4 Ways of the Wise, continued

3. Depend on the depth and not on the surface

No one intentionally tries to be shallow, but many of us allow haste or lack of confidence in our own judgment to cause us to rely on received ideas, prejudices and clichés. Particularly when it comes to your spiritual life, it is important to investigate any teaching for yourself. There is no call for blind faith in Buddhism. On the contrary, you cannot make progress on the Buddhist path unless you are willing to go beyond popular notions.

In Buddhism, it is particularly important to try to see below the surface. Buddha gave teachings at different levels depending on the aptitude of his audience, whether beginners or advanced practitioners. Yet, even beginning teachings can express profound messages for the highly qualified practitioners who are able to de-code them.

More importantly, you need to be able to think deeply to get any benefit from dharma at all. Let me explain.

If you have a problem, you should seek a solution appropriate to the problem. If your problem is simple, you can find a quick, easy solution. But if your problem is complex, you will need a powerful remedy. And if your problem is the most profound problem that humans or living beings can experience—the problem of suffering and existence—then you will need a deep solution, the most profound remedy available.

If you have no ignorance, then you don’t need to deal with ignorance. Buddhadharma gives us the directions to get to enlightenment. To draw the quality of enlightenment out of the stuff of our everyday ignorance, dharma has to be applied to every aspect of that ignorance itself. In this way, the solution will come directly out of our problems. A famous Buddhist text by the ancient Indian philosopher Vasubandhu, the Abhidharmakosha (“The Treasury of Manifest Dharma”), says that if you practice using remedies for small problems, then eventually you will chip away at your biggest problem, ignorance itself.

Thus, the strongest confusion can be cured by the simplest meditation. For example, you can decrease sexual desire by meditating on dead bodies. Yet, the most subtle confusion can only be solved by the most profound wisdom. Thus, it requires the profound Diamond Samadhi, the final level of meditative absorption before enlightenment, to end the tiny obscuration that remains at the end of the Buddhist path.

Following this precept means that you yourself should not be satisfied with shallow thinking and that you should encourage others to judge deeply as well.

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