Taking the Long View

Path of Action: Day 33

Dedicating our energy to work that will produce lasting knowledge and benefits is a powerful and rewarding Dharma practice. Still, we should not expect it to produce results quickly.

Westerners, and especially Americans, have been conditioned to expected immediate results from their efforts. They want enlightenment to be tangible, something they can hold in the palm of their hand here and now.

Many books in the spiritual supermarket cater to this demand. In the process, they may deal loosely with profound concepts such as shunyata, or speak in simple ways of what it means to attain enlightenment. But feeding this kind of hunger may not help that much in unfolding the spiritual path.

If we are serious about our practice, if we want real results and are not willing to settle for imitations, we must be ready to pursue our goal seriously as well. This means deciding to keep making efforts for as long as it takes.

Taking a two-week retreat can have nourishing effects, but if we don’t take the long view and commit ourselves to daily practice, the long-term impact of short-term insights may be limited. Again, sitting in meditation 30 minutes or an hour a day may at times offer real illumination, but it can also stir up expectations that are not easily fulfilled when we find ourselves caught up in daily life.

If you do not understand this, you may give up on your practice when difficulties arise. But when you think about giving up, about turning your energy elsewhere, you need to reflect on the full value of the opportunity you have been given.

If the Buddha was right, coming in contact with the Dharma means gaining access to the highest truth. If you lose that chance, it may not come again for a long time.

Taking work as our path encourages us to be patient in our approach. We should be ready to make sustained efforts in every part of our lives over an extended period of time. This may not sound like good news, but it is far better to be clear at the outset than to grow discouraged later.


Path of Action, by Tarthang Tulku is an unpublished work. Please do not copy, remix or republish this post or any others in this series without express permission from Mandala Training.