The power of listening


6.5 mins read.

My dad said on Skype yesterday that we’d all get through 2020 if we stay cool, calm, and collected and if we are nice to everyone, lol. He added, “That is what you are telling everyone, isn’t it?”

Buddhism does indeed explain how we can be IN the world, as it were, without being OF the world – helping others in a practical way but without feeling helplessly swept along by everything and everyone that seems to be going wrong. We need not be dangling like a puppet on the strings of aversion, uncontrolled desire, and confusion, but more like a Weeble that bounces back to center however hard it is pushed.

And rather than being stymied by the guilty dualistic thought, “I am not doing enough,” we need the contented feeling of wholeness that sources a steady stream of action, “I am doing enough.”

Firm, stable refuge in our heart starts with a knowledge that underneath the chaos we have deep hearts of gold; there sanity lies. We have everything we need inside us and nothing truly to be worried about. If we steadily grow our reliance on wisdom and love, we come to possess an inner calm and coolness under pressure. This also has us automatically tuned in to the inspiring wisdom, bliss, and protection of all enlightened beings.

Question is, how can we deepen this reliance? I find it interesting that at both the International Spring AND Summer Kadampa Buddhist Festivals this year, Venerable Geshe-la shared this as his message to us all:

Hello to the International Kadampa community. I would like to offer you the following message based on The Stories of Rebirth by Arya Sura. I would like to explain the benefits of listening to Dharma teachings.

Why the emphasis on listening to Dharma? Partly, for reasons I talked about in this last article, I think it may be because at least some of us might be spending a bit too much time listening to things that are NOT the Dharma of wisdom and compassion, and that could even indeed be the opposite.

Are you doom-scrolling?

We need to be responsible, educated citizens, for sure, with an election coming up here in the USA for example and age-old injustices to be addressed. But with fewer IRL places and people for us to hang out with these days, we may be getting too helplessly sucked into the endless virtual noise, speculation, and inappropriate attention that just seem to take us further and further from the truth. I have seen that tendency in myself and had to nip it in the bud a few times, so I know what I’m talking about.

In fact, there is even a new word for it, “doom-scrolling”. Or, it’s even worse cousin, “rage-scrolling.”

As the great Indian Master Atisha puts it:

Avoid places that disturb your mind, and always remain where your virtues increase.

I would submit that we could apply this advice not just to physical but to virtual places. Less time on CNN/Fox News, more time on Buddhist TV! Less time in our echo chambers, or vainly talking at people, and more time doing practical things to actually make a difference in the lives of our families, community, and country. As the saying goes: “Less drama, more Dharma.”

Less drama, more Dharma

I thought in this article it’d be nice to go over some of these benefits. Please feel welcome to add your own commentary in the Comments Box below.

1. Listening to Dharma teachings is a great light that eliminates the darkness of our own and others’ ignorance.

We have been in this discombobulating darkness since beginningless time! It’s way too long. Way too long. To break out of the dystopian worlds we keep projecting for ourselves with self-grasping ignorance, we need to listen to Buddha’s teachings on reality more and more deeply.

It is hard to see that this light is even there, however, if we get stuck down a rabbit hole.

2. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best wealth that cannot be stolen by thieves and which gives great meaning to our human life.

Our external resources have always been unstable and subject to decline, which seems more obvious than ever in these days of economic uncertainty. But increasing the inner wealth of spiritual experience can come to help us so much more than any amount of outer wealth could ever do – in the short term it gives us the riches of contentment (that we can also take with us through death), and in the long term it leads us to lasting happiness and freedom.

Listening also includes reading Buddhist books – for example, you could start working your way through the 23 totally inspirational works by Venerable Geshe-la. How about that for a meaningful and fool-proof life plan to acquire the best wealth?!

3. Listening to Dharma teachings is a weapon that destroys our enemy of confusion.

We need a wisdom sword to cut through the never-ending hallucinations of samsara. One bit of advice I find useful: When reading or listening to stuff that I find confusing or provocative on the internet etc, when I am not sure who or what to believe, one thing I ask myself is:

What would Buddha believe?

Or “What would Geshe-la believe,” if that works for you too. We are Buddha’s followers, so follow Buddha.

