I was browsing a well-known Buddhist website recently, and came across an article that I know I had read before, but was happy to read again. I did not remember the comments underneath it though; one of them came from someone I knew through Zen Center, who seemed to be complaining, as he did to me in the past, that since he could not get his mind around what we were teaching, it must be the fault of the teaching.
There was also this: “As a longtime pseudo-practitioner who has invested (conservatively) $4,500 in thankas, bracelets and books (and not counting my travel time or time off work), I have previously been profoundly disturbed and irritated that no one seems at all concerned about getting to the point or laying out a straightforward and easy to grasp set of dictums and guidelines on this. Is this all for real, or what? I guess those who can, do. After countless hours of work and the aforementioned hard costs, I now have to ask “Do those who can’t, teach?” Thanks, guys–or at least I imagine you’re (sic) guys. Your candid comments are appreciated.”
I would say: why are you trying to grasp something, or imagining there is one thing to be grasped? Do you think reality is something that you can grasp? That you can exchange cash for? Is understanding a commodity?
As these things happen, I was letting this post sit as a draft, and came across a reference to ‘spiritual narcissism’; doing a search on that term brought me to this well-written article.
We cannot buy our way into learning about practice and discovering who we are. We have to do it ourselves, with our whole body and mind, preferably as a life-long practice of uncovering. We are not straightforward and easy to grasp, we are huge balls of interconnected karmic conditioning, and there will be no straightforward and easy to grasp guidelines. It is not within the realms of our thinking minds, much as our minds wish it were.