Being zealous student that I am, I approached Gil, and told him I wanted to start studying original teachings from the Budha. No more feel good readings from contemporary teachers . . . Better go straight to the source. Gil suggested that I start with In the Buddha's Words, a book by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Another option would be to follow the syllabus from Sati Center Sutta Study Class, Studying the Words of the Buddha, along with two recommended books: The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, by Bhikkhu Bodhi, and Handful of Leaves, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Gil also advised me to not overdo it, two pages at the most each day, and to not get hung up on parts I don't understand.
Later, that same night, I had vivid dream:
I am participating in an experiment, in the countryside. First, I watch planes, as they drop seeds on vast areas of freshly plowed land. Later, land has turned into huge field of wild flowers. I marvel at the beauty of it all, and try to catch side view of undulating surface, from the road where I stand. I especially love the effect of the light playing through the rich yellow colors. Prad gives me a modest bouquet of yellow poppies he just picked from the field. All of a sudden, I remember I am supposed to do some research, involving two variables. I get preoccupied with who to submit research to? My old professor just left. I start looking for his replacement.
Danger of corrupting beauty of practice with academic striving. Study is a loaded word for overachiever that I am. I thought of Ajahn Chah, in Food for the Heart:
When people do a lot of study, their minds are full of words, they get high on the books and forget themselves. They get lost in externals. Now this is so only for those who don't have wisdom, who are unrestrained and don't have steady sati. For these people studying can be a cause for decline. When such people are engaged in study they don't do any sitting or walking meditation and become less and less restrained. Their minds become more and more distracted. Aimless chatter, lack of restraint and socializing become the order of the day. This is the cause for the decline of the practice. It's not because of the study in itself, but because certain people don't make the effort, they forget themselves. Actually the scriptures are pointers along the path of practice. If we really understand the practice, then reading or studying are both further aspects of meditation. But if we study and then forget ourselves it gives rise to a lot of talking and fruitless activity.Hearing Gil and Ajahn Chah's wise words, loud and clear. Practice, practice. Study only as a way to support practice, not a distraction from it.