Any so-called ‘truth’ that cannot
be practically experienced
is practically useless.
– Stonepeace | Books
There is a process of reflection… that is helpful in determining the validity of teachings. This tradition speaks of four valid sources of knowledge: the valid scriptures (sutras) of the Buddha, the valid commentaries, the valid teacher, and one’s own valid experience. In terms of the historical evolution of these four factors, one can say that the valid scriptures, those taught by the Buddha, came into being first. Based upon the reading and interpretation of these scriptures, many valid commentaries and treatises evolved, explaining the most profound meaning of the Buddha’s teachings… Then, based upon the study and practice of these valid commentaries, certain practitioners may have mastered or actualized the themes presented in the scriptures and their commentaries, and thereby become valid teachers. Finally, on the basis of the teachings given by such teachers, valid experience or realization grows in the hearts of practitioners.
However, one becomes able to personally verify the validity of these four sources in a different order than that in which the sources historically evolved: in order to develop deep conviction in the validity of the Buddha’s teachings, one first needs a degree of experience of them. Thus, one’s own valid experience becomes the first factor. When we speak of valid experience, there can be ordinary valid experiences and special ones. Although we may not possess extraordinary kinds of spiritual experiences at present, we can all attain ordinary types of spiritual experience. For example, when we reflect deeply upon the teachings on compassion, we can feel some impact in our minds and in our hearts…
Once one has such spiritual experiences, even at an ordinary level, one has a taste of what it feels like to truly have these realizations. Based on that little experience, one can more meaningfully be convinced of the validity of the great spiritual realizations that are talked about in the sutras, in the commentaries, and in the biographies of the masters. This process of beginning with our own experience and using it to verify the teachings and the teachers is important; one could say, in fact, that this is the only way open to us [to progress to enlightenment].
Essence Of The Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama’s Heart Of Wisdom Teachings
Translated & Edited By Geshe Thupten Jinpa