Path of Transformation

Three Stages of Holistic Dharma Practice


How do we integrate Dharma practice in every element of our lives? Many of us consider practice as what occurs during “official” meditation sessions. Or Dharma practice might mean going on strict retreat. Here, Phakchok Rinpoche reminds us of the three crucial elements that make our practice holistic and beneficial for ourselves and others:

  1. Study, Contemplation and Reflection
  2. Sitting Practice
  3. Behavior toward ourselves and others

We begin by hearing and reading about the Buddha’s teachings. Then we contemplate the meaning and think about how these apply to our own situation. We reflect on our own experiences without judgment but with awareness of our habits. And we understand that Dharma means transformation, so we begin building new and healthier habits.

Formal dharma practice means sitting in meditation sessions and following the instructions we have received from our teachers. This may include prayers and supplications, chanting texts, reciting mantras, performing rituals, and resting in silent meditation. We engage in practice daily in order to build a habit. And we do periods of more intensive practice by going into formal retreats. Phakchok Rinpoche advises us to begin gently with short and not overly intensive retreats. It is best to start with a few days of retreat and then slowly build as our experience and confidence increase.

Thirdly, Dharma practice includes our behavior. We should observe the actions of our body, speech, and mind. How do we treat ourselves? How do we treat our family and friends? We need to think about how we act in our families, our friendships, our communities, and our workplaces.

All these elements are part of Dharma practice. It is important that we learn how to balance all these aspects as we proceed along the path.

Phakchok Rinpoche gave this advice as part of a Zoom teaching to the Vietnamese sangha in April 2023.

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