There’s hope for the solo practitioner, even at the earliest stages of learning Buddhism
Diving headfirst into anything all on your own can be daunting, and more of a challenge than most of us ever assume at the outset – but when you’re trying to make an earnest entry into something as all-encompassing and as ancient as Buddhism, going at it alone brings its own set of hurdles.
Thankfully though a lot of the frustration and anxiety that some of us feel when we begin to teach ourselves the path fades away after you simply get to it – placing one foot in front of the other and moving towards the ideals that Buddhism teaches.
Sure, those that start off with guidance are going to have a bit of an advantage in that they are likely following a traditional curriculum and will have assistance through the early transition into this new lifestyle. As an independent student however, you’re going to have to be disciplined and resourceful.
By embracing the road before you, recognizing that there is struggle in everything beautiful, and realizing that the lessons Buddhism has to teach you will come to you as you progress, you’ll be able to fight back against this spiritual gravity regardless of the volume of material you believe you have to push through to get started.
But committed self-study practitioners do have more flexibility and can set their own pace of learning. Not to mention freedom in choosing the source material and in what order. Often, the solo practitioner is able to progress more quickly than matriculated students simply because they carve out larger blocks of uninterrupted time to study – as opposed to a scheduled hour with a teacher so many days per week.
It is of critical importance that you embrace the need for regular, routine, and proper scholarship as you begin to learn all that Buddhism has to offer. You’ll want to look into the different teachings of Buddhism, you’ll want to look into the different pathways to Buddhism, and you want to search for guides – physical, tangible, as well as mental and emotional – that have the opportunity to shine the brightest light of Buddhism on you.
It’s also important to remember that a true dharmic understanding of Buddhism is only going to unfold in three different stages
- hearing (or reading)
An intellectual understanding of the material that you are studying is only going to provide you with a framework of Buddhism. You’ll need to wrestle with the material, force it into your subconscious, and fold it into the very fabric of your personality while contemplating it as often as you can. Different life situations will obviously bring different teachings to the surface, and this is when you’re going to want to capture the moment, embrace all that contemplation has to offer, and spend time really trying to understand all that this lesson is promising.
Finally, you’ll want to spend time every day (ideally every morning and every night) looking for new opportunities to meditate on the lessons that you have been studying as well as the lessons that you have uncovered through your daily life. This time spent meditating on both the mysteries and the lessons of Buddhism will pay off significantly, especially if you are committing to master all that this spiritual pathway has to offer.
At the end of the day, there is a larger amount of research available to anyone and everyone hoping to study Buddhism today than ever before. On top of that, Buddhist lessons from a number of different experienced practitioners are available as well – many of them at your fingertips free of charge thanks to the reach of the internet – and it’s never been easier than it is today to self-study Buddhism.
Of course, it’s impossible to represent all the knowledge and lessons that Buddhism has to offer in a book, DVD, or YouTube series. Buddhism is, at its very core, something distinctly personal and something separate from our physical world and you’ll do well to strive to understand as much of this mysticism as you can along your path without fighting the fits and starts that are inevitable along the way.