A. We should not be deceived by appearances. Because someone is engaging themselves in, for example, Buddhist activities of various sorts, doesn’t by definition mean they are practising the Dharma. Their motives to selflessly help others could be well down their list of priorities. Their primary motive could be promoting their own self-image through being respected, being well thought of. What they are doing could well be useful and beneficial to others, but in practice terms it will have a superficial impact on their transforming process, which is what Dharma practice is about. Indeed, they could be just pumping up their ego still further. In strict Dharma terms what you do on the outside (providing you observe the precepts) is of little consequence to the cultivation of the path. Of course some activities are more conducive to practice than others, but broadly speaking it doesn’t matter what you are doing. To put a correct practice in place is the first priority. That correctness is centred on understanding the eightfold path, a path laid out to enable you to come back with mindfulness and awareness to whatever you are doing, and to stay centred. When you are centred there is no sense of a self, and it is here that selflessness has its centre. Whatever action you now do is non-karmic producing and deeply profound. Here you are not only honouring and serving the Dharma (indeed, you are the Dharma) for your own benefit but also honouring and serving the Dharma for others around you who are bound to be touched by your obvious selflessness, and inspiring them to practice.

You learn to orientate to and live the Dharma by learning and putting into practice the eightfold path supported by going for refuge. This is the framework of the path (irrespective of the tradition or method you follow). You get your guidance from you teacher and from moderate study, all within the support of a sangha. It is a long and steady process that you surrender your life to in the spirit and determination of a full-time commitment.