What does it mean to be on the path in Buddhism?

I think as humans in general we often struggle with trying or wanting to be perfect, right, correct, good, or flawless. We don’t want to make mistakes much less admit them to anyone.

For those on a spiritual path this innate desire to be perfect can get amplified and distorted even further. We want so desperately to be good that the slightest stumble on our path becomes devastating.We turn our path into an excuse to beat ourselves up because we didn’t live up to our own expectations.

For example, we may have a strong aspiration to overcome our anger. I think anger is fairly common. We all experience it. From the tiniest irritation to full-blown rage. That is anger. So we see the pain and destruction of anger and resolve to overcome it. But then we are in traffic and another person cuts us off. We go to work and our boss is there telling us how much extra we need to work today in order to meet our new deadline. And there anger is again. It builds and builds and then finally it breaks through-probably not at work though. No, our anger waits until we are home with our spouse or children before it strikes. It comes out in harsh words, a snappy comment, or even a scream. Then we spend the rest of the evening trying to make up for our momentary burst of anger. Then this cycle repeats. It may go on for years.

So how do we know we are on the path? My guru, Ponlop Rinpoche, says that in order to be on the path all we need is to genuinely try. Succeeding comes later. Being on the path means genuinely and authentically trying to overcome our anger, greed, jealousy, and other destructive patterns. Just try. Don’t worry about succeeding.

This means genuinely or really trying, not just making an excuse. If we genuinely try to transform our mind through practice it will happen. We don’t need to stress about it or beat ourselves up over each little success or failure. All we have to do is try. Whether we succeed or fail in any given moment is not as important as a genuine endeavor to transform our mind.

That is the path.
To genuinely try to transform our mind.
Don’t worry about success or failure.