Step Four: Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves: The Buddhist Perspective
This is part four in a series. If you missed the previous articles, the first one is located here, the second here and the third is here.
The inventory is one of the hardest steps. It takes rigorous honesty and awareness to complete. Once the inventory is completed we have a much clearer knowledge of who we truly are.
In Buddhism this is done only with the aid of an authentic Lama. By this time you have completed the preliminary practice called Ngondro. (Full Disclosure: I have not yet completed my Ngondro) The Lama gives you what is called "pointing out instructions" with the goal being understanding the nature of your own mind. Meditation, prostrations, and much contemplation and practice are required. This is the eastern way of inventory. The end result being "awareness".
It is very important that we know our assets and liabilities. The inventory affords us this. We offer up our character defects to be cleansed. We offer up and dedicate all of our merit to the Buddha's of all time. The goal of the Buddhist way of life is Ethical Conduct. The only way we can be ethical is to know what needs to be purified in order to become truly humble. Our Buddhist practice enables us to look at our liabilities as part of Samsara. We neither cling to or run from them. Our job is to transform all of our character defects into compassion which naturally leads to Ethical conduct.
A highly skilled Lama will be able to see what our lessons are and will give instructions and teaching which will enable us to grow to be more dedicated to the compassionate ethical path. Some of these teachings will bring out our character flaws and cause much pain and frustration. A Root Lama will walk us down this path with great skill, wisdom and compassion.
In this way a sponsor takes us through the steps. We rely on our sponsor to give us the format for the inventory and to be a witness to the reading which is the next step. The inventory can take quite a while to complete and it may take years to be ready to begin it. I will cover the 5th step next week. Until then: