Why do we practice?
All that appears impure is actually pure. All that appears sullied is actually clean. All that appears imperfect is actually the Great Perfection. All deities are mythic, yet all deities are manifest as well. All visions are both reality and illusion. All appearances arise as if in a dream and then disperse, diffuse and cloud-like.
You are the wind moving the clouds of your experience. You are the clouds, and the sky, and the experiencer, and the experience itself. There is nothing your eye can see that is not already connected to, and affected by, your meditation. There is no one in your landscape who is not already your beloved, intimate companion. There is no action you take that does not drop a pebble in the stream of consciousness, shifting its swirling patterns. There is no thought or emotion you have that is different from the thoughts and emotions of all beings, throughout time and space. Karma teaches us that we are truly One with All.
The mind tells us again and again that this isn't so, even though again and again we see evidence that it is so. Our choices to create pain or to create healing have a ripple effect throughout our lives. Thus, we practice to condition the mind to the path of compassion rather than to its lesser whims. We practice to create peace and healing in ourselves that we can bring into the world. We practice because there is no beginning and no end to the wheel that moves both suffering and blessing. We practice to alleviate the sufferings of ourselves and others.
Each instance of practice is a drop of sweet liquid in the vast desert of the pain we witness in the world daily.
Through stilling the mind with meditative activity, the cultivation of the all-embracing Mother's gaze via deity yoga, and devotion to the heart of wisdom via alignment with the Inner Teacher, our practice offers us a means of liberating ourselves and others from anything that impedes our ability to generate, and return again and again to, the enlightened state.
We do not merely seek the momentary bliss or temporary satisfaction linked to a single practice session or the afterglow of chanting mantra. We go farther, engaging practice as a vehicle to understanding that every breath is the cleansing breath, every word the mantra, every movement the meditation. We seek to create the conditions that will support us in enlightened action, consistently applied with awareness, mindfulness, and focus on our duty as agents for the benefit of all beings.
In dharma paganism, all deities are self-arisen from within the Great Perfection, which is not separate ultimately from the consciousness of the practitioner. The deities are then empowered by application of the practitioner's devotion, just as the practitioner is empowered by the deity. In this way, we "bring them to life" with our practice and devotion just as they bring us to life with their numinous potency, yet we are not separate from them at any point, nor are we or they separate from the dharma.
The dharma pagan view of the Divine is one of immediacy. Dharma paganism promotes non-duality, and moves beyond the limiting paradigm of polarity as attached to gender or other binary systems of understanding, indicating instead the "one taste" of all the energies that flow through each body and experience. There is no central creation myth, no story of origin or end in dharma paganism- all times are Now. There is no religious intolerance in dharma paganism: all paths lead to wisdom. There is no refutation of science in dharma paganism: it is a set of valuable sutras to be contemplated just as other sutras. For the dharma pagan, there is wisdom that arises from every life situation, every incident, every source.
Dharma paganism is Tantric in the classical sense, viewing all as the Great Perfection, promoting compassionate action in the face of the suffering of the world, an engaged and moving meditation. While not explicitly, dharma paganism can also incorporate tenets of western tantra, and can be sexually tantric, with consent, mindfulness, lovingkindness, ethics, and bodhicitta being among the primary motivations in sacred union. The body, just as the mind, serves as a vehicle for the dharma as it moves upon the Earth.
There are no gurus in dharma paganism. Rather, each student forges a bond with the Inner Teacher through the union of wisdom and method that might also be demonstrated or shared by external teachers. Friendly growth-oriented relationships flourish between peers and those at various stages along the path, and appreciation is shown to all who help us to learn new lessons, or who help us to develop our practice. By training the mind, we also train our magical abilities to manifest mythic awareness in the phenomenal world. The apparent coincidences, magical phenomena, and interdependent co-arising that we witness are also our teachers. Experience itself is the greatest teacher of all.
While dharma paganism is an open field with many sutras, many practices, and many paths leading to the middle way, there are a few central precepts that we mutually follow, living and performing our practices for the benefit of all beings:
Dharma Pagan Precepts
4 Noble Truths
All beings in the body of existence share in common the experience of suffering.
Suffering occurs when our primordially clear state becomes clouded with attachment, aversion, and indifference.
Even when the circumstances of suffering are great, we can find relief in the dharma.
We find relief from suffering in the cultivation of the Noble Eightfold Path, taking inspiration from the example of others who have done the same with beneficial results.
Noble Eightfold Path
Right View: Knowing thyself, know the nature of existence.
Right Intention: Harm none is only the beginning. Go further. Aspire and act to be beneficial.
Right Speech: Our thoughts become our words, which become our actions, which become reality. Be mindful of what you think, speak, or write into being.
Right Action: Observe, train, and conduct the movements of the physical body, rather than allowing misconduct to overtake you.
Right Livelihood: There is no profit in another's pain.
Right Effort: Choose and mount your endeavors and relationships selectively and considerately, neither overstepping nor falling short of your commitments.
Right Mindfulness: Crystal-clear awareness is the moment-by-moment choice to be present.
Right Concentration: Abide in the natural state of clarity, presence, and kindly attentiveness at all times.
The 4 Immeasurables
May I be a source of lovingkindness, in this world and all worlds, bringing a generous heart to all my thoughts and doings.
May I be a vehicle of compassion, in this world and all worlds, ever mindful and aware of the tremendous suffering of others.
May I be a brimming vessel of joy, in this world and all world, delighting in the happiness of others as their suffering is alleviated.
May I be a balance point of equanimity, in this world and all worlds, seeing all as equals and all as deserving of goodness.
Practice helps us build the capacity to do good in the world. May all beings benefit.