The Difference between Personal Practice and Academic Research
Genuine happiness relies on one’s personal practice rather than on intellectual knowledge. If you have become interested in, or have already begun your study of Tibetan Buddhism, congratulations! However, if your study has only remained at the intellectual level, you have not yet taken it far enough. Faith and practice are required for you to become a truly excellent practitioner and for true happiness to become a tangible reality in your daily life.
In Tibetan Buddhism, if you want to study termas or any other teachings, it’s important to take them seriously. I’ve visited some American universities and found many teachers and students there who are studying Tibetan Buddhism. This is very good. Unfortunately, most of them do not go deeply into Buddhist philosophy and very often regard it as nothing more than a compendium of myths and legends. When they find that some of the Buddhist teachings incomprehensible, they, like many modern-day scientists, consider them to be erroneous. This is because they perceive them as mere myths and legends, which is a view that could not be more incorrect.
So first, you need to study Buddhist philosophy, that is very important. In the process of your research, you need to question and debate with one another. It is crucial to continuously analyze and discuss the teachings over the long term. In our Tibetan monasteries, there are many debate halls in which this tradition is rigorously upheld. It is important that you should also follow this methodology. In actual practice, however, if there are too many conceptual thoughts, too many opinions about this and that, it certainly won’t work.
The Dharma should be habituated in our mind stream. I always say, pure research can’t enable you to master the Dharma, and neither can pure practice. Only by combining theoretical study with practice can the Dharma be integrated into our minds; then we can spread the Dharma successfully and extensively benefit sentient beings.
So if you put termas or any other Tibetan Buddhist teaching into practice by following the traditional procedures of listening, reflecting and meditating, you’ll become a great Dharma practitioner.