To put it simply, from the moment you enter the sacred Dharma and become a Dharma practitioner, your inner attitude and outer conduct should far surpass those of an ordinary mundane person. As the saying goes:
The sign of true learning is a peaceful temperament,
And the sign of having meditated is fewer afflictions.
If, on the contrary, your attitude and conduct are not even slightly better than an average person caught up in worldly affairs, you might consider yourself a scholar simply because you have some intellectual understanding of a few texts. Or you might think you are a perfect monk simply because you maintain celibacy. Or just because you know how to chant a few ritual texts, you might start thinking of yourself as a ngakpa. These are all just instances of blatant arrogance, and only go to show that even with the Dharma one can stumble in the direction of the unwholesome. As the incomparable Dakpo Lharje [Gampopa] said:
When it is not practised properly, even the Dharma can catapult one into the lower realms.
Where is the best place?
Not clinging to a place or location is the best place.
Just as worn-out clothes can never again be made as new,
It’s no use seeing a doctor once you’re terminally ill;
You’ll have to go. We humans living on this earth
Are like streams and rivers flowing toward the ocean –
All living beings are heading for that single destination.
Now, like a small bird flying off from a treetop,
I, too, will not be here much longer; soon I must move on.
The method that the Buddha discovered is meditation. He discovered that struggling to find answers did not work. It was only when there were gaps in his struggle that insights came to him. He began to realize that there was a sane, awake quality within him that manifested itself only in the absence of struggle. So the practice of meditation involves “letting be.”
In my isolated mountain retreat of limitless appearances,
remaining in the practice where the world and beyond arise as ornaments,
I sustained the fundamental nature, free from fixating on hope and fear.
Gazing upon my own true face – innate luminosity –
I possess the instructions on self-liberation of appearances.
In my isolated mountain retreat of self-luminous detachment,
resting in the practice of luminosity without clinging,
I sustained the fundamental nature of self-emergent simplicity.
Gazing upon my own true face – carefree openness –
I have the teachings on self-liberation of destructive emotions.
In my isolated mountain retreat of self-emergent non-conceptuality,
remaining in the practice of self-liberation of conditioned appearances,
I sustained the fundamental nature of non-dual hope and fear.
Encountering the wisdom of natural self-liberation,
I hold the instructions for the self-release of whatever arises.
In my isolated mountain retreat devoid of fixation on hope and fear,
resting in the practice of self-liberating destructive emotions
I sustained the fundamental nature of the perfect on-going state of the three kāyas.
Gazing upon my own true nature – effortless dharmakāya –
I possess the instructions on the primordial liberation of cyclic existence and quiescence.
I have attained the fourfold assurance of freedom from abandonment and attainment,
and am liberated inseparably with ever-excellent great bliss.
This is the proper way a practitioner pursues isolated mountain retreat!
Recognizing our intimate dependence on the natural environment allows us to see its true value and treasure it. One reason that people living in cities nowadays need to be told so much about the importance of caring for the earth is because they did not grow up feeling direct, unmediated connections to it. For them, nature is something that one visits in city parks or on excursions out into the countryside. When we are raised in urban environments, our sense for the natural environment is more remote because we rarely witness our fundamental reliance upon it. Nature seems like a pretty backdrop to our lives, something that adds to the scenery but is basically optional. We are obstructed from seeing how the natural environment is the very stage on which our lives play out. Without the conditions that arise from our environment, nothing whatsoever can take place.
In general, people say, ‘We are following Dharma”, and speak of it as a kind of religion created by Buddha Shakyamuni. That is not a correct point of view. Buddha never created any kind of school or religion. Buddha was a totally enlightened being, someone beyond our limited point of view. The teaching of the Buddha is to have presence in that knowledge.”