While taking some time off this month and catching up on some reading, and as a tribute to the late great Thich Nhat Hanh, I have been re-enjoying his classic introduction to Buddhism: The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation. I wanted to share one passage in particular:
Please remember that a sutra [a Buddhist text] or a Dharma talk [a Buddhist sermon] is not insight in and of itself. It is a means of presenting insight, using words and concepts. When you use a map to get to Paris, once you have arrived, you can put the map away and enjoy being in Paris. If you spend all your time with your map, if you get caught by the words and notions presented by the Buddha, you’ll miss reality….Sutras are essential guides for our practice, but we must read them carefully and use our own intelligence and the help of a teacher and a Sangha [community] to understand the true meaning and put it into practice. After reading a sutra or any spiritual text, we should feel lighter, not heavier.Pages 17-18
Having been reflecting lately on what matters most in Buddhism (or religion in general I suppose), I realized that if you get caught up on the “trivia” of Buddhism you fall into the trap of just parroting, not learning. This is something I often do without realizing it. It’s probably also why my practice tends to suffer.
My wife, whom I often joke is my “bodhisattva” for her often insightful takes on things, shared some good advice on the importance of here and now too, which has been really thought-provoking for me. I have some changes I am trying out, and hope to share more soon (or maybe just cut my losses before it’s too late), plus some further insights and posts. The “retreat” hasn’t gone according to plan, but then again, it hasn’t been for nothing either. 😉
P.S. Photo of the Arc du Triomphe, taken in 2008-2009. Paris really is a great city.