journal

20190222: The Spiritual Path

The Buddhist tradition starts with the historical Buddha: he had a beautiful life, but he saw that it was utterly pointless. He was willing to give it all up and endure tremendous hardship to find out what was on the other side. That example of dedication and bravery is what this path is founded on. And so if we approach dharma on the basis of what is comfortable for us—what we like, what we don’t like, what fits into our lives conveniently without having to give anything up—that may be some kind of path, but I’m not sure it reflects the example of the Buddha’s own life. I also wonder if it will bear fruit.

Helen Tworkov, The Great Experiment: Interview with Tim Olmsted.

We need to give up something. We can’t have it all. We can’t try to layer wisdom on top of confusion. The spiritual path is about what we give up, not what we get. We seem to always want to get something—spiritual insights or experiences—as a kind of commodity. We sign up for a retreat and expect that we’ll have this or that wonderful experience or this or that special teaching. But don’t these wisdom traditions teach us that, in essence, there’s nothing to get? We need to give up what obscures the abiding wisdom and the abiding reality—the wisdom and reality that is already here.

Helen Tworkov, The Great Experiment: Interview with Tim Olmsted.