4. Listening to Dharma teachings is our best friend who will never deceive us and from whom we receive our best advice.

“Time is running,” as Geshe Kelsang says, and it’s all too easy to waste it. Unlike the greatest conspiracy theorist of them all – our own self-grasping mind – listening to the advice of enlightened beings will only ever reveal things we need to know for greater happiness and freedom. We might come to prefer hanging out with Dharma more than anything else. We will never feel lonely again with this friend around.

5. Listening to Dharma teachings is a relative and friend who remains loyal even when we are impoverished.

6. Listening to Dharma teachings is the supreme medicine that cures the disease of uncontrolled desire, anger, and ignorance.

Indirectly, listening also helps us overcome all physical diseases. It certainly helps us deal better with them.

7. Listening to Dharma teachings is a powerful opponent that destroys great faults.

8. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best treasure because it is the foundation of all fame and resources.

By listening, we create positive mental actions that are “hundreds of times more powerful than verbal and physical actions,” according to Venerable Geshe-la. These create the karmic causes for anything and everything we could ever want.

9. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best gift through which we can benefit all living beings.

I think we’d all like to help as many people as we can, given the choice? Through listening to Dharma, we become a source of refuge and strength for others, and a good example of how to be happy and carefree. Eventually we become a Bodhisattva and then a Buddha, helping everyone every day.

10. Listening to Dharma teachings is the best method to make countless living beings happy.

Summer is winding down and Kadampa Centers everywhere are about to embark on their Fall scheduling. (Here in Colorado, high temperatures and sunshine are set to plunge 50 degrees and snow next Tuesday!) Longer nights and colder days give us the perfect opportunity to cozy up to our local Buddhist TV station or read more Dharma books.  It’s a great idea to make a schedule that we can stick to.

If you haven’t done so already, for example, maybe now would be a good time to join in with a consistent in-depth study program such as Foundation Program? And those of you who have been around Kadampa Buddhism for a while, have you considered joining a Teacher Training Program? – for all the reasons listed above, our world could do with more Dharma teachers. Here is more info on on the study programs of Modern Buddhism.

To finish the message started above:

Please memorize, contemplate the meaning again and again and then put it into practice day by day, month by month, year by year.

I will also pray for you and your families.

With much love,
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 39 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

7 thoughts on “The power of listening”

  1. Listening to Dharma teachings is what I do a lot, most days in fact. I’ve listened to the same teachings over and over, meaningful favourites, like many other Kadampas I’d imagine. So I listen more than meditate and became a little concerned about this when I understood from a teaching a while ago that Je Tsongkhapa taught his students to place equal emphasis on the teachings and meditation, 50:50 – I wonder then if this is still ideally the approach to follow in the light of the benefits of listening to the teachings? OR does ‘listening to Dharma’ also mean the Dharma of meditation, perhaps you can clarify? Many thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If we listen deeply, we’ll naturally be led into contemplation and meditation.

      I think even as we listen, we can contemplate. Livestream has an advantage too that if you feel moved to pause it to meditate, we can 🙂

      We need listening, contemplation, and meditation, and it all starts with listening.

      Like

      1. Very helpful, thank you.
        I’m going to try this, pausing the teaching for mini-meditations during a session and I’ve just started a new text this week with audio downloads so great place to start.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Dearest Luna,

    Your words change lives forever! I wanted to report back that I followed your VERY PRACTICAL advice to get an alarm clock and put it far away from the bed so I can wake up early to meditate and to never check my phone in the mornings. I have been waking up at 4 am and meditating mostly for 1 hour and 45 mins (sometimes only 1 hour when not counting mantras). I completed Vajrasattva counting in 5 months. Now, I’m creating the discipline to study 2 of Geshla’s book each year as per your advice in this article.

    I only have you to thank! You plant wisdom and inspiration in my mind and sooner rather than later, it manifests as my reality! YOU ARE MAGIC! I love you!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “There is not much reason to worry,” Geshe-la said. I remind myself of that at least a couple of times a day. It’s kind of a test of faith how deeply I believe it when the bonkers news of the world comes barreling at me.

    It is certainly far better (more useful, more encouraging) to listen to Dharma teachings than to listen to the chaos of one’s own thoughts!

    Liked by 2 people

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