Changing Horses Midstream

A bit of general advice heard again and again from former Buddhist teachers regarding moving to another lineage or practicing in more than one lineage:

” Don’t change ! You’ll never make any progress that way ! ”

” It’s like digging a hole in the sand at the beach, then after only a foot deep you dig another one, then another…they never get any depth !”

” If you (even) read books from other lineages, you’ll get ‘confused'”. [ No, I did not make this one up. A “teacher” actually said this, repeated it, in front of many people. ]

Am thankful beyond measure that I ignored the misguided advice and sincerely followed
whatever had to happen next on the pathless path. (although not before embracing the tradition I practiced whole-heartedly and exploring whatever it had to offer)

This approach did not lead to shallowness.

It lead to freedom.

Eventually switched lineages numerous times,
practiced in more than one lineage simultaneously,
sometimes faced contradictions, and survived to tell the tale.

Regardless, sometimes practice, or even just plain living, requires a struggle with contradictions. Clear seeing, simple honesty and natural intelligence have (eventually) measured up to the task, every time.

The contradictions between lineages usually involved points of emphasis, style or description.

Rarely a substantial difference arose. When it did, it provided an opportunity to delve into the finer points of the various presentations.

The memes may have clashed, but practice never lacked.

At the time it seemed that the admonitions to “stay the course” came from
motives which served an organization at the expense of the spiritual maturation of its members. Naturally, what organization wants to lose any of its donations/audience/volunteer labor force ?

Perhaps those teachers had only practiced in one lineage and did not understand the value of breadth of experience.

And then this: Is switching lineages a strategy for avoiding an unpleasant truth that has come up in practice ?

If so, then Buddhism serves as a mere spiritual pastime,
and when uncomfortable truths re-appear,
so will another flight born of avoidance.

Acceptance and courage exceed the value of any set of style memes, Buddhist or otherwise.

In this one’s story, Truth was the impeller for moving forward, as well as fuel for the engine of practice.

Unpleasantness, dissatisfactory experiences and the lack of skillful approaches to face them brought me to the Buddha’s dharma; nothing so small as a shift in lineage was going to sway practice, no matter what.

It was about awakening, not tradition.
Even then, when I dared not even say it aloud,
more than anything in the world,
I wanted awakening.

Traditions and lineages exist as a means to that end.
Otherwise, why have them ?


The first photo came from here :

The second photo came from Wikipedia :

The third photo is from here:

A definition for meme can be found here:

About dominic724

A former seeker starts blogging.
This entry was posted in Buddhist Practice and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Changing Horses Midstream

  1. Yahoo. Similar experience.

  2. morebento says:

    I’m just going through the same thing myself and your post has come at a good time. We in the West have access to Theravada, Pure Land, Zen, Vajrayana (various traditions), Mahayana and so on. For a while I have swapped from tradition to tradition a bit like Goldilocks, then given up on any practice, then swapped back again. But like you say they are all there as a means to an end, and we need to choose the “Pathless Path”

  3. Shane Wilson says:

    Excellent Dominic!….Now, who would have said “Do not read books from other traditions, it will only confuse you”. 🙂

  4. Pingback: the pathless path vajrayana buddhism » February 20, 2013 » source of pdf files

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