Three Stages of Sadhana

puja class
August 7, 2007

A little baby shows no special desire for cake or ice cream upon merely seeing these foods. However, it is often the case that, after allowing a young child to taste a dessert for the first time, the child will remember the taste and ever after clamor for more.

In the same way, the transmission of a mantra or other practice by a teacher who has realized its fruit will impart an experience or taste of this fruit.

A student with the capacity to open to the transmission and work with it will be able to recognize the destination and not go astray, chasing after imaginary effects or half-way results. Transmission of the fruit of the practice also awakens the desire to practice and realize. Without transmission, even if the student is full of zeal, the way may be more difficult, leading to distraction and dead ends.

Practice should not be a dry, heartless march through the desert. With the taste of our teacher’s transmission, we recognize the “juice” of the practice and can experience beauty and gratitude even in the most trying moments when our cherished ideas about ourselves and life are being ripped away.

This tasting phase is repeated over and over again, perhaps through repeated transmission by the teacher, and definitely through consistent practice. We relax habitual tension and discover an understanding of the fruit of the practice. This fruit is not yet our everyday experience, but we can definitely recognize it.

Once we are able to recognize, without doubt, something tangible and incontrovertible about the natural state, we enter into the stage of stabilization. The tastes of naturalness gained through practice become more frequent. We can stabilize this experience for longer periods of time without becoming distracted by our attachments, fears and so on. It can take many months, or even years in some cases, to truly stabilize each new level of experience and embodiment.

As our practice stabilizes, we more strongly manifest the fruits of our seated practice in our everyday life. We are able to relax into the natural state while we are out and about, and even in more stressful situations that would have, in the past, caused our compulsive reactions to flare.

If we are in a direct realization tradition, all along our teacher has been encouraging us to develop what is called a “seamless practice.” We have been ritualizing our entire day, and even our dreams.

I was very fortunate. My first decade of engagement in the tradition was entirely composed of integrating what my teachers taught me into my everyday life. I did no seated practice and never learned to compartmentalize life into “this is practice and this is not practice.”

However, I discovered that there is a more profound integration that begins to spontaneously occur after we have been doing seated practice for some time. Although there are specific techniques for integrating the fruits of seated practices into everyday life, if we have been practicing diligently and with correct View, we naturally begin to express these fruits when we are “off the cushion.”

If you are diligently practicing while seated on a meditation cushion, but find yourself unchanged otherwise, then you can be sure that you are practicing with wrong View, or incorrectly in some other way. It’s time to request more instruction, or to look for a qualified teacher if you have been going it alone.

Full integration of the fruit of our practice into every moment of our lives is an aim of any spiritual practice we undertake. We want to be relaxing and realizing in every moment. We practice this way until all practice ends, and we realize the communicative play of a seamless world.