Monday, June 11, 2012

Three Doors

awareness of impermanence
heart of compassion
foundation of faith

Inspiration, like any sensation or feeling, comes and goes. The essence of practice is to practice every day whether you feel inspired or not. Motivation is different than inspiration; motivation depends on connecting with your own experience, directly and personally. Much of practice is just that connecting and reconnecting, taking the practice to heart.

Buddhism is a huge collection of various practices. The different methods can be helpful in focusing energy and leverage, but in general practice should be as simple as possible, so that the methods and structures don't get in the way.

Likewise, study can be helpful, but reflection and practice are more important. The big picture according to the Shangpa tradition is that there are three doors to freedom: insight, compassion, and faith.

Insight is seeing how things are. Perhaps the two most fundamental insights are that things are impermanent and interdependent. Everything is impermanent, constantly changing. Everything is interdependent: nothing exists by itself, separate from causes and conditions. So practice recognizing the never-ending flow of experience and events. And recognize that everything is dependent on causes and conditions. That's challenging, but it can be simple. Practice keeping a continuous thread of attention on the flow of sensations, feelings, and thoughts. Whenever you lose track of the flow, just return to recognizing it.

Compassion means recognizing, appreciating, and caring that struggle and suffering arise for ourself and others. We can't control our experience, but we can bring each instance of struggling to an end, and we can make our intention to live in ways that minimize suffering and tend toward balance and peace. A direct and simple way to practice compassion: whenever struggle and stress arise, recognize it, accept it, and care about it, regardless of anything can be done about it in the moment. Just recognizing and caring is profound and powerful.

Faith is the capacity and willingness to open to whatever arises -- to let be and let go. The capacity to do that is partly a result of insight and compassion. When we see how things are, and we care, then we have some confidence to proceed. And even when we lack confidence, still we long for what is good and true, and draw hope and inspiration from others. Faith can also be cultivated: again and again aspire to be able to open to whatever arises, and practice opening. Trust your inherent, indestructible ability to know, to respond, to let be and let go.

The three doors of insight, compassion, and faith overlap, and each leads to the others. When we see clearly that everything is impermanent, we gain confidence that we can experience and survive whatever arises. As we see how things don't just arise, but are dependent upon causes and conditions, compassion arises for those caught up in cycles of reaction and suffering. As we clarify the causes of suffering, we gain faith in our ability to make choices that make a difference. As we connect with our abilities we see they are naturally available, and we wish that everyone were free of suffering, and genuinely happy.

We will end up entering all three doors, but we tend to have more affinity and access to one or two doors at any particular time in our life or phase of our practice. Keep using the doors that are open to you; your freedom depends on it.

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