“We must listen to the teachings and analyze and contemplate them, but this should be followed by meditation. Analysis without meditation is incomplete. Just hearing the teachings is not able to bring about meditative experience. It is very difficult for that to happen. If you really want to achieve some realization of your true condition, then you must meditate. Sometimes it also happens that people throw themselves into meditation without listening to and reflecting on the Dharma, which is just as incomplete. We should study the Dharma by hearing and contemplating the teachings before we engage in meditation practice, because we have to know what meditation is all about before we can practice it properly.
In fact, Arya Maitreya [phags pa byams pa] said that practicing meditation without hearing and contemplating the teachings is a disparagement of the Dharma. If we could achieve realization just through meditation, then why would the Buddha have given so many types of teachings?
On the other hand, if we hear and contemplate on the teachings, but then just constantly talk about them without meditating, then the fact that the Buddha said we must meditate becomes devoid of meaning. At the same time, we must be reasonable because the Buddha’s teachings are so vast. Even what is contained in the Tibetan Tripitaka [sde snod gsum] and the commentaries on the original Indian texts is so vast that one person would not be able to understand all of it. But we do need to have sufficient understanding as the basis of our meditative experience. This will enhance our meditation.
Not only should we study, contemplate, and meditate, we also have to depend on a reliable teacher. A qualified teacher should not focus only on study, nor should he or she fall into the extreme of complete introversion. A reliable teacher must embody a balance of intellect as well as meditative experience.
There is a pun involved in a Tibetan expression about meditation: “Gompa mayin, gompa yin,” which means, “Meditation is not meditation, it’s habit.” At the foundation of all Buddhist practice is the notion that we must have depa [dad pa], which is often translated as “faith,” “confidence,” or “devotion.” Along with this, we must have a tremendous sense of despair [zhen log] or renunciation [nges ’byung], and after embarking on the path we must continue with great effort. In addition, we need three other factors: love, compassion, and wisdom. If we are endowed with these characteristics, then even if we refused to make progress on the path, we would be forced to achieve spiritual realization. …
Question: Should our experience should be a guide to changing our conventional ideas?
Answer: This is true to the extent that when we investigate conventional truth, we see the deceptive nature of the whole thing. Then we have to meditate, because by meditating our conviction will grow. But the way that we investigate and recognize the fallibility of conventional truth should not be based only on the conviction we gain by hearing about the difference between conventional and ultimate truth. After studying the two truths, we have to investigate our experience completely free from any philosophical frame of reference of the two truths.
Our philosophical study of relative and absolute truth is more like a map. First, we have to acquaint ourselves with a certain network of concepts, and eventually we have to embark on our journey and travel toward our original destination. We have to study and contemplate the two truths, and understand how different Buddhist philosophical traditions understand them in different ways. But as far as the relative and absolute truths themselves are concerned, they have nothing to do with philosophy as such. The two truths are not mere philosophical concepts—they are two ways of actually experiencing phenomena. We have to be able to examine the two truths independent of philosophy, and see how much of our study stands up to our own experience.
Ven. Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche
Turning the Wisdom Wheel of the Nine Golden Chariots (pgs 24-30)
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