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Lions Roar : May 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2007 108 belief in themselves could work with adverse circumstances and situa- tions in this way. Westerners need to give up overfocusing on their personal desires and problems, be- cause they have a tendency to dwell on their own stuff far too much. It is easy to misunderstand the Bud- dhist notion of egolessness. Put simply, Buddhism makes the radical observation that there is no fixed, unchanging, singular, separately ex- isting entity, and that applies to all phenomena, including the ego. It is quite true that, in the relative world, we cannot just casually get rid of our ego, for the ego is a vital part of us that has a function. However, we can train ourselves to harness the ego’s energy on the spiritual path, and in the process of doing so, we transform a problematic aspect of our lives into something transcendent and inspiring. SLOGAN: Meditate on the great kind- ness of everyone From the cradle to the grave, other people do things for us, even if we think we are neglected and unloved. If they had not helped us, especially when we were babies, we would never have survived. We contin- ue to survive because other people are still helping to maintain our world. Whether we think our upbringing was good or bad, people provided us with some kind of edu- cation and made sure we didn’t go hungry. Practically all of the pleasure, joy, and hap- piness that we experience come to us be- cause of the presence or activities of others. The food we eat is available to us because many thousands of people are involved in producing, packaging, and distributing it. The same applies to the water we drink, the clothes we buy, the electricity and gas we use, and any number of other things. Waiters bring us food in restaurants, hotel receptionists greet us, sometimes even by name, and bus drivers take us to our desti- nation and exchange pleasantries with us. We must rely on others if we are to have any quality of life. It’s not only those near and dear to us toward whom we should feel grateful, although the kindness of our loved ones often goes unrecognized the most. Our habituated responses are disem- powering, because they make everything look and feel as if it were working against us. If we can shift our focus from our rigid, narrow, and habituated points of view, we will empower our ability to embrace situa- tions in a new way so that every situation will start to seem more workable. Because we tend to think other people are taking advantage of us whenever they get the op- portunity, we become unceasingly self-pro- tective and suspicious. We need, therefore, to remind ourselves, over and over again, not to take anything for granted and to ap- preciate the kindness of others. There will always appear to be circum- stances, situations, and people that create difficulties and ob- stacles for us. This slogan specifi- cally instructs us to think about the kindness of others when we are confronted with negative situ- ations, remembering that we only mature spiritually and psycho- logically when we are tested. We should endeavor to think good thoughts about people who have in fact made our lives quite diffi- cult at times and try to turn these negative situations to our own spiritual advantage, so that we be- come wiser and stronger. As Shan- tideva says: So like a treasure found at home, Enriching me without fatigue, All enemies are helpers in my bodhisattva work And therefore they should be a joy to me. This is also true in relation to bad situ- ations in general. Every time we overcome an obstacle or an adversity, we become that much more intelligent and resilient, for it’s the accumulation of diverse experi- ences that enriches our lives. Both Chris- tian and Buddhist masters emphasize the importance of dealing with difficulties, instead of allowing them to get the better of us. This may be expressed in different ways and with different recommenda- tions, but they all say that it’s through difficulty that we grow. Saint John of the Cross describes what he calls the “dark night of the soul,” exhorting people not to give in to the darkness but see it instead as a portent of light. In the same way, our difficulties shouldn’t be viewed as some- thing that will automatically destroy us. The metaphor used in the lojong teach- ings, again and again, is that the manure of experience becomes fertilizer for the field of bodhi (enlightenment). Dharma- raksita says in The Poison-Destroying Peacock Mind Training: Detachment doesn’t equal indifference, and equanimity doesn’t mean we don’t experience emotion. We simply combine the two in order to maintain a sense of equilibrium in our emotional responses. Kakrak