June 6 : Taking our Medicine: The Dharma

We have our altar, we have our Dharma books, and we have notebooks full of notes, but we never read any of them. We never sit down on the cushion. We have all the medicines, but we do not take them, so we do not get well. We fill the prescription and get the medicine, but we do not take it. We put it there right on our nightstands, because we think, “Those pills look so pretty but they probably don’t taste good. I’ll just look at them, that’ll make me feel better.”

Then enters the nurse, one of your Dharma friends, who says, “You know, you’re looking worse than you did before.” And we go, “Oh no, I’m feeling fine, everything’s great.” Your friend keeps bugging you and says, “Your temper’s worse, and everybody sees that.” Finally, your friend succeeds in convincing you that you need to take the medicine. This kind friend, the Sangha, crushes the medicine, makes it digestible by mixing it in the chocolate cake batter, and then giving us a piece of the chocolate cake at the end for taking our medicine. And we start to get well.

We have got to take the medicine. Otherwise getting well just does not happen. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha can help us, but even if they put the medicine in our mouths, we still have to swallow it. Nobody can swallow it for us. This is where personal responsibility comes in. We are in a predicament, others can help us, but we have the responsibility to do our part. Otherwise, when death comes, although we have a beautiful altar, tons of Dharma books and e-books, and even more notebooks filled with notes, we have been miserable our whole lives, because we have not read or practised any of the teachings. We just look at our altar and we go, “Look at my beautiful altar. That’s a picture of me with the guru. Don’t we look good together? He not only signed the photo but he dedicated it to me so it has my name on it.”

But when we are lying in our death bed, what good does that photo do for us? Zero. What really helps us at the time of death is our individual practice. Death is the real test of our practice. Since we cannot escape death, we had better practise.

“365 Gems of Wisdom” e-book is out now!