How to Practice Dharma

Two factors are very important in practicing Dharma, and not understanding them contributes to our developing lung. The first is our motivation, which is the most important thing in life. We usually put so much effort into what we do, but very little into how we do it. Our Dharma practice becomes just another selfish trip, leading us to develop lung. Instead of wanting to be number one in sports or business, we want to become number one in Dharma, but this is not the objective of practice. The objective, in essence, is to benefit others, not to become a "Dharma champion." Our culture doesn't help in this respect, because we have grown up in extremely competitive societies, in which everything is about success and having or becoming more than others. This may be one of the reasons that lung is very common among Western practitioners and much less so among Tibetans. Instead of meditating for hours every day with such self-centred motivation, one should try simply to become a better person, a good-hearted person-someone who cherishes others more than oneself. The key is to try to change the objective of what you are already doing, rather than worrying because you are not meditating as much as you should in order to become the best, or to earn admiration. The eight worldly dharmas are the problem, contaminating our motivation. Slowly, slowly try to change your motivation, without pushing your mind. 


The second factor is to have a relaxed mind.  It is essential not to push or force anything, but just to learn to accept things as they are. Do your prostrations with a relaxed mind, do your meditation with relaxed mind, do your studies with a relaxed mind. Let go and accept whatever comes up through your practice. In fact, realizations could be called "relaxations". Being renounced with regard to this life, as often discussed in the teachings, means being completely relaxed about this life; renouncing samsara means being completely relaxed about samsara; having bodhichitta means being completely relaxed about your own happiness and fully concerned with others' welfare. Of course, this doesn't mean doing nothing at all; it means that Dharma practice is about opening your mind, rather than pushing.  That is why it's very important to do the right amount of practice, according to your level. 


by Ven. Thubten Shakya

(excerpt from Balanced Mind, Balanced Body)