Nelson Buddhist Centre

Advice on How to Listen To or Study the Teachings

Don’t listen or study like a politician, clinging to your point of view or some party line. Who cares if you have studied great teachings in the past? What’s the point of studying the dharma for self-confirmation? As the great Indian teacher Atisha said, “The best spiritual friend is one who attacks your hidden faults. The best instructions are the ones that hit those faults.” 

Don’t listen or study like a movie critic, evaluating the language and style of the teacher rather than listening to the substance of what he or she teaches. You might be able to amuse your friends with some sharp criticism later on, but in the end you will pay a price. 

Don’t listen or study like a consumer, picking and choosing among teachings and teachers the way you would choose detergent in the supermarket. All of the Buddha’s teachings present the truth and are worth studying and understanding. You might not know the value of a particular teaching at the time you hear it, but ten or twenty years from now, it might provide you with a critical piece of the puzzle. 

Don’t listen or study like an orphan, feeling too pathetic to be able to understand what is being taught. The dharma is about you, not some obscure points in calculus, so if you keep working at it, you will definitely understand. 

Don’t listen or study like a “dharma groupie,” so infatuated with the messenger that you never get the message.

Andy Karr - Contemplating Reality. Shambhala.