Beyond only sparing a little time
for Dharma practice,
we should reserve more time
for Dharma practice too.
Although regular (e.g. daily) meditative practices (including chanting, meditation and/or contemplation) at more or less fixed times (e.g. in mornings and/or evenings) and places (e.g. at home or a Buddhist centre) might be occasionally inconvenient, learning to handle such inconveniences is a crucial aspect of diligent spiritual practice. For instance, if you are scheduled to have a group practice session on Friday evenings at a certain temple, you know you are supposed to block out any other clashing activities – even if you are tempted by an enjoyable worldly event, to make your way to the appointed place at the appointed time for an appointed duration instead. This does require some effort.
Learning to overcome each inconvenient situation with the Dharma is the practice of self-discipline. This is important as our dying moments might manifest at very inconvenient places and times. In learning to conquer more minor inconveniences, we prepare for possibly more major ones, especially those involving painful sickness with impending death. Whether it will be more difficult or easy to muster our spirituality during our dying moments to let go of this samsaric life gracefully with a clear sense of direction depends partly on how used to inconveniences and disciplined we are during everyday practices. When facing this great matter of literal life and death, it is the ultimate test of our lives.
It is a common yet spiritually dangerous illusion that one has mastery of practice, while not practising regularly, believing and even claiming that one can simply practise anywhere at any time (which is probably seldom and only when in a generally carefree mood). Even if this is true while alive and well, one is only habitually practising as and when preferred – usually when not facing any inconveniences; choosing the most convenient occasions instead, when there are few or no ailments of the body or trouble in mind. Not learning to make peace with distracting inconveniences in worse times, death might not be adequately prepared for.
That said, the value of convenient practice is not to be discounted, as familiar and comfortable conditions do help nurture progress of practice to some extent. However, regular practice should still be added to irregular (‘random’) practice, since there are possible side-effects of having initially ‘inconvenient’ regular practice sessions eventually becoming convenient routines taken for granted, or even subtly attached to. In such cases, irregular practice at less familiar times and places becomes inconvenient instead! Both regular and irregular practices are thus equally important.
Due to lack of regular Dharma practice,
we are stuck in Samsara regularly.
Due to lack of irregular Dharma practice,
we are stuck in Samsara irregularly.