Lazy_eye wrote:As a beginner,
We're all beginners mate.
Lazy_eye wrote:--How have your views of Buddhism and Buddhist practice changed over the years? What expectations did you have going into it and what have you learned?
A lot. When I was a teenager, my view of Buddhism was informed by Robert Pirsig, DT Suzuki, Alan Watts, and some of the works of "Zen poets" without any explanation as to their meaning. In those early years I was very interested but thanks to the Zen literature, had no idea how to meditate. So, i developed my own which was a pretty close facsimile of what I practice now. In the last 25 years I have been practicing under the guidance of my teacher, SN Goenka. I've always been practice oriented but in the last few years i have benefited greatly from studying the ancient texts and scholarly authors and the works of some teachers and scholars not from within my own tradition. Further, my exposure to other practitioners, particularly practitioners from other traditions, have been incredibly beneficial.
Lazy_eye wrote:--Do you feel there has been a beneficial change in your life because of your practice? has it reduced your suffering? have you made progress towards your spiritual goals?
Yes, yes and yes. They are subjective responses to qualitative questions so I can't give you much of a qualification that would indicate how much things have changed. I guess one acid test is to consider how much one continues to react blindly to external stimuli. Someone cutting you off in traffic...
There's a lot less heat and its short lived - if at all. Another acid test is whether you notice the development of certain positive qualities in your life. Such as generosity, tolerance, patience, humility, compassion and gratitude. And they are just some. On another note, there's a great deal more clarity.
Lazy_eye wrote:--Any obstacles along the way? dark nights of the soul? crises of faith? how did you overcome them?
Everyday can be difficult until you realise that its all good. I turned my back on my practice for awhile after a very intense period sitting with and serving with my teacher in India in 89/90. A conspiracy of events occured and when i returned to Melbourne, sitting was just too difficult. I knew I would return to the Dhamma and fortunately, I did.
Sitting in a small darkened meditation cell for hours, days, weeks at a time with nothing but the awareness of breath or sensations - it makes the modern 'hardcore' movement, limpwristed in comparison. The path of insight is not easy, not easily won, and quite often - not pleasant. Dark night of the soul? More like a descent into hell.
Lazy_eye wrote:--What would you do differently if you were just starting out?
Don't know. Zen wasn't for me but it may have been an important conditioning factor.
Lazy_eye wrote:-- Has your conviction in the Buddha's teachings become stronger? What about trust in your chosen tradition (whether Theravada or other), sub-tradition, sangha or teachers?
For sure. But its not a blind obsequious devotion. With respect to my own teacher, my conviction has grown but it is characterised by an intense critical examination of his teachings. With respect to the lineage and the Buddha (and including my own teacher), there is a deep and abiding gratitude and appreciation for the Dhamma.
Lazy_eye wrote:-- What positive or negative changes have you seen within Buddhism, your school of Buddhism, or the dharma in the West?
The Dhamma is incredible and unique. Buddihsts are...human beings. One disappointing thing that i have seen which i have spoken out a bit lately is the appearance of people claiming ariya attainment. Out of respect to you, I won't rehash those criticisms here as there are plenty of threads around where it has or is being discussed.