Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on June 26, 2014

Some of you have asked how to bootstrap dharma practice and get going on it. Well, as they say, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there is nothing we need add to ourselves to practice dharma. We are good to go and already have full awareness blazing away somewhere inside us right now. It is innate.

The bad news is that we each have to uncover that innate awareness ourselves. No one can do it for us. However, we can skip Awareness-101 if we like because, if we have at least some awareness of ourselves (some mindfulness), we are already well on our way. There is nothing new about the dharma; it is as old and familiar as we are. We have just been ignoring it – ignorance.

For example, our natural tendency toward being self-conscious (being aware of our self, and who isn't to some degree) is a first step away from simply being lost in the busyness of life and the razzle-dazzle of appearances. That alone should be enough evidence to tip us off that we are not simply our "self," but something more as well. After all, just who is it that is aware of the self when we are self-conscious?

Like learning anything, dharma techniques can quickly become tedious and repetitive. That's what techniques are; they require practice. As I have explained for many years when teaching astrology, any technique is the essence of a vision and learning experience someone had, boiled down to the series of steps needed to recreate that experience – a recipe. Technique is the residue of a concept, a kind of freeze-dried experience; just add energy and interest. In other words, for every technique we need to be empowered. Dharma is no different, only the payoff is better.

I tend to think of dharma practice as like that old game of Pick-Up-Sticks we played as kids. The idea is to carefully remove sticks without disturbing the pile until there are none left. It is the same with our main obscuration, the so-called Self, being the sum total of all of our attachments (likes and dislikes). One by one, through dharma practice, we learn to remove our obscurations and attachments until we begin to see through the Self, finally discovering that there is no wizard behind that curtain – just luminous awareness. At that point we begin to transmigrate, meaning that we start to identify more with the luminous awareness behind the self rather than with our familiar self. Anyway, someday the self will just dry up and blow away like any old leaf, but I am told that our awareness will remain.

Buddhism is not evangelical, although I am sure that my enthusiasm for the dharma pushes that envelope about as far as one can. Some forty years later, I am even more certain about the positive effects of learning dharma and I want to encourage any of you who feel an affinity to give it a go.

And we have come a long way. Forty or fifty years ago there was little ambiance surrounding learning the dharma; it was mostly rules we were trying to follow so we didn't get lost. Today we can relax a little more, which is what basic meditation is about anyway. And we can supplement our on-the-cushion practice with a variety of dharma practices that we can do all day long. IMO that is the only way we will ever accumulate enough merit for any realization, through all-day practice. It's not that hard to do if we just jump in.

In particular, the simple practice of what I call "Reaction Tong-Len," which I have written about a lot, allows us to examine our own reactions each day as they happen, recognize the reactions as our own, resolve their inherent duality in our mind, and learn to transform our reactions into more appropriate ways to respond. I work on this everyday -- all day long. That is the where all practice is headed: learn the basic technique of meditation and take it to your life path 24x7. Dharma practice is the process of discovering, uncovering, and then removing obscurations -- letting our innate awareness shine through.

Here are a couple of free e-books with Tong-Len articles in them for those interested:



Is this making any sense?