A good friend sent me a picture a few days ago.
It’s a flyer for a meditation program that makes incredible promises, and I mean that in both senses of the word. (I’m not going to quote them here; suffice it to say that they literally claim to bestow god-like status.)
She said she’d “100% read a blog post by you on how this is presented.”
I considered it briefly before deciding against it. I’ll certainly express my thoughts on things like this if asked directly, but creating a ball of negativity and sending it out into the world just didn’t feel right. So I left it aside.
As serendipity would have it, a teacher in the UK took care of it the following day.
In The Dangers of Diluted Buddhism, Lama Jampa Thaye describes exactly this approach to practice that we often see in the West.
You’ve seen it. It’s the one that says “use mindfulness to get that promotion.” Or “follow me, I’ll be your guru and fix everything.” Or “three easy steps to achieve enlightenment before lunch.”
The Buddha himself taught that we each must find our own way, and that blindly believing his teachings without personally testing them showed a total misunderstanding of the teachings themselves. And if that applied to the Buddha, I think we can safely conclude that it applies to all teachers.
Insight meditation is riddled with paradoxes, none more crucial than this: the practice will give you everything, so long as you ask nothing of it.
You might find happiness. You may find peace. And yes, what you learn might even set the conditions for material gain.
None of these are bad. And none of them are the point. They are side effects, artifacts of a gift that has much more to give. They are they pretty presents under the Christmas tree.
The practice is the tree itself.
I can’t promise you anything. I don’t even know what I’ll find under my own tree until it shows up. The practice is about making that discovery. So how can any teacher (or “guru”) possibly know what you’ll find under yours?
What a good teacher can do is show you how to grow your own tree and where to look for those shiny presents (and presence).
Let’s do lunch.