It is easier to do the right thing when we know what the right thing to do is. We can’t rely on instinct to find the Way. We need guidance.
But once we’re shown the path and begin to climb it, we find that with each step up we grow in wisdom and fortitude. Looking down we see how many of our old desires have fallen dead on the wayside. They look so feeble lying there that we wonder why we ever thought we lacked the courage to resist them.
The Mountain of Wisdom is different from other mountains. The higher we climb the stronger we grow.
There’s some debate in modern Buddhism over whether you need a teacher and also how close your relationship to your teacher needs to be. I’m not going to enter that discussion here, except to say that there are some who say you should give your whole life to your teacher and that kind of devotion makes me uneasy. I’d rather have a spiritual friend than a guru.
Anyway, leaving all that aside…
We are lucky to live in the modern world. Buddhist teachings are everywhere. There was a time when people had to travel great treacherous distances to find any teachings at all. Now you can search on the internet or in your local library and find something to study.
The point is that Buddhism isn’t something to make up as we go along. We shouldn’t and more importantly, we don’t have to. With the mass availability of sutras, lectures, commentaries, etc…we are standing on the shoulders of all the Buddhist teachers throughout history. We have more guidance today than anyone ever has.
And, the truth is, that the path does get easier as we go along. It reminds me of that old saying, “The first million dollars is the hardest”. The first glimpse at transcendence, at your true nature, at a moment of just being here…is the hardest. And once we start putting down our baggage and stepping out of our delusion, it just gets easier to see other things we can put down.There will be things that are hard to let go of, things that will be hard no matter what we do, but we start to gain clarity, we can see what our strongest delusions are. There is freedom just in seeing them. The first step is knowing you have a problem.
As long as we’re continuing to practice…it’s getting better all the time.
Daniel Scharpenburg is a meditation instructor and dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.