Line between dharma and real life

10 August 2011 - 2:05am Comments Off

Question:

How do you know when you need to draw a line between Dharma and ‘real life’?

Answer:

W hen we say something is ‘Dharma’, it means actions that bring us closer to seeing the truth of the reality that we are in. Therefore when you draw a distinction between Dharma and ‘real life’, I am going to assume that by ‘real life’ you mean actions which are not Dharma, and therefore can be defined as an existence or actions that do not bring us closer to seeing things as they really are.

As practitioners we should integrate Dharma into all aspects of our lives, because Dharma points to the truth of the reality we are in. When we live life on the basis of truth or reality, our actions and views will accord with that. When we live in tandem with the truth, then suffering or dissatisfaction with our life becomes more manageable. We can even rise above these sufferings, as shown by past great spiritual masters who achieved Enlightenment.

‘Real life’ or an existence that is separate from the Dharma is a worldly existence based on very worldly concepts and ideas. The problem with worldly happiness and concepts is that they last only within the sphere of this life alone. At the time of death, no one can bring their gorgeous houses or spouses with them. Dharma however, transcends worldly happiness because it has the potential to bring happiness to us this current life and in innumerable lifetimes ahead – that is, it has the potential to bring us permanent happiness.

This type of happiness cannot be found in worldly wisdom, or via worldly concepts. Worldly wisdom tells us to always get ahead, even at other people’s expense and no matter the consequences. Does having more things actually make us happy, or is desire like a unquenchable thirst? For example, worldly wisdom tells us we will be happy if we eat the best foods. However, when we satisfy our hunger, we cannot satisfy it permanently so we have to eat again later. What most of us fail to see is that eating is a “reduction of suffering” and suffering in the form of hunger is non-stop.

The truth of the matter is that our very existence is a form of suffering or dissatisfaction. Sit too long and one has to stand; stand too long and one has to sit. Therefore pleasure or happiness in the worldly sense is deceptive because it pretends to be permanent; in the case of eating, it is not happiness from eating but merely a reduction of the pain and discomfort in our stomachs. Dharma, on the other hand, being the truth of reality, ends this suffering permanently.

So what will be? ‘Real life’ with its unending suffering, or Dharma integrated into our lives, with a chance of suffering to end?

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