Jane Roos enrolled in the initial 12-week introductory course of the Abbey’s online distance learning program. These are her end-of-course reflections:
Twelve weeks ago, at the beginning of Course 1A, I crossed a threshold through which there seems to be no way back. Who would be going back, and to what? The self, I learned, has no fixed basis; neither has the world that self has always viewed as a stage backdrop in its own engrossing drama. Not only that, but other people are not heroes, villains, or simply supporting cast; they’re confused, suffering beings, just like me. And why would I want to go back to the old ways? Study of what constitutes true happiness as against the conventional, ephemeral kind revealed the pointlessness of seeking lasting happiness where it cannot be found.
As Course 1A explored the forming of attachments and the usual reactions to their being thwarted or unfulfilled, three major realizations developed: firstly, how much time I had been devoting to servicing my many, many attachments; secondly, how much suffering attachment brought me, and thirdly, what great harm I had been doing to others in the process.
A curious sense of homelessness resulted, with no familiar “self” to return to and the old habits no longer providing any real refuge. “Homelessness” doesn’t equate with aimlessness, however, and the teachings on the Noble Eightfold path have provided me with direction, showing me the sort of transformation possible and providing tools for realizing it. Having learned about Dharma motivation means I can imbue every step of the path with value and meaning. Instead of remaining anxious, self-centered and confused, with most of my actions bringing suffering to myself and others, I can act with courage and confidence to actualize good.
A regular meditation practice brings a peaceful, Dharma-motivated beginning to each day, followed by a calm, thoughtful close. During meditation, I’ve seen how few of the impulses arising in the mind require any action, and what a relief it is not to be repeatedly swept away by them. Consequently, I find myself accomplishing more while doing less in general, as the process carries over into daily life. I can see it being possible, with sustained practice, to extend the meditation mind beyond the cushion to every activity, sleeping or waking.
The association with Sravasti Abbey provides a Dharma community, something I’ve never experienced before. To be part of a practicing community, even at a distance, is a most valuable aspect of the SAFE program. Participation in the weekly question forum has reinforced that sense of community. Knowing that each day, all the other group members were setting their motivation, doing their meditation practice and studying the Dharma helped me keep my own commitment to doing all those things.
Most valuable of all is the access to the Buddha’s teachings and the uniquely appropriate guidance received each week.
The quiet, reclusive life I lead is one which has little apparent effect on the wider world. Course 1A changed my outlook: this very fortunate life has a meaning and purpose I didn’t recognize before. All actions, no matter how insignificant they appear, have consequences: one kind thought in this lifetime could lead to the discovery of a cure for cancer in a future rebirth. I am grateful for this inconceivably precious opportunity.
I began with the metaphor of a one-way journey, which has turned out to be, paradoxically, more like a round trip. The process which led me away from an independent self has established me more consciously in my own life, bringing to mind the well-known question, “If not here, then where?”