Friday, April 17, 2015


Even in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of remaining for years in solitary retreat, it is the mental comfort of extending love and compassion to all beings that allows powerful meditators to grow from training the mind. This notion of sharing frightens the coward but invigorates the warrior. If we don't orient our day toward spiritual growth, the speed of our life takes over, fueled by habitual patterns. Some habitual patterns are a source of inspiration; others just a drain on our energy. We want to infuse our day with good habits, such as using patience instead of anger.

When students asked the Buddha, "How should I practice?" the Buddha answered, "bring virtue to whatever you are doing. When you sew, make garments with the thought of compassion. When you cook, make the food with patience. When you play music, offer it with generosity. Let whatever you are doing become your meditation, and your path will deepen." These days we call this kind of activity "meditation in action."

One of the recommended ways to bring meditation into action is wholeheartedly embracing the path of virtue. How do we determine what is virtuous?

We look at the result. Being mindful, feeling compassion, and exercising patience lead to pleasure and lightness of mind. Being angry, jealous, or proud leads to pain because it constricts the mind and makes our consciousness thicker. We take charge of our life by knowing which qualities we want to embrace.

There will always be hardened hearts and mental anomalies - depression, anxiety, and fear - just as there will always be behavioral anomalies and environmental anomalies. From the perspective of bravery, these conditions are not the norm, and when they arise, they should be treated with compassion and concern. That's how a fearful mind becomes a joyful mind. In order to be brave, we must trust that underneath it all, there is sanity and openness.

As I've said before, aggression is the result of selfishness and fear, which shrink our perspective. Aggression surfaces at the point where we appear to make short-term gains, but we weaken our chances of survival in the long run, for as aggression consumes us, our perspective continues to shrink; we become rigid and lose our flexibility. Our hearts harden. It becomes more difficult for us to make rational or conscious decisions, and we are hardly able to adapt because our view is  so narrow that we can see only one possible solution to a problem - aggression. Aggression is not a sign of strength, but of fear, failure, and weakness. It means that all other possible avenues - compassion, kindness, and bravery - have failed.

Thus, it is dangerous to equate the survival of the fittest with the survival of the aggressive. As complicated and diverse as the world is, one of humanity's essential qualities is strength, and someone who has realized the nature of his or her true mind has the strength to be forceful when necessary - and also compassionate, loving, and kind. Compassion is the long-term solution that has a positive influence on our society and our economy. It stabilizes our lives and the lives of others. If our energy were simply aggressive, it would be too myopic and weak to have gotten us this far.

Yet at this intersection of the rise of technology and science, the fall of ethical standards, and economic and ecological instability, there is a danger even with the concerted efforts of individuals and organizations to make the world a better place - that the habit of aggression will become stronger than the habit of compassion. Particularly since the Industrial Revolution, we have had greater means to oppose nature, taking advantage of the environment for our own gain. Through this greed and discontent we are consuming our planet and the natural resources it provides. The end result is personal, social, and environmental deforestation.

Many of us are passionately involved in responding to this crisis because we know that Mother Nature has been at the survival game longer than we have and has more patience. If we do not create harmony among ourselves and the environment, if Darwin's theory is correct, eventually the elements will beat us.

When I would ask my father if enlightenment is possible, he would say, "Yes, because we have enlightened genes." In this time of chaos, if we can choose compassion instead of aggression, we will regain our connection to nature, and humanity could be here for many eons into the future, having created a society that works in partnership with the earth - by embracing our own enlightened qualities. In Shambhala, goodness is not only communication between humans; it is also communication with the elements and all living beings.

Defaulting to insecurity and aggression, not fully believing in our own compassion, is the opposite of bravery. If this cowardly state of mind begins to consume humanity, it is unlikely that we will create harmony with our environment and survive. - By Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

No comments:

Post a Comment