Today’s Teaching: To Share Or Not To Share Our Spiritual Practice?
I have really mixed feelings and reactions to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse. I know he is one of the most popular Tibetan Buddhist teachers in the world and particularly loved by western students. I love his Deer Park Institute in Bir and appreciate his creative contributions. Yet, while reading his book, “What Makes You Not A Buddhist” and other essays, I find myself rolling my eyes one minute and silently applauding the next. His tone can often be quite sarcastic (not always in the best way) and patronizing and his lack of subtlety when it comes to exploring emotional intelligence is almost unforgivable. But then he seems to excel at bringing the deepest philosophical priorities within Buddhist philosophy “home” within a striking, single sentence. I read his “Social Media Guidelines for So-Called Vajrayana Students” which has been shared everywhere it seems. You can read it here:
Without even trying, just due to my history, I find I read a lot of Buddhist material and immediately see how it relates and would apply to my own Ashtanga Yoga tradition or the Hindu yoga tradition as a whole. Was something stated in such a way that could aid the yoga community? There were several “guidelines” that Khyentse stated that would be of great benefit but one sentence that really stood out and could be a great support to my fellow yoga practitioners:
“Trying to impress others with your practice is not part of the practice.”
This applies to all genuine dharma or yogic practices, in my humble opinion.
Yes, T. Krishnamacharya had to get young Indian boys out doing Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in public to “impress” the locals enough to develop an interest in genuine yoga practice, and I guess you can explore the subtle differences between that motivation and the one stated above.
In Vajrayana practice to display elements of the tradition to the uninitiated is believed to do more harm than good. In the same way thrusting someone’s leg behind their head in Eka-Pada Sirsasana may not be appropriate for a new student to asana practice with an “uninitiated” body. Such actions would hurt the student and also be a reflection of a lack of insight on the part of the teacher. But, there may be exceptions.
All actions are context dependent and ultimately motivation is more important then the action itself. So really, none of us benefit from blind obedience. We may be doing more harm them good but following a “rule” without using discrimination and examining our motivation. And there may be times to inspire others by displaying a mature practice developed over many years is a non-grasping, self-less, loving action. And there are many times when it is not. In some cases, “hiding” your practice could be a grasping to the ego and detrimental to your practice.
Ultimately, though, we have to place the magnifying lens up to our motivations. We have to examine when communication is fear-based grasping for acceptance, superfluous and not productive versus when it is an act of genuine service, celebration, insight, and communion.
From our face-to-face conversations to Skype, Facebook, YouTube, to the sharing of our teachings and ideas through websites and blogs, we have an opportunity to be thorough in our choices, discriminating, and mindful in our engagements and our words. For this is a reflection of the content of our minds and our hearts. Our choices regarding when and what to communicate is a display of how our practice is working on us.
So ask yourself: How’s it working?