Today I take a full, deep breath as the final of the “courses” (MOOC’s) I eagerly began several months ago comes to a close. I’d been holding my breath, nearly all the while, because I didn’t clearly understand why I decided to take these courses.
Was I doing the right thing? Was I wasting my time? What’s the point of gaining knowledge if it doesn’t help to effect a positive inner transformation, if afflictive emotions are still ruling my every thought and action?
When I spoke to a dear Dharma sister about this, she gave me some perspective. She told me, “Jonathan, I think you worry too much!”
She reminded me that as long as we’re not harming anyone, then we’re doing okay.
She gave me a sobering reality check: How often do I have genuine Dharma motivations? So far, I haven’t even had one yet, ever! There’s always mixed in, with whatever thought of compassion I can muster, at least some desire, some attachment to sense pleasures, some pride, some animosity or tension or disregard for the effects of my actions.
The main difference here was that I was trying something different, something that would require following through on a commitment and, just maybe, something that would challenge me.
I was clear about a few things. Basically, I wanted to learn and overcome long-standing poor study habits – ostensibly, there’s no harmful intent in that motivation.
I didn’t achieve all of my goals. I still have the obstacles of procrastination and not seeing commitments through to the end. The burning itch to learn more from “my own tradition” (science and Western philosophy) with which I entered into this period of study has all but vanished. So it goes – we change, and as always before and certain to remain true, expectations do not pare well with reality. But, with great gratitude, I must say that I did learn.
Now, I’m rejoicing with relief in the efforts and kindness of the people who put together the courses I took and offered them freely, through the miracle interdependent arising of altruistic thinking meeting modern technology.
And even though I didn’t complete every assignment and let two courses go altogether, I can rejoice in what I did do. I can embrace the whole process with the aspiration that it will help to expand my understanding of reality. Wishing that whatever I take with me from my learning may sharpen my ability to think clearly, make me more open-minded, and strengthen my ability to be of benefit to others will give it deeper meaning than simply learning facts and concepts.
Today I recommit myself to focus on the transformation of my mind, so that my motivation becomes one of pure compassion. Then, whatever I do – even if it may seem “mundane” – will bring benefit to living beings.