Author Topic: Footprints on the Journey: Sustained Effort - Khenpo Sodargye  (Read 1162 times)

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Sustained Effort

Spiritual practice is a challenging process that takes time and endurance. Longchen Rabjam says: “Spiritual practice is not a few days’ effort only; it is a long struggle.” By practicing diligently and persistently for a long period, not only we can sharpen our willpower but also accumulate vast merit.

I remember when I was a child, there was a beautiful young aunt called Drala. As a devout Buddhist, she made a pilgrimage to Lhasa with local villagers and pledged to her teacher that every day, she would perform 100 prostrations, read once the Aspiration Prayer to Be Born in the Pure Land of Great Bliss, and recite 10,000 times the Vajrasattva mantra. That was 30 years ago when religions were being destroyed ruthlessly. In that horrific period, one might manage to recite mantras or read sutras silently without getting caught; but prostrations presented a bigger problem. Besides doing it at home, she also tried the accumulation in mountain caves when herding, and would always ask me to stand guard for her. When no one was around, I would always remind her: “It’s time for you to do prostrations!”

Time elapsed quickly; 30 years had slipped by before I met her in my hometown last July. During this period I had gone through stages of schooling and become a monk. For her, the experience of life’s ups and downs had chiseled her face. Reminiscing about the old days, I quickly asked her: “Are you still continuing prostrations and recitations?” She answered: “Certainly. I’ve never stopped. Even if I missed them during my episodes of severe illness, I always managed to make them up after recovery. Now, with more free time on hand, I can recite even more mantras.” I asked, “Then, through all these years, how many prostrations and mantra recitations have you done in total?” She replied, “I have not really kept track of them. I feel practicing alone is good enough and have never cared to count the numbers.”

I made a mental calculation. Conservatively, in the past 30 years, she could have done at least 1,095,000 prostrations, read the Aspiration Prayer to Be Born in the Pure Land of Great Bliss 10,950 times, and recited the Vajrasattva mantra 109,500,000 times. For many people, these figures may seem astronomical. Drala is all but an average practitioner commonly seen among Tibetans, little known, nor extraordinarily diligent. Nonetheless, that she has kept her practice throughout 30 years with the perseverance of “grinding an iron pestle down to a needle” is truly praiseworthy.

These days there are practitioners who can’t wait to flaunt around their completion of one cycle of 500,000 preliminaries, lest someone would miss their accomplishment. Drala, on the other hand, cares not for recognition but only to practice persistently; she is indeed admirable. Checking my own progress, I had made pledges before my master, but I have not practiced authentically; I have been addressed as a spiritual teacher, but I am no better than common people. Shouldn’t I blush with shame?

The ancient saying goes:

One gallop of a noble steed remains one gallop of distance, not 10 gallops.
Ten days of effort of pulling a cart by an inferior horse, on the other hand, would cover 10 days’ distance.
Success comes from doing the task persistently.

Every practitioner should embrace such an enduring spirit. With every ounce of effort put in, there is bound to be an ounce of reward.

12th of February, Year of RenWu


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