Dangers in spiritual practice

From: Guru, Deity, Protector 1b
Full transcript

There’s danger in all forms of spiritual practice. And the dangers come about in two ways. There may be more but for the purposes of our discussion I’m looking at two.
One danger is working at a higher level of attention than you can sustain. This is why many of you recall one of my recommendations is that when you’re working with difficult or painful areas, you let it open to you, you don’t try to open it up. Many of you have heard me say that. The reason for that instruction is so that you aren’t working at a higher level of attention than you can sustain. You are working at the level of attention that you actually have, and things evolve. And they definitely do evolve and they deepen, but in a way in which you stay in balance—you and the whole world stays in balance. It’s very important. If you work at a higher level of attention than you can sustain, you’re living on borrowed energy. There’s an imbalance. And when there’s a consistent imbalance in your efforts, there will inevitably be an imbalance in the results. That is totally contrary to the intention.
Second danger. You’re working at something that simply doesn’t fit with you. And quite a few people who’ve come to see me over the last few years have been practicing one or more Vajrayana techniques, and I listen to them, and in some cases they simply don’t have the level of attention to be able to do it. They’re just swirling around in confusion and it’s not making anything better.
In other cases, it’s quite clear that Vajrayana practice just doesn’t sit with them. And I’ll say, “Just stop it.” They all get bent out of shape and worried about it, because of all of this big heavy propaganda about samaya and commitment and so forth. But it’s absolutely the case. I mean, we get this same thing in other areas of practice. Some people take ordination as a monk or a nun and it really doesn’t fit them. It’s a long, long path of practice.
One woman I know, she was very sensible. She was quite serious about her practice in Buddhism. The bodhisattva vow just didn’t fit with her. Not at the time that I knew her anyway. She wouldn’t take it. She was very helpful and worked with people and helped people in many many ways. But there was something about that that really didn’t suit her.
So, what I’m encouraging you to do here is to weigh everything with your own experience. We are going to be talking about faith. We’re going to be talking about devotion, because these are very significant elements in Vajrayana. You can’t ignore them. You can try to, but it really doesn’t work. Devotion is not something that is appropriate or suitable for everyone.
So through these few days I hope you will get a flavor of what this is actually like. I’m going to do my best to convey that to you, both through our talks together but also through the practice. The form of the practice may be a bit different. It’s experimental, so it may be a total failure. But all through this, I want you to be asking, “Does this work for me or not? Is this a path I want to take or not?” And really weigh that. Because the whole point of our work together—not just this thing, but spiritual practice—is becoming more present, and aware in every aspect of your life. It’s not about getting a credential or being able to say, “I’m practicing the biggest, meanest, sexiest path there is.” That’s not the point.