Buddhist leader and teacher Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen recently taught at Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s Nalanda West, Center for American Buddhism in Seattle. and he used the popular “Eat, Love, Pray” to make a point about Buddhist practices when he suggested that the Buddhist slogan should be “Pray, Sit Dedicate.” Lama Tenpa is a Buddhist professor at Naropa University in Boulder, Co, and colleague of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche founder of Nalanda West and Nalandabodhi. He began this “Contemporary Dharma” teaching discussing the “8 Worldly Dharmas.” Lama Tenpa’s initial focus was on the trials and triumphs of living life as a spiritual journey and the classic Buddhist scholar Nagarjuna’s teaching on the “Eight Worldly Dharmas.” These are:
Gain & Loss.
Happiness & Pain.
Fame & Disgrace.
Praise & Blame.
All these impermanent conditions are of present in our dualistic reality, and they create obstacles or adverse conditions to traveling on a spiritual path. In other words, being attached to any of them will cause us to suffer. Also, since they are impermanent, our attachments cannot survive.
Yet most of us continue to believe that we can have (be attached to) the one we label as positive. In truth, we cannot have one of a pair without the other, and neither will last very long. As Buckminster Fuller said about such pairs of seeming opposites (tension & compression, love & hate, concave and convex, etc.), they “always and only coexist.” For example, in order to even recognize happiness, one has to have experienced unhappiness or pain. Without its dualistic opposite, the other phenomenon cannot exist in our worldly reality, and we cannot manifest our true nature as radiant, perfect beings born into a dualistic reality so that we can awaken, evolve and grow.
Lama Tenpa also referenced many pop culture icons including the popular book and movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” He was emphasizing the importance of being present in the moment through meditation when he talked about what he described as the Buddhist version of “Eat, Pray, Love.” He suggested the Buddhist version might be
“Pray, Sit, Dedicate.”
This means that first Buddhists pray, but not to a deity outside themselves. Then, they sit in meditation (which has many diverse forms including calm abiding, contemplation, visualization and even sleep and dream meditation). Lastly, they dedicate (focus and possibly send out) the merit (positive energy, blessings) of their prayers and meditation to something or some beings larger than themselves. This dedication also “seals” the prayer and meditation so that the benefits cannot be dissipated.
There is a strong possibility that if each of us were able to follow this simple practice of “pray, sit, dedicate” on a regular basis (with no religious focus as Buddhism is not a religion), we would in fact be like the Buddha (the word translates to “awakened one” and that awakening is available to us all) or perhaps even become a buddha. If nothing else, we would be more content, satisfied with the way things are and genuinely happy.
May we all find such contentment on whatever path we choose to walk. And may teachers such as Acharya Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen and Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche continue to bless us all with their insights and guidance.