What exactly is a pilgrimage?
Within Buddhism, a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey, usually to a spiritually significant destination. Here, the travel itself is seen as most significant, rather than the arrival at one’s destination. During a pilgrimage, practitioners, while focusing on the Buddha’s teachings and tenets, travel mindfully with the aim of reducing worldly attachment. The goal of the practice is to gain insight and understanding into oneself and one’s life while at the same time generating and accumulating virtuous merit. Pilgrimages can be used to mark a significant point or change in one’s life, e.g., the loss of a loved one, the birth of the “new you”, or to find clarity and answers against uncertainty in one’s life. A common practice when undertaking a pilgrimage is to choose something to renounce. This could be any unwholesome or problematic habit, behavior, view, attitude, or intention. Conversely, one may also set out to attain something on their pilgrimage, possibly the adoption of wholesome or beneficial habits and behaviors; or to habituate new views, attitudes, or intentions.
The way a pilgrimage works
While on pilgrimage, one’s daily concerns and responsibilities are suspended, while at the same time, the travel and changing environment wards off boredom and complacency. Here, one gets the space and time to view their life from a different vantage point, away from the constraining walls of one’s home and the criticism and influence of one’s community. However, the true validity of a pilgrimage (including any benefits gained) lies in the fervor and fidelity that the practitioner brings to it. For a true pilgrimage is not an external journey but an internal one. With that said, my pilgrimage, because of the unique situation I’m in, is different. For the first time in ten years, I’m leaving the safety of my monastery without plans of returning or a clear destination or fixed end in mind. In Buddhist traditions, this type of practice is referred to as being a wandering monk.
Pilgrimage vs. wandering monastic
Where pilgrimages are usually focused more on oneself, one’s practice, and one’s accumulation of insight and merit; a wandering monastic’s intentions are directed outward towards others, focused on how best they can benefit those they meet. Usually, this takes the form of teaching, or performing requested ceremonies, but can also include volunteering with charities and working with local communities. On a deeper level, the practice of a wandering monastic is aimed at uprooting one’s self-cherishing by losing oneself in the benefiting and cherishing of others, through which one may awaken from ignorance and self-delusion.
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Debate Text-1 / Foundations of Debate
Collected Topics (for English speakers)
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Asserting Object Possessors
Mind and Mental Factors
Hearer’s Grounds and Paths
Solitary Realizer’s Grounds and Paths
Bodhisattva’s Grounds and Paths
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The Buddhist path begins with the development of a disciplined mind. This includes gaining control over views, intentions, emotions, thoughts, choices, speech, and actions. No progress begins and no attainments are gained without mental/emotional discipline. The cultivation of mental discipline, which leads to all positive mental states, is the true path, and to be deeply rooted in the stability of that discipline, the true goal.
Mental discipline equals happiness. This is a truth that is often counterintuitive and hard for some to accept. Many associate mental discipline with repression or denial of joy, spontaneity, fun, or just being silly. However, rightly understood, mental discipline is about clarity and not merely constraint. It’s about knowing and holding rationally accepted boundaries of both our internal and external environments. It’s about being skillful in adapting and cultivating behaviors that bring us closer to our goals (happiness). Conversely, the lack of mental discipline is like living in a clouded reality where we lazily are oblivious to the importance of our choices and actions. This is a numb, careless, and often childish state of mind where we simply coast through life being carried about by our impulses and desires. A delusional state, similar to being drugged, in which we remain detached from reality and our true potential.
All things are mind. Our reality, both internal and external, is an interpretation created by our minds. Even our physical world, although empirically real, is known merely through sense information delivered to and interpreted by the mind. Meaning, the mind is the most significant aspect of our lives. Therefore, the development of the mind and cultivation of mental discipline is clearly the most important work at hand.
The cultivation of mental discipline is the cultivation of free will. It is to develop a stable free will that is not under the control of one’s desires, emotions, fears, hormones, animal nature, ego, or the will/actions of others. To cultivate a stable and mature mind that is not vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation, deception, or maltreatment by others or by oneself.
How to cultivate mental discipline. Practices of mindfulness, meditation, contemplation, noting/labeling, and/or holding vows are powerful tools for developing mental discipline.
Ode to Mental Discipline
An important daily aspiration
I will no longer allow my emotions to dictate my state of mind.
I will no longer allow my desires and impulses to covertly shape my life.
I will no longer allow my habits to blindly direct my life’s course.
I will no longer allow my fears to rob me of opportunity and happiness.
I will no longer allow others to manipulate my emotions and self-worth.
I will be strong, energetic, and confident.
I will cultivate clarity and remain truthful with myself.
I will develop diligence and an unwavering resolve for improvement.
I will make conscious mature choices, and hold myself to those choices.
I will become wholly responsible and in full control of my life from this day forward.
~ Venerable Tenzin Tharpa
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