What is the point of dharma practice?


by Pablo Das

This Thursday night in Los Angeles, I begin teaching a 4 week class series called “Living the Four Noble Truths” which is really a course about a style of engagement with the world. As you may or may not know, the fourth of the 4 truths is about cultivation of a way of living. Central to this path is the idea of karma. One simple way of talking about Karma is to say that what we do brings results. By “do” I mean thinking, speaking and acting. There’s a rather simple equation at the heart of the concept of karma which is this: Intention (motivation) + action = results.  This I believe is why we see that 4 of the “8 folds” of the path are concerned with intention and conduct. What I’ve learned through dharma study and practice, is that what precedes our speech and action is more important than the conduct itself. It’s very clear that when we speak and act with an intention to be kind and compassionate, that we get a different result than when we speak or act just from anger or frustration. I’m not one to pathologize anger. Anger is fine. It’s even useful sometimes. But we can be angry and still try to respond to a situation in a way that doesn’t cause more harm, that makes space for more insight and creates or restores interpersonal harmony. How do we do that? That’s what the other three truths are all about.


The first truth asks us to wake up to the fact that life will always be some balance of pleasant and unpleasant conditions. The second truth tells us that we are wired to react to pleasant and unpleasant experience in rather predictable ways. We want to get rid of pain and maintain pleasure. The third truth reminds us that if we have an objective relationship with reactivity, we can experience it’s impermanent nature which opens the possibility of a totally different way of responding. This brings us back to the cultivation of the 8 fold way of living. This way of living is organized around very practical matters. Speaking, acting and particpating in the marketplace in a way that embodies kindness and compassion. This for me, is the point of practice.


I hope you’ll consider joining me Thursday night for this series.