On the path of awakening, you need to know your world, so you need to know yourself. For this the Dharma is an unmatched guide. Once on the path, you may decide that this life is an opportunity for you to take charge of your own evolutionary process, and the Dharma is the art for doing this effectively. Taking advantage of such an opportunity requires that you be brave and concentrated and that you first master the basic structure of the path.

Realistic view

Buddha — with the insight of a psychologist and a social scientist —recognized that we act and behave in accord with what we understand to be reality. You are not going to commit hara-kiri if you believe there’s going to be some terrible result in a future life. We have in our minds what we think, as a baseline of reality, is in our self interest, what’s healthy for us. And self-interest is determined by what your situation is. We’re constantly evaluating where we go, what we do — should we go forward or back, is there quicksand in that direction? We’re practical in this sense.

The four contemplations

In this Dharmanet section you can reflect on some basic themes with which to begin your relationship to the path of inner development.

  • the preciousness, magnificence of our human embodiment endowed with liberty and opportunity
  • the immediacy of death
  • the infinity of causality and consequentiality and connectedness to everything
  • the inherently and fundamentally wretched state of being self-centered vs. the universe

It’s in our practical interest to be clear about these four basic themes, and so we think about them, we reflect on them, we remind ourselves about them.