Is Practice Necessary?: By Jon Evans
A common issue that often comes up in the minds of aspirants of Truth is, “Of what value is sustained practice? Is it necessary?” As a long-term Buddhist practitioner and someone who has dabbled in Advaita Vedanta, I have come to see practice as an absolute necessity. I find that in my own practice, it has helped me achieve, what is the most poignant answer to the most revealing question that the aspirant can ask his or herself. This simply being, “What is it that I really want in life?” I have found that the answer to this question, if one is completely honest with oneself, directly points to the need to practice.
For instance, if you reply that you are looking to free yourself of all your physical and mental discomforts, then the realization of the unity of all of life will probably not rid you of these on a completely permanent basis. Thus the pointer to the use of a continued practice of some type to continue the endless removal of these discomforts.
If on the other hand your response is “I wish that all beings are at peace. I wish that all beings are harmonious. I wish that all beings are happy,” then you may begin to see that one’s own actions of speech and thought contribute a great deal to the unhappiness and lack of harmony in the lives of those around us. Thus the conclusion we may reach is that we would need to purify our minds and hearts so that we may be more a vehicle of peace and harmony for others. Here is where spiritual practice can, over time, change our closed-off, selfish, me-oriented attitudes and conclusions to more of a considerate, humble and patient attitude.
For me, spiritual practice means going to a Buddhist temple once or twice a week, every week. There, I congregate with my Sangha, the other temple goers. We develop a keen kinship with each other. We develop simple but important skills, such as tolerance, patience and sincerity, just by asking the master questions. These are the skills that are sorely lacking in modern life. In a temple atmosphere everyone displays a reserved, friendly attitude so it virtually guarantees an excellent atmosphere to practice these qualities. What do these qualities have to do with the Truth? Well — if after realization life goes on as before, then even at that time we can use more patience, tolerance and humility. More patience, tolerance and humility brings more happiness whether we reach enlightenment or not.
May all beings achieve peace, happiness and prosperity.