Yesterday I took a class at Still Point called Understanding the Heart Sutra. The class was great. I will post about it a little later. So many things became clear to me as a result of this class. One of the things I'm starting to look at because of this class is my relationship to Intensive Practice.
Buddhism is full of lists including the Three Jewels, Four Noble Truths, Five Precepts, Six Paramitas, Seven Factors of Awakening, and the Noble Eightfold Path. I pulled out some study materials this morning that I could consult as I reviewed my notes from yesterday's class. In one book, I found another list—the Ten Fetters:
Ordinary, unenlightened people are said to be bound by ten fetters. They are:
- Personality View
- Skeptical Doubt
- Reliance on Ethical Rules and Religious Observances
- Craving for Things of the Senses
- Craving for the World of Archetypal Forms
- Craving for the Formless World
Traditionally, it is believed that the person who is able to break the first three fetters achieves 'Stream Entry' — in other words, enters a stream which is bound to carry him or her to Nibbana. One who can break all ten fetters achieves enlightenment.
[... from Teach Yourself 101 Key Ideas: Buddhism, pg. 28. Names of each fetter are presented but descriptions found in the original text (where present) were excluded.]
The description of the Third Fetter explains that...
Whilst Buddhism certainly encourages ethical awareness and does not dismiss religious ceremonies, it holds that they are of benefit only in terms of the mental state of those who perform them. There is no inherent value in obedience as such, nor should religious rites be taken as a guaranteed method of making spiritual progress.
I take this to mean that it is important to learn how to practice (whatever your practice is) without being attached to specific outcomes and without being attached to the practice itself. I tend to have an "all-or-nothing" perspective about my practice... the way this unfolds for me is either I'm doing everything on the Intensive Practice schedule at the suggested times or I'm not doing it at all. If I miss the morning sitting or the morning bows, I don't practice at all before bed. Thus, my mental state around my practice is very rigid and limiting.