In truth, there is no real distinction. Yet, angry fools abuse one or the other. Study and practice will lead us beyond the cycle of suffering.
Lately, I’ve been approaching this dilemma from a Buddhist perspective, but really, it’s also got thick roots in the Christian system.
In Christianity, it’s faith vs. practice. And, interestingly, the New Testament preserved some of the debate. Look at James. Read the book of James. You will find him setting people straight on the issue.
“I have faith and you have works.”
But, I will show you my faith by my works.
Those who discriminate here are simply confused. Not evil. Just wrong. Incorrect. Wrong-thinking brings pain.
Study Monks vs. Practice Monks
So, I’ve been spending time with the words of Ajahn Chah. He keeps bringing up this dilemma and assuring us that, with diligent practice, the textual tradition is pretty much unnecessary.
He suggests that, with practice, we contact that deepest center common to all of humanity and gain wisdom thereby. We simply practice mindfulness and abandon delusional laziness, and the truth reveals itself. Right-view, and all of the other correct ways, bring peace. Nice. I have no qualms.
But, there are others who hold opposing views. Will I argue with them? No. I will agree. They will assert the importance of tradition. I can see what they mean. Without tradition, without a cultural memory, whatever the false-imagination of ego cooks up will be served and consumed by hordes of hungry ghosts without second thought.
So the traditionalists, the study monks, don’t want to deviate from their scripture, and the practice monks don’t want to deviate from their practice. Yet, if they were perfect in their method, they would have no method– they would be Buddha.
Seeing that they have not attained perfection, we can discern that it would be wise for them to accept correction. And, this is why they coexist– to support each other! To correct, and be corrected, by the other.
Do you know how to accept correction?
The problem of “authenticity” is endlessly tedious. I recently saw some guy crying about it on some facebook thread and I realized how truly boring this dilemma is.
Some of you are like, “Only Pali Suttas, all the Mahayana stuff is whack.”
And, others are like, “The Pali stuff is too strict, old and dead. Only the Mahayana is authentic.”
Nope. Too bad Pali people: Buddha did not write your sacred texts. No matter how you slice it, you too are relying on fallible human memory. You say, “Ananda has perfect memory. The Sangha has perfect memory”. Nah. I can’t believe you.
And, no. Too bad Mahayana people: Sakyamuni Buddha did not write your sacred texts. No matter how you slice it, you too are relying on fallible human imagination. You say, “the Sangha is spiritually exalted.” Sure. Whatever. Okay. Sounds great.
There is a clear solution. Practice. Study. Study and practice.
Employ the methods and know the fruit. If the fruit is sweet, hang out by the tree– if the fruit is rotten, find another tree.
Different beings have different inclinations. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, with their infinite wisdom, understand the diverse natures of the beings and are able to put forth relevant methods for their liberation.
If you find yourself digging out history books to launch attacks at your intellectual enemies, I urge you to abandon this pursuit. This is a waste of your time and energy. Such activity is not conducive to the cessation of dukkha.
If you find yourself floating off into ephemeral impracticality, and launching attacks from the heavens upon your spiritual enemies, I urge you to abandon this pursuit. This is a waste of your time and energy. Such activity is not conducive to the cessation of dukkha.
Mindfulness. Compassion. Wisdom.