Posted inDogen, Henry's Messages

Dharma Adaptation

December 15, 2014

We are very attached to our selves and their desires and loves and fears.


Yes, we have to find ways for Dharma practice to adapt to western culture… But the far greater project is our own adapting to the Dharma. Otherwise, why bother?

Some fruits of meditation are easier to accept than others. Who wouldn’t want to be more present, appreciative or kind, for example? But actually, being present is not always so easy. At times it may mean facing emotions, relationships, horrors and injustices, as well as habitual behaviors and compulsive patterns that we would much prefer not to face, and not see for real; that we would rather check out from our experience of.

To expect the equanimity and kindness to come without a shift in our worldview—well, why would that happen? The way we see things is the problem.

Surely there are no free lunches…

Surely we have to give up some of our cherished point of view if we hope to see and act differently…

The Dharma asks that of us.

And what about waking from the dream of self? That’s not so desirable on the face of it, either. As St. Augustine famously said: “Lord, make me chaste; just not yet.” We are very attached to our selves and their desires and loves and fears.

So we have to be quite watchful that our dharma practice doesn’t get adapted to suit the self. It really has to be the other way around. True practice is the dropping away of self: “To study the Way is to study the self; to study the self is to forget the self,” as master Dogen said.


By Henry Shukman, from our newsletter archives.

Image: Ivy, by Nikiko, CC0 at

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