The Dalai Lama was giving a talk one day while sitting under the Bodhi tree, and the pilgrims had come from miles and miles on foot from the high Himalayas to be with the him in Bodhgaya, and he said to them, “Okay, you’re here, and you think you’re very fortunate because you have the blessings of being under this Bodhi tree where the Buddha was enlightened, with all these famous lamas, and the Dalai Lama himself, and you have the teachings, the sacred meditations, and mantras, and all these things. It won’t do you any good. The only thing that makes it work is if you take the trouble to practice it. All the rest of it is very nice, but you might as well watch Dallas or something like that. It’s not so different. Maybe you would learn more from Dallas, I don’t know. At least it wouldn’t be pretentiously spiritual.” So what is needed is “effort.”
Effort is central in our spiritual practice. It’s the effort of learning how to cultivate or generate that which is skillful – which means awareness, loving-kindness, or caring for the world around you, or living more in the present, the effort to abandon the habits, the fears of things that we get caught in that create suffering and that keeps us in the muck. This is wonderful because it’s a teaching that we can apply to our daily life; it’s not just a retreat teaching; it’s small habits and all the little pieces of life. Our life is made up of little activities, little habits, and little ways.