Question: About seaching inside oneself for peace versus seeking it outside, it there any tension between? Would, say, going to another country to attend a retreat be considered seeking it outside? Is going towards the worldly outside more for short-term material happiness, while going to holy places or retreats for creating merits (for purification) for long-term spiritual happiness?
Answer: Even if we do not leave the country we are, or even stay at home all day to learn and practise the Dharma by ourselves, we stil need, to some extent, to seek the Dharma outside… as even reading requires a book outside, before learning to internalise the learnt for reflection and realisation. In this way, we alternate between the outside and inside… until there is no more need to look outside.
In the beginning, there is naturally more looking outside for the Dharma, such as at Dharma centres and books, but in time, there should be less and less alternating in and out, as one should have learnt enough of the Dharma for reflection already. On what precious Dharma we lack in learning, there should be continual learning, even if there is some physical inconvenience. Excellent external venues and teachers are important for inspiring Dharma practice too.
The most skilful venue, as recommended by all Buddhas (as stated in the Amitabha Sutra) is the Pure Land of Amituofo – which does lead to long-term happiness due to the efficient purification process there too. Even seeking holy places and retreats in this world does not guarantee long-term happiness due to the possibility of backsliding due to distractions. This is why we aspire to reach Pure Land, where this problem does not exist, as there is only the most spiritually conducive external environment for internal spiritual progress.
My opinions of seeking peace and happiness need to come from the inside,reflection on ourselves and practice morality, concentration and wisdom.
Does this mean you never learn from an outer source, not even the Buddha’s sutras in proper classes?
The article suggests a balance, which is very important.
My personal views 80 to 90% we should change from our inside and the rest from outside.
Same as we should change ourselves before we try to change others.
Change is of course always from within. The outside is of course only for conditioning change – but the outside is very important in conditioning, which is why we go to schools, Pure Lands… to better learn.
If the outside is of only 10 to 20% important, 80 to 90% of us should easily be enlightened by now.
Balance need not mean 50-50, but the environment (with learning facilities) definitely plays more than 50% of the role.
We just need to think of the worst-case scenario of the hells to know how hard it is to practise the Dharma in a harsh environment.
We can share the Dharma with compassion as we learn, but we must keep learning to ensure our sharing improves.