Dromtönpa once saw a monk doing circumambulations and intuitively knew he was doing them for a worldly motive. He remarked, “It’s good to do circumambulations, but it would be better to practice.” Later he saw the same monk making prostrations. “Prostrations are good,” he said, “but it would be better to practice.” After some time, the monk began to do meditation and Dromtönpa again remarked that doing retreats was laudable, but it would be even better to practice. Finally the monk, who by this time was thoroughly perplexed, inquired what he meant by the word practice. Dromtönpa answered that it meant letting go of our preoccupation with this life and developing true love and compassion.
If what we do is for this life, it is a wordly endeavor, no matter how much it resembles a spiritual practice. If we don’t overcome that concern, we aren’t true practitioners. If we don’t overcome our concern for the well-being of our future lives, we don’t have a real wish for freedom.
From Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, by Geshe Sonam Rinchen, edited and translated by Ruth Sonam, pages 30-31.