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There is a very instructive story of a great philosopher who boarded a small boat to cross a river. The philosopher asked the boatman: “Do you know the doctrine of the four essential components of positive, negative, neutral, throwing, and completing karma?” The boatman answered “No”, and the philosopher said: “Then, I am afraid that you have wasted one third of your life.”
The philosopher then asked: “Do you know the doctrine of the twelve links of dependent origination?” The boatman answered that he did not, to which the philosopher replied: “Then, I am afraid that you have wasted two thirds of your life.”
As the philosopher was about to ask the boatman if he understood the doctrine of intrinsic emptiness, the weather turned very foul, and the boat started to fill with water. The boatman asked the philosopher: “Do you know how to swim?” The philosopher replied that he did not, and the boatman then said, with great sadness: “Then, I am afraid that you have wasted all of your life!”
It is better to know the essentials, and practice whatever we know, than to study much doctrine, and lack the practice which makes all the difference.
Do not worry. Enlightenment is our nature, our birthright.
Tashi Nyima is a Dharma student who aspires to be a companion on the path.