How Do We Return to the Path?

A spiritual path is a challenge to continually become something better than what we were. It’s a commitment to adapt to new conditions. Temptations and toxins encircle us all the time. It wasn’t a coincidence that the first monk who called me a student was a boxer in his youth in Burma. As a monk he’s doing essentially the same thing, but with different opponents.

I lost track of my religious tradition in the past half year. I’ve had bills to pay and jobs to complete. I’ve also been terribly distracted by politics, popular media, and shiny toys. You, dear reader, have probably experienced something similar. About a year ago I was reading the Anguttara Nikaya, studying the history of the Tipitaka, and appreciating the sentiments of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. Nowadays I’m dancing to Usher’s song “Good Kisser” while making scrambled eggs and daydreaming about test-driving a Tesla Roadster. I seem to have drifted somewhat.

There’s no Buddha law that forbids a lay practitioner from listening to sexy beats. The issue is why we’re listening to them, and what message we’re getting from them. The issue is how much we forget of what we’ve learned. The issue is how we’re striving to live ethically in the reality of 2018. Much like the Moon, our commitment to practice waxes and wanes over time. And much like stargazers, a practitioner must observe, calculate, and adapt. We must be prepared for that next journey that immerses us into Buddhism’s rich and comprehensive tradition. We can’t always see the stars we’d appreciate. But they will be up soon. And I’ll be ready.

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