The Dangerous Path

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

A Vampire Armed: How to Keep the Path Dangerous and ExcitingSubmitted by Eric Smith

American culture seems to be obsessed with vampires.  One of the top rated TV shows, True Blood, and one of the top grossing book/ movie franchises, Twilight, both have plots centered on vampires.  Regarding vampire literature and films, there seems to be no end to America’s fascination.  In the last decade we have had Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries, The Chronicles of Vladamir Tod, the Anita Blake series, 30 Days of Night, Underworld, and Blade, just to name a few.  So the question I ask: What is up with this obsession with these dangerous, mythological beings and how can we use these inclinations towards our own spiritual practice?

A common theme in Lama Marut’s teachings is that our spiritual path must be dangerous; it must be like a vampire and have fangs.  Why would Lama Marut stress this over and over?  The main reason is that if your spiritual life is not dangerous and exciting, then it’s going to become mundane, like most of our secular pursuits.  It’s one of the main reasons why I was so hesitant to pursue a spiritual life; my earlier experiences with religion were boring, and routine.

So how do we make our spiritual practice at least as interesting as watching a vampire movie?  One answer is to become like a vampire, and live a secret double life.  On the inside you are spiritual warrior, one who upholds truth, love, compassion, and wisdom, while on the outside you look like an ordinary person.  When you start to seriously practice a religion, you become someone who is extraordinary, someone who is able to endure suffering for the love of others.  You become someone who is humble, and sees others as equal, or even greater than you.  You develop what is known as bodhichitta, which is a hell bent desire on ending your suffering, so that you can become of a greater benefit to others.  This inner bodhichitta outlook will naturally turn you into a rebel, a bodhisattva.  While your friends and family are thinking one way, you are thinking in the exact opposite.  While the average person is shopping, you are meditating or doing yoga.  While your family goes on a cruise, you go on a retreat.  You become a real danger to your self-identity, to the self that identifies with samsara and suffering.  This contrasting polarity will naturally give your practice the edge it needs to maintain your interest in it.

In order to achieve the goals of Buddhism, or any religion, you are going to have to remain committed to the discipline over a long period of time.  This won’t happen if you make the practice tame.  You have to give it fangs, and how this will be accomplished will be personal to you.  But one thing is for sure, you are not going to make it for the long haul unless you find creative ways to make your Dharma practice risky.  I find the easiest way to do this is to create an inner secret “me”, one that is fully fixated on helping others, while not outwardly advertising your intent. This new way of thinking will in fact be sticking a stake in the heart of the “old me”, which will be alarming to both yourself, and to the people around you.  But if you don’t try to scare your sense of self once in awhile, you are not going to generate the danger that is necessary for a lifetime practice.

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