I sometimes pick up one of my dharma texts and allow the book to open at random. Today, I picked up Patrul Rinpoche’s Words of My Perfect Teacher, and it fell open at this marvelous passage:
“When Khu, Ngok and Drom once asked him what were the best of all the elements of the path, Atisa replied:
The best scholar is one who has realized the meaning of the
absence of any true existence.
The best monk is one who has tamed his own mind.
The best quality is a great desire to benefit others.
The best instruction is always to watch the mind.
The best remedy is to know that nothing has any inherent reality.
The best way of life is one that does not fit with worldly ways.
The best accomplishment is a steady lessening of negative emotions.
The best sign of practice is a steady decrease of desires.
The best generosity is non-attachment.
The best discipline is to pacify the mind.
The best patience is to keep a humble position.
The best diligence is to give up activities.
The best concentration is not to alter the mind.
The best wisdom is not to take anything at all as truly existing.”
Steady practice helps with these elements of the path. When we practice the Ngondro daily, accumulating 100,000 repetitions of each mantra, slowly, slowly, and ever so steadily, changes are made within us, training and taming our heart-minds. What we do repeatedly, what we think frequently, are patterns we create in our bodies and minds. These patterns create the very essence of our being, right down to the cellular level of our bodies, and into our deepest consciousness. It is much like when we learn a new skill, say, riding a bike. At first we are very clumsy and have to concentrate constantly as we wobble down the street, tipping wildly to the right, then overbalancing to the left, sometimes crashing into a tree or running into the curb as we careen out of control. Yet, as we keep practicing, and practicing, it slowly becomes easier, and very natural. Soon, we wonder why we ever had any difficulties at all as we pedal assuredly down the street.
In this way, by daily practice, meditation becomes natural to us. Gradually, we are able to meditate even when we are not ‘meditating’, and slowly, and without fanfare, our practice permeates everything we do.