Depending on your practice tradition, you probably have encountered a Dharma talk. Maybe during retreat, maybe during a public meditation session or talk on Buddhism, maybe in the kitchen while cleaning up after lunch.
What are these Dharma talks good for? How should we approach them, listen to them, feel them? How should someone giving a Dharma talk approach their impossible task?
When I was reading a number of Pali Canon sutras, there was a refrain that occurred quite often. Here is an example.
The Buddha is giving a Dhamma talk to Suppabuddha the leper, having seen with his Buddha eye that Suppabuddha was capable of understanding the Dhamma. Through the Buddha’s teaching, Suppabuddha realizes the Dhamma for himself.
Then Suppabuddha the leper, having been instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged by the Blessed One’s Dhamma talk, delighting and approving of the Blessed One’s words, got up from his seat, bowed down to the Blessed One, circumambulated him — keeping him to his right — and left.
The Buddha’s teaching “instructed, urged, roused, and encouraged” Suppabuddha to awaken on the spot! The teaching was a call to practice, was encouragement for shattering the great doubt right there, on the spot, without a second to waste!
Dharma talks can be precise. They can be deep and subtle and conceptually illuminating. They can be poetic and lofty or crass and gritty.
But if there is no instructing, urging, rousing, and encouragement to practice, then what is it good for?
(The quote comes from the Kutthi Sutta, tr. Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Italics were added for emphasis.)