12 September 2020

Practice Needs to be Bigger than Us - Ngakma Nor’dzin & Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin

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In this video from February 2010, Ngakma Nor’dzin and Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin discuss why a path of practice needs to be bigger than us and why it’s sometimes inconvenient.


Ngakma Nor’dzin: Really to engage in something that is going to change you and move you in a direction of spiritual development, it has to be bigger than you are. It has to—in effect—become inconvenient at some point. So the sitting practice becomes a little difficult: it's not very comfortable, you don't really want to do it -- but you do it because that is the method.

Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin: We become part of a path of practice to receive the help and support that that has to offer, and if we're the biggest thing there, then it's not going to be of much support to us

Ngakma Nor’dzin: Just a support to your neurosis.

Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin: So in a sense we enter into something that’s bigger than us and, as Ngakma Nor’dzin says, does become inconvenient. But when we take refuge, and when we take vows, it's important to take that on, knowing that they will be inconvenient at some stage, and not to kid ourselves that things are necessarily going to be plain sailing.

Sometimes vows and commitments—to my mind—look a bit like the barriers on the side of the motorway. So if you're falling asleep at the wheel, they will gently but firmly—and with nasty scraping noises—put you back on to the motorway and hopefully wake you up.

Ngakma Nor’dzin: … without hitting anyone else...

Ngakpa ’ö-Dzin: … and our vows and refuge commitments are there. If we were completely realised, we'd never bump into our vows. If we're not realised, occasionally we bump into our vows and take notice and put ourselves back on the road again.

Ngakma Nor’dzin: I think Buddhism is a bit like cooking: that you are given a recipe, you're told what the fruit or the product of the recipe is going to be, and then you just try to cook it. You put the ingredients in and you produce the results. You take it to your teacher and your teacher says 'Mmm, not quite right – you just need a little bit more sugar'. So you take it away, you engage in the method again you cook it again, take it to your teacher, and this time we need just a little bit more spice, or whatever.

Now if you haven’t got the teacher or the lineage there to actually say that what you've produced is nice, but it's not actually what the recipe is aiming at – if you haven't got that person who is bigger than you, who can look at that, outside of your own frame of reference, then you might think that the very first time you cook the cake, what you've got is what was intended by the recipe. You can never actually know whether that cake tastes like the person who wrote the recipe intended.

But if you've got somebody who created that recipe or has received transmission of the recipe down the generations, tasted it from a master, tasted it from the next master, and so on – then they can say exactly how it should taste, and they can tell you how it's not quite right.

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