Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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No_Mind
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Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Aug 20, 2016 6:43 am

Should we not begin serious practice* unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Many of us must have been through this but it has never been asked .. we heard about Buddhism, read it, then plunged headlong into serious practice .. when conditions were not suitable.

Such as a imagine a newly minted Buddhist who is also a father of three .. one kid gets measles, one is reprimanded by teachers for bad results, one has just discovered pot and sex. The father thinks Buddhism is not his cup of tea .. gets annoyed with it (for not being very practical) and ends his practice in a huff (much like me).

Should one wait till the moment is ripe? I do not mean that one should go on earning bad Karma while waiting .. one can follow five precepts and be mindful in general and cultivate kindness and compassion .. but serious practice needs at least three good trouble free years (by that time -- three years -- one hopefully gets to the stage in practice where the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune do not affect us).

What I am trying to say is bit like this .. end of year with Christmas and New Year and all the food and wine that goes with it is not a good time to begin dieting .. there is a time and place for everything. Do convert Buddhists forget that too often?

*Definition of serious practice - exemplary attention to Eight Fold Path, devoting as much time as possible to meditation and reading suttas, and following what is summarised in the posts of this thread Just reorganizing my personal practice list or in short, 37 factors of enlightenment.

:anjali:
Last edited by No_Mind on Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by Coëmgenu » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:05 am

Monasticism and ordination is something that should only be practised when the time is right.

Being a Buddhist in general just means being a fellow lay being, like me, like many people on this forum. Buddhadharma has a place for all of us, be us householders, fathers, CEOs, or whatever.

It is quite possible to attain stream entry as a lay person.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः

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No_Mind
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Aug 20, 2016 7:09 am

Coëmgenu wrote:Monasticism and ordination is something that should only be practised when the time is right.

Being a Buddhist in general just means being a fellow lay being, like me, like many people on this forum. Buddhadharma has a place for all of us, be us householders, fathers, CEOs, or whatever.

It is quite possible to attain stream entry as a lay person.
My point was .. should lay followers wait till they have some length of time (say 1,000 days) when they will not have unusual demands made upon them (barring diseases and infections which cannot be predicted) and not jump into serious practice as many converts tend to do.

Such as should the father in the above example wait till the three kids leave home (or at least two of them do) before beginning serious practice .. of course one might argue that by that time his wife may get cancer .. and he may never find the time ..

But then if we believe in rebirth and Kamma, maybe it was never intended he practices well in this lifetime .. maybe it was intended that he discovers the Dhamma, follows the five precepts and nothing more.

I am not talking of ordination or stream entry. Those are a different kettle of fish altogether and do not fit here.

I am not being rude but just trying to filter out off topic chatter (nothing gets DW members more excited than the word stream entry .. and next thing I know dozens of off topic posts on sotapanna litters this thread)
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Miso
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by Miso » Sat Aug 20, 2016 8:02 am

What could ''serious'' practice mean? other than striving for true freedom?
sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by Thisperson » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:29 pm

We should practice using every opportunity while we still have the chance.

I like this Ajahn Chah quote on the matter. The whole talk is excellent.
These are things which we should contemplate while we still have some vigor, we should practice while we're young. If you want to make merit then hurry up and do so, don't just leave it up to the oldies. Most people just wait until they get old before they will go to a monastery and try to practice Dhamma. Women and men say the same thing... ''Wait till I get old first.'' I don't know why they say that, does an old person have much vigor? Let them try racing with a young person and see what the difference is. Why do they leave it till they get old? Just like they're never going to die. When they get to fifty or sixty years old or more... ''Hey, Grandma! Let's go to the monastery!'' ''You go ahead, my ears aren't so good any more.'' You see what I mean? When her ears were good what was she listening to? ''Beats me!''... just dallying with the berries. Finally when her ears are gone she goes to the temple. It's hopeless. She listens to the sermon but she hasn't got a clue what they're saying. People wait till they're all used up before they'll think of practicing the Dhamma.
http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Why_Are_We_Here_1.php

Ajahn Amaro does a good reading of the talk here too:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQqF5JIM0fk

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by bodom » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:37 pm

“Let not a person revive the past
Or on the future build his hopes;
For the past has been left behind
And the future has not been reached.
Instead with insight let him see
Each presently arisen state;
Let him know that and be sure of it,
Invincibly, unshakably.
Today the effort must be made;
Tomorrow Death may come. who knows?

