We must have or seek a valid practice. It is all very nice to say, “I am going to save all sentient beings.” But if we don’t create time, or enough time for our meditation practice, that remains on the lips, only on the lips. This rescue of all living beings is often the very thing many Buddhists think is the primary part of spiritual practice but is not possible. That is because they can’t gain enough spiritual depth, valid inner, permissions and clarity in order to be able to access these sentient beings at the meaningful level where they actually can be helped. This is not the individual sentient being; it is all sentient beings in an interior form without regard to their individual present location or situation. We should ask ourselves what is or where is that profound level? Am I able to touch them in a beneficial way? If not, we must find the method to become powerfully deep with a valid practice that lead to that goal.
So, number one, the goal must be valid. Two, the genuine practice must be virtuous. That means we follow a respect system of behavior adjustments such as the vinaya for ordained persons, Bodhichitta vows, lay vows or other morality vows and hold them as dear as great treasures. That way we are not collecting virtue in order to gain power so that we can become famous, rich or have clinging to reputation. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an inspiration of this principle. To his followers he is kindness itself, tireless in working for beings and highly skilled in meditation and teaching. To his enemies, he is a terrible person who lies, cheats and steals. If he had any hopes for clinging to reputation it would be impossible for him to work as carefully as he does. Perhaps that why he laugh so often?
Three, for a valid practice, there must be a reliance or confidence in the path, or we doubt everything that we hear. We must have some form of reliance or faith in what we are doing in order to do it. There is a cynical and harsh but popular philosophy in the West that delights to doubt everything except the cynical view. A great number of people are damaged by cynicism and become crusty, hard and difficult to contact with the authentic dharma, who lose confidence in the path even before beginning.
Four, this valid practice must have a fundamental faith in the basis of reality. Well, that sounds marvelous and important! “It must have as its basis a fundamental faith in the basis of reality”. However, this is not going so far as saying actual knowledge or experience of the basis of reality, but strong healthy suspicions that the basis of reality is connected to our spiritual path. Then we are actually looking for it. Perhaps it is that kind of a faith. “There is a basis of reality that my practice is directed to,” as a fundamental, foundational aspect of our spiritual practice.
In order to have that fundamental faith in the basis of reality, it requires some level of confidence in the value of the process connected to the value of the goal. We behave and direct a steady stream of motivation toward the mindset that it is worth it. That becoming enlightened is a good thing.
To have confidence in the value of the process means “I am happy to do my daily practice because I know that I have been given a set of instructions, and this is going to be the way that I will actually attain enlightenment, freedom, and the knowledge of the basis of reality.” That’s very powerful.
A valid practice has value beyond the elements in this short discussion. It arouses discriminations that we continue to make when we see appreciate something of value. What kinds of further discriminations could you make about yourself, your environment and attitudes regarding the value of a valid spiritual practice?
Edited excerpt from Grasping - the Sharp Thorn of Attachment 8- 2001