Thousands upon thousands of practices are presented within the context of Buddhism. Aside from the practices intended while sitting cross-legged in meditation, there are specific practices for eating, sleeping, and manifold situations, each with individual actions. But Sechibuwa
points out that those of us who have entered the door of this dharma
can practice the essence of all those yogas, or spiritual practices, by means of the Mind Training. This training, which essentially is the cultivation of the two bodhicittas, can transform any other type of activity, particularly for those of us leading very active lives where the demands of the practice may struggle against the demands that life circumstances make on our time. This tension between the longing for more time for spiritual practice, and the needs of family, job, and bills to pay, is not necessarily a negative thing. What we do with it is the critical point.
One possible response is to conclude that spiritual growth is the very core of the meaning of human existence and everything else takes a back seat to it. In this case we forget the struggle and devote our life to spiritual practice, even at the sacrifice of things that would otherwise lie within grasp, such as wealth, fame, reputation, and luxury. Another response assumes spiritual practice to be impractically difficult and unrealistic, in which case we leave it to others, or maybe for later when we have more time, perhaps after retirement. We focus on more important things like making money to pay the bills, and the spiritual practice is pushed into the background, at zero magnitude or just minimum maintenance.
Consider a third possible response. As adults living in contemporary society with obligations to others such as our children, we recognize that it would be irresponsible to walk out, regardless of how much we are drawn to the spiritual life. It is simply not appropriate. Remember the Buddha's life in this context. If you are confident that you will attain enlightenment within a short period as the Buddha did, then I would recommend that you walk out today. The Buddha was able to return with such blessings for his family that the grief they felt on his leaving was outshone, as the stars are outshone by the sun when it rises in the morning. If you have that confidence, then even the needs of a family must be abandoned.
But unless you have that confidence, their demands on your time are legitimate. So, recognizing that we have certain obligations, and recognizing at the same time that spiritual practice is the core of a meaningful life, what do we do? There really is an answer. It is not easy, but it is tremendously fruitful, and it keeps on opening and opening further: transform those actions that are already obligations by applying dharma to them.
Take eating, for instance. We have to do it two or three times a day, but we don't have to wolf down the food. There is no one who cannot sit and pause first for thirty seconds. Even fast-food is worth the thirty seconds it takes to recognize the immense number of beings who have provided us with this food. Pausing like this ties us into the community of life, at least on planet earth, as we recognize that we are indebted to others. We have received, and as we take the food, let us do it with the aspiration, "May this be returned. May I use my abilities to the fullest to serve those who have served me." And that includes everyone, directly or indirectly. The service may occur on a very mundane level, but insofar as we mature spiritually, our responsibility increases according to our abilities. Not because someone tells us, "Now you have to do this," but simply as we gain insight into the nature and sources of suffering and of contentment, then we have something all the more valuab
Excerpted from: The Seven-Point Mind Training(first published as A Passage from Solitude : Training the Mind in a Life Embracing the World), by B. Alan Wallace. Copyright 1992 by Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, New York 14851.
This site provides an on-line database of commentaries on the Tibetan Buddhist meditation practices of lojong (Mind Training) and tonglen.