Ignorance is not a firm foundation.
I used to fence foil in the Olympic squad, and a friend said, “Why do you have to have all those set moves? Just fight!” He obviously didn’t like being told what to do (we can all understand that!). But that is equivalent to ignoring established chess openings, and saying, “I don’t bother with that – I just play.” Or ignoring basic chord progressions if one is a musician. That’s fine…if one is a hobbyist.
One person in a thousand may not need tuition, but the rest of us require a little help with insight. Having a firm understanding of principles not only gets you started properly, but it can take us to the top – like mountaineering…like anything…!
When I first started fencing, I was all fight and speed…it may have looked impressive, but it lacked substance, and didn’t get me very far. If we hold on to these same old habits, they will be easily spotted by advanced practitioners. So, I had to train and study, and went through a phase of being very wooden. But gradually, when it came to competitions, my natural instincts would come to the fore, and be supported by the technical skills I had learned, which allowed me to deal with all situations.
Certain disciplines have been honed and refined through the centuries to turn an activity into a science, and then that science into an inspirational art. To merely dismiss these basic principles is foolish to say the least. Skills that have taken many centuries to refine will take some beating: however, if you do find a better method, a master will certainly listen…if it genuinely works!
Ancient spiritual practices are exactly the same. They do not have to be reinvented, but just understood and practised. They are completely in themselves. As some cultures are quite aggressive, a little adaptation for different cultures may be needed. In addition, you have to find the right teacher. I have been to many good teachers, but it took some time to find the one that suited me. Teachers have to be tested as much as students!
Nowadays, there is much cherry picking and watering down of teachings, so that students feel they do not have to do anything. This is true in the advanced stages, but at the beginning this can be easily misunderstood and can lead to a volatile mental instability.
I have heard much from “new agers” who believe that they are being original, when in fact all is based on the ancient teachings, which have been pre-digested into a palatable form. Nothing is “new”! This hallmark of the new agenda is a lack of emotional control: any questions are taken personally. One sees on forums how touchy people are, and how quickly anger arises! As a fencer, that would mean certain death! As a spiritual practitioner that would mean more covering up of our essence.
Following a ‘path’ doesn’t mean one loses one’s brains. To be able to follow a path, one would have had a pre-existing inclination or attraction towards it (this could come from work in a previous incarnation).
We take an easy path because we are lazy, and want to create our own reality. Because of this, we get upset and we suffer.
We take a hard path because we recognise, appreciate and value refinement, and want to be free of fixed ideas.
We all have a natural longing and a good heart: this can either be enhanced or down graded.
Be honest when knowing your mind.
In all forms of Art, one loses one’s self.