how we were when we first entered the dharma. We may see that we felt strongly about the dharma, we were thirsty for the dharma. We would go anywhere we could to meet a lama and receive the dharma. But after having met all the lamas and having heard their teachings we gradually became jaded and lost our feeling for the dharma.
So even if we have a very strong and sincere feeling for the dharma at the beginning, if it is not sustained by dedicating time to proper study, contemplation and practice to integrate what we learn, things will go awry. So we need to reflect very carefully to see whether we are becoming a dharma person in name alone, and are treading the path to becoming jaded.
What can we do to avoid treading this well-worn path? It all comes down to the way we relate to the dharma. We should try to avoid seeing the dharma as something to be done externally, something outside of ourselves, as a new field of knowledge to be acquired, for example.
If we are able to look into what is being said in the dharma and use it to come to know ourselves, to see the dharma within ourselves, to see our own faults etc, then we will come to see the underlying truth of the teachings. In this way, our enthusiasm and faith will not only grow, since it is supported by the intelligence born of study and contemplation, it will also become stable and unwavering.