No bargain with Mortality
Can keep him and his hordes away,
But one who dwells thus ardently,
Relentlessly, by day, by night --
It is he, the Peaceful Sage has said,
Who has had a single excellent night.”
http://www.yellowrobe.com/credits/254-b ... night.html

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Will
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by Will » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:49 pm

No_Mind wrote:Should we not begin serious practice* unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Many of us must have been through this but it has never been asked .. we heard about Buddhism, read it, then plunged headlong into serious practice .. when conditions were not suitable.

Such as a imagine a newly minted Buddhist who is also a father of three .. one kid gets measles, one is reprimanded by teachers for bad results, one has just discovered pot and sex. The father thinks Buddhism is not his cup of tea .. gets annoyed with it (for not being very practical) and ends his practice in a huff (much like me).

Should one wait till the moment is ripe? I do not mean that one should go on earning bad Karma while waiting .. one can follow five precepts and be mindful in general and cultivate kindness and compassion .. but serious practice needs at least three good trouble free years (by that time -- three years -- one hopefully gets to the stage in practice where the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune do not affect us).

What I am trying to say is bit like this .. end of year with Christmas and New Year and all the food and wine that goes with it is not a good time to begin dieting .. there is a time and place for everything. Do convert Buddhists forget that too often?

*Definition of serious practice - exemplary attention to Eight Fold Path, devoting as much time as possible to meditation and reading suttas, and following what is summarised in the posts of this thread Just reorganizing my personal practice list or in short, 37 factors of enlightenment.

:anjali:
'Serious practice' is that practice that is done seriously, at any time. Not joking, even a couple of days on a weekend or a solid hour here and there are good. The six recollections are easy and profound to ponder on.

True, a mendicant has a better setting (theoretically) and should cultivate with greater success than a lay person. If one is able to go on a retreat for a few days, or a month or longer - prepare for it and do it.

Practice also includes building up our good kamma or merit making, not just sitting in meditation and lay folk have plenty of chances to 'do good, & never do evil.' [quoting Dhammapada]
Last edited by Will on Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Aug 20, 2016 1:55 pm

Will wrote: 'Serious practice' is that practice that is done seriously, at any time. Not joking, even a couple of days on a weekend or a solid hour here and there are good. The six recollections are easy and profound to ponder on.
That is good advice to ponder upon.

I think since I am a completely self taught Buddhist, I misunderstand the word practice as something to do instead of something to be.
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by chownah » Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:54 pm

I think it is a mistake to minutely define what a serious practice is supposed to be and then say that one should wait for some time in the future when the stars will all be in alignment and things are just right.

Instead wherever you are and whatever your circumstance do whatever you can to find the truth. As life progresses it may very well be that worldly obligations will deminish and you can do more....but maybe worldly obligations will increase with time and then you will die and go to hell because you waited too long to get started. :jawdrop:
chownah

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:29 pm

chownah wrote:I think it is a mistake to minutely define what a serious practice is supposed to be and then say that one should wait for some time in the future when the stars will all be in alignment and things are just right.
Well there are pages and pages of lists which minutely define what serious practice should consist of. I did not write those pages. I just dug them up. Don't shoot the messenger.
chownah wrote:Instead wherever you are and whatever your circumstance do whatever you can to find the truth. As life progresses it may very well be that worldly obligations will deminish and you can do more....but maybe worldly obligations will increase with time and then you will die and go to hell because you waited too long to get started.
But just how do you do it if you are occupied by worries arising out of the ordinary business of life.

I guess .. just a guess .. fate/fortune/happenstance/accident/kismet has made it so that many people have relatively less worrisome lives (just like some people are more healthy .. no matter how much alcohol they drink or junk food they eat .. they never get indigestion, let alone cirrhosis).

It was a mistake to bring this topic up in a forum and have platitudes shoved down my throat. Since so many replies have been added, it cannot be deleted, or I would have requested moderator to delete it.
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by Thisperson » Sat Aug 20, 2016 5:34 pm

No_Mind, it might give you some inspiration to read the book Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. In it there are many stories of ordinary lay people making great progress. One story which you might relate to is of a woman who was teaching full time and studying for a masters program. She would also take her mother to the monastery every day. She practiced mindfulness diligently and dedicated what free time she had by doing meditation and reached stream entry in a rather short time frame, despite the busy schedule. So it is possible... Just food for thought, good luck with whatever you choose. :smile:

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by davidbrainerd » Sat Aug 20, 2016 9:43 pm

No_Mind wrote:But just how do you do it if you are occupied by worries arising out of the ordinary business of life.

