INTEGRATION OF THE DHARMA INTO EVERYDAY LIFE
Picture this: A girl practising Metta (Loving-Kindness) meditation at home during her daily practice session is disrupted by her small brother's tugging, begging her to play with him. The girl screams, "Leave me alone! I'm practising Loving-Kindness!" Her shocked brother replies, "How can that be? You are angry at me now!" The girl is stunned.
What is the Moral of the Story?
Some fellow Buddhist friends do not integrate their Dharma practice enough into their everyday lives. Solid lines are unconsciously drawn to separate practice (meditation/chanting/studying Dharma...) sessions from the rest of the day - Practice | Rest of the Day. Because of the clear cut differentiation, practice sessions often end in themselves and the results of the practice, such as increased Mindfulness or Loving-Kindness, do not readily overflow into the rest of the day. Here's another example of a "dharmically" disconnected Buddhist- A busy executive rushes unmindfully after work to practice mindfulness meditation at a Dharma centre for half an hour, only to rush off again, just as unmindfully, to fulfill other appointments. We have to see that practice sessions ARE for none other than benefitting the rest of the day. We should make continual mindful efforts to let the positive effects of regular practice sessions seep into the rest of the day, permeating it thoroughly, genuinely transforming it for the better. The bulk of time for practice IS beyond and far more than that of regular practice sessions. The rest of the day IS the real test of whether your regular practice had been done correctly. In fact, every moment is a new test. There is no mock test or rehearsal for life. Every single thought, word and deed results in the creation of fresh new karma, for better or worse, whether you like it or not.
Regular practice sessions are likened to deep studying and/or revision of the Dharma while the rest of the day is when you are continually tested- by how well you respond with the Dharma according to the challenges of changing circumstances in everyday life- be it work, play or doing the most mundane task of trying to get onto the busy subway train. Regular practice, such as daily morning and/or evening chanting and/or meditation sessions are nothing more than concentrated or intensified practicing of the Dharma, as compared to the rest of the day, which is just as important ground for Dharma practice. Practice of the Dharma is after all a full-time 24 hour job- whether you are employed or not! Thus there is the saying in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism which says that, "Raising your foot or putting it down, you are still in the Dharma-practicing place." For instance, a good Buddhist does not take "holidays" or "off-days" from observing the precepts even if he goes for a tour in a country without Dharma teachings. So much said, we should draw, instead, a dotted line between practice sessions and the rest of the day - Practice : Rest of the Day. Only so can our practice seep through into all other periods of time. Only when we integrate the Dharma into everyday life can there be accurate assessment of our spiritual well-being. For example, if I had been practising loving-kindness meditation daily for a whole month and still find myself flaring up at my kid brother over a small matter, something must be very wrong with my practice; more so than with my brother! It is then time to look into how well we had been doing our regular practice, and whether it had been integrated well enough into everyday life. Only with proper Dharma integration in everyday life can there be real-time real life feedback to yourself- as to whether you had been practising the Dharma steadily, in the right direction, such that it truly benefits yourself and others.