I’d like to propose that the practice of Dhamma is one that has two dimensions – a dimension of depth and a dimension of breadth. Through our lives as practitioners of the Dhamma, there are times when we want to apply ourselves, or be able to apply ourselves, to one of these dimensions – of breadth or depth. There are times when we will be able to devote ourselves to one or the other, situations that will suit one or the other, and people who are good at one or the other. And yet I would suggest that a rounded practice, a complete practice is one that has both of these dimensions to it.
A broad practice is a practice where somebody can be calm and see clearly through any kind of situation. A deep practice is a practice where somebody has seen very deeply into the nature of things, and seeing things in a different way has transformed their perception of the world.
Typically, the first one is often the way for a lay practitioner to lead a skilful life, be positive in the present moment, live in the present moment, be positive and skilful in all the various, wide circumstances that they find themselves in. The monastic life can present these periods of time and this kind of practice to us as well – where we can find ourselves in all kinds of situations trying to hold it together…
Sometimes deep practice can go very deep, and it can completely change our view of the world. If we just have breadth of practice, we may be able to accept the way things are and yet we haven’t really seen the way things are. However for the person who has developed some depth of practice, who has seen the way things are, life is very much easier to accept – because everything is good news. The way things really are is very good news. It can liberate the mind. There can be a lot of joy coming just from seeing the way things are.
Perhaps it will be useful to consider for yourself what situation you’re in, also your personal character tendencies, what you’re suited for, and how to use the situation. We can think “This is a nice, quiet, peaceful situation, and I can maybe use this to deepen my practice a little” or “This is a very difficult situation but I can use this to broaden my practice, to develop steadiness and non-reactivity of mind.”
Within a group it’s often very valuable to have different members who have different strengths…Then we all learn from each other and protect each other.
This reflection by Ajahn Kalyano is from the book, The Thread, Deep and Broad Practice.