Monday, May 19, 2008

The Three Jewels Applies To Any Pursuit

In Buddhist philosophy, monks take refuge in The Three Jewels -- the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. These are the three foundations of Buddhist Practice -- the Buddha, his teachings, and his community. But in general The Three Jewels can apply to any personal path.

1. The Buddha
This means setting someone to aspire to become, and to believe one can become. This might be a hero or inspiring person in that field, a teacher you study with, or a vision of yourself at a later time. So for instance, if you are a bass player your Buddha might be Flea, or if you are a businessman it might be Steve Jobs. In any case you don't worship your Buddha; rather, that person is an inspiration and helps you keep sight of the person you wish to become by your efforts.

2. The Dharma
This is the body of teachings in a given area. It means that you must be constantly returning to the well of knowledge to grow and develop yourself in that field. For a bassist this might mean lessons, instructional videos, and practice; for a businessman this may mean trade journals, conferences and seminars, and books. Your learning becomes a personal resource to turn to as well as a way to connect to the field and the role you play in the larger picture.

3. The Sangha
This is the community you get involved in -- colleagues, clubs, friends, bands, scenes. Even in seemingly solitary pursuits it is important to find and form communities in your field. They provide a place for learning, teaching, and networking; provides external motivation and support; and perhaps most importantly, connects your pursuit to the outside world, making it take on a meaning larger than the strictly personal. Finding a Sangha and broadening the context of a pursuit beyond your own personal world, while sometimes scary or intimidating, can also be more fulfilling, as well as lead you down rewarding paths you may not have run into otherwise.

There are, of course, risks to each Jewel. Picking the right inspiration, the right teachings, and the right communities is just as important as choosing one at all. And if a group, person, or methodology does more harm than good, drop it and find what works for you. The whole point is to become engaged.