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Spiritual Being Seeks Practice



As we learn more about the practices of the world’s great spiritual traditions, the question becomes, how can we each discover what’s right for us?

This article appeared in the Winter 2000 issue of Spirituality & Health. For a time in the mid-1980s I considered myself a Tibetan Buddhist. I faithfully attended classes at the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, California (founded by the lama Tarthang Tulku). I practiced Buddhist meditations, studied the teachings of the Dharma, and even did prostrations — a traditional exercise in which one raises and lowers oneself 108 times a day while chanting mantras. As far as I can see, I derived nothing but benefit from my years at the Nyingma, and I still have enormous respect both for Tibetan practice and for the rigorous logic of Buddhist doctrine. Yet at a certain point I felt I had to leave. Tibetan Buddhism began to seem to me like a magnificent but alien conceptual structure, and its veneration of the lama as an embodiment of enlightened mind cut against the sense of human equality that has been so deeply embedded in my mentality as an American. So I stopped going to the Nyingma and returned to my studies of the Western esoteric traditions, where my spiritual center has always lain. In t …

Richard Smoley is coauthor, with Jay Kinney, of Hidden Wisdom: A Guide to the Western Inner Traditions (published by Penguin Arkana).

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