I guess .. just a guess .. fate/fortune/happenstance/accident/kismet has made it so that many people have relatively less worrisome lives (just like some people are more healthy .. no matter how much alcohol they drink or junk food they eat .. they never get indigestion, let alone cirrhosis).

It was a mistake to bring this topic up in a forum and have platitudes shoved down my throat. Since so many replies have been added, it cannot be deleted, or I would have requested moderator to delete it.
What I have to say may be a platitude too. And maybe its also totally off base to base my view on this Buddhist topic on something I once heard a Jewish rabbi say, but I'll give it a shot anyway. He was talking about Jews who love to eat lobster earning more merit I guess with God for following the Torah's command to not eat lobster, and was saying like if you hate the taste of lobster its no great merit to follow the commandment because you hate lobster anyway. So how I would apply this here is: if you can minimize worry in a situation where there is a lot to make you worry, then you are actually practicing at a higher level than the guy who doesn't worry just because he got himself into the perfect worry free position where nothing that could make him worry is around. Just my opinion.

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:11 am

Thisperson wrote:No_Mind, it might give you some inspiration to read the book Dipa Ma: The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master. In it there are many stories of ordinary lay people making great progress. One story which you might relate to is of a woman who was teaching full time and studying for a masters program. She would also take her mother to the monastery every day. She practiced mindfulness diligently and dedicated what free time she had by doing meditation and reached stream entry in a rather short time frame, despite the busy schedule.
I have read excerpts from the book .. quite correct many ordinary people progressed under her ..

I have two points to make -- firstly Dipa Ma was a great teacher who was herself trained by teachers of the highest order .. if only we could study under someone like her.

My question was mostly about self taught Buddhists. Forgot to write that. Will amend the OP.

secondly .. having low income or responsibilities is no impediment to practice .. even a wealthy person's life may be plagued by the innumerable irritations.

Such as .. if the woman you mentioned above, dreaded going out because a neighbourhood guy was pestering her (in the 70s women here had to suffer mutely when such things happened; I am from Dipa Ma's city) and to add to it a neighbour's dog constantly yapped whenever she tried to meditate and to add to it the landlord wanted to evict her family from the apartment they lived in and had stopped water supply (a common thing here at time of Dipa Ma) .. and on and on and on .. new ones every month

I hope you understand what I am trying to say .. none of these issues are huge but taken in aggregate and due to their unpredictability (you never know what will be the next thing to crop up) they sap the will.

Some people have lives filled with irritations while other do not. I had that epiphany after reading the first few answers to this post.
davidbrainerd wrote:So how I would apply this here is: if you can minimize worry in a situation where there is a lot to make you worry, then you are actually practicing at a higher level than the guy who doesn't worry just because he got himself into the perfect worry free position where nothing that could make him worry is around. Just my opinion.
That is not a platitude at all but something I can really try and work on. Good advice.
Last edited by No_Mind on Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:34 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by moggy » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:15 am

DN 22 wrote:"Now, if anyone would develop these four frames of reference (i.e. the Four Foundations of Mindfulness) in this way for seven years, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance — non-return.

"Let alone seven years. If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for six years... five... four... three... two years... one year... seven months... six months... five... four... three... two months... one month... half a month, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance — non-return.

"Let alone half a month. If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance — non-return.
Time spent not practicing Dhamma is just time spent not practicing Dhamma.

In the OP you mention the possibility of getting frustrated and leaving the practice. Is this an actual concern? Perhaps you are holding lofty standards when such standards are in fact a distraction. You can practice a day at a time, etc. What puzzles me is my impression that you actually already understand this.
:redherring:

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Re: Should we not begin serious practice unless we are at the stage in life conducive to commencing it?

Post by No_Mind » Sun Aug 21, 2016 3:29 am

moggy wrote: Time spent not practicing Dhamma is just time spent not practicing Dhamma.

In the OP you mention the possibility of getting frustrated and leaving the practice. Is this an actual concern? Perhaps you are holding lofty standards when such standards are in fact a distraction. You can practice a day at a time, etc. What puzzles me is my impression that you actually already understand this.
Quite correct that lofty standards are a distraction. What I am trying to say is convert Buddhists who have no teacher and have mostly learned with help of books and videos probably do not understand what is expected of them.

Unfortunately many of us have grown up in a post 80s culture where the most oft used word is benchmarking (and industry average). You benchmark your work/accomplishments, your car, your graphics card ... and your life too.

When such a person encounters the Dhamma they try to benchmark their performance there also.

Maybe the best way .. as far as I can understand now .. just follow the Five Precepts when times are tough and meditate fifteen minutes each day .. try and reach higher/do more when life is easier.
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