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.