Monthly Dharma Quotation: On the Power of Superstition

This month’s quotation is from a teaching Rigdzin Shikpo gave on Refuge and Bodhisattva vows. The entire teaching is made available to students who prepare to go for refuge with Rigdzin Shikpo.

Some practice traditions are based on a kind of superstition in making bold statements like “May I die of cancer if this would help all sentient beings.” Could you take such a vow out loud? It might be more difficult than you think and maybe you already think it’s difficult. It’s interesting how people react to such a thing, they say, “Well that’s ridiculous, you know I’m not going to say anything like that. Anyway it’s not that I don’t want to say it, it’s just because it’s silly.” Well, if it’s so silly it doesn’t matter whether you say it or not, does it? So you might as well say it.

In fact there’s tremendous superstition against saying something like that which is quite amazing, really. There’s tremendous resistance to saying it and the important thing to the people who practiced this way was, why do you feel it’s such a problem? You know, what is the root of that?

It’s because of the power of superstition or the belief that somewhere in the universe there is some, I won’t say person, some force or some energy or whatever – although one really does mean person, actually – is going to take you at your word and they’re going to say, “It’s a deal!” And that is what one’s afraid of.

You know, maybe what you fear might happen or maybe it might be something else, or maybe both! But one important thing: always in Buddhist practice you never forget awareness. So the thing you’re looking for is, what do I feel when I’m saying that? What does it mean for me to think the universe might take me at my word? What do I mean by that? What does it feel like? You know, what’s going on? And it actually helps you to uncover a lot about your feeling of relationship to the universe in a formless way that is actually powerful at the same time.

Rigdzin Shikpo

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