Volunteers NOT wanted

Many people are very fond of doing voluntary work in the dharma centres and at dharma events {Rinpoche was addressing a predominantly Chinese audience}. But you should remember that the most important thing when relying on your Lama is to learn the dharma. Sacrificing the opportunity to attend a dharma teaching to do volunteer work or something similar can become a very big obstacle for your path in the dharma.

The Buddha didn’t teach us to do a lot of charity work. You don’t find him encourage this in the Diamond Sutra or other sutras for example. You also don’t find it taught in any instruction manuals for the preliminary or actual practices that we should work and volunteer in order to awaken. The Buddha instead told us that we should listen to dharma teachings and study.

I’m not saying that it’s not good to do volunteer work, it is a virtuous activity. But if you really want to free yourself and awaken, the only way is through first listening to and studying the dharma.

After making this point in one particular dharma centre, the person who ran the centre asked if they could have a word with me. They basically said that I shouldn’t say such things, otherwise the centre would struggle to find helpers. My reply was rather curt: “If you know better than me what should and should not be said, why did you bother inviting me here to teach?”

Besides, her misgivings were unfounded. Those who can dedicate themselves fully to study and practice are few and far between. These activities are hard. By comparison, a bit of cleaning or office work is simple. Many of those who come to the centres will be quick to commit themselves to study and practice, but it won’t be long before they ‘volunteer’ for something that provides a bit of distraction.

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