Suppose someone gave you a treasure map, with a guarantee that if you followed it, you would find a million dollars at the end, and it would be ALL YOURS—no taxes, no fine print, no legal hassles. What would you do? Who wouldn’t drop everything that could possibly be dropped and devote every spare minute to the pursuit of such a fortune?
What hardships would we not put up with—we would head off into the jungle with just a knapsack on our back, hack through thick undergrowth, sleep in trees, eat what we found on the ground, endure scorching heat, soaking rain, poisonous snakes, wild boars and bandits…the prize would be worth it. With a million dollars—ok, these days maybe better make it a billion—we could quit our job, move to Paris or Tahiti, and take all our loved ones with us, to live in luxury and do whatever we please for the rest of our lives.
My guess is, most of us would drop everything for somewhat less than a million dollars.
Yet we Buddhists can be very nonchalant about following the path the Buddha pointed out, which promises so much more than a mere million dollars. Why, he said that our own mind is a wish-fulfilling gem, if we only learn how to use it.
A wish-fulfilling gem!!
The map the Buddha provided is accessible to anyone, and we don’t have to hack through the jungle or fight off wild boars—at least, not external ones. We don’t even have to drop our regular lives to follow it, we can do so in the comfort of our own home, while continuing to do our job, take care of our family and pets, and relax with our favorite hobbies.
What a deal!
To get started, all you have to do is make some time in your life for daily meditation—start with ten minutes a day and see where that leads. Even that much daily practice will convey you along the path; if you can work up to a half hour or an hour, progress will pick up accordingly.
The Quest for The Wish-Fulfilling Gem does require some instruction and support. It’s best to work with a teacher in person, and helpful to find a like-minded group to practice regularly with. Lacking that, you can get a lot from books. Bokar Rinpoche wrote a very helpful introduction to meditation, called Meditation: Advice to Beginners. Teachings by Kalu Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche and Pema Chödron may be found in books and on cd and dvd; and that’s just to mention a few names within the Kagyu Lineage; there are other authentic teachers in this and other traditions. The most important thing is to make a commitment to some daily meditation, however much you can fit into your life, and to follow through every day, no matter what else is going on. (And if you do have to miss a day, pretend you didn’t and keep going.)
Lama Norlha Rinpoche’s teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, one of the pioneer Tibetan Buddhist masters to teach in the West, when students said they couldn’t find time to meditate, used to suggest that they cut out TV. That proved a bit much for most of us, so then he compassionately suggested we just cut our TV time in half—if we usually watch two hours, watch one, and use the other hour for Dharma practice.
Lama Norlha Rinpoche urges us to find an hour a day to practice. He says everyone should be able to find that much time if they really look. In my own life, I’ve found it’s more a matter of reassessing priorities than of truly being so busy I don’t have the time—though certainly there are exceptional situations, and in that case, you just use whatever time you can find on a daily basis, even if it’s only five minutes. (Surely everyone can find five minutes! To pursue the Wish Fulfilling Gem!)
If the prize were a million dollars…would we even hesitate?