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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 66 Khandro Tseyang: Having been born into a big family with a lot of siblings has really helped me in this relationship. Having a supportive family helps you adjust to each other, understand each other, share each other’s problems, and give advice, because you’re already used to doing those things in your own family. So when you enter a relationship, your family really comes in handy. Here in the West, it is often just two people coping—the man and the woman. When I see a couple, I often think, “Oh, they shouldn’t have any problems because it is just the two of them.” But then I see that they face a lot of difficulties, which have to be worked on with understand- ing, patience, and steadiness. Having a big family can be helpful—they offer support and someone to talk to about dealing with your relationship. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Our rela- tionship is obviously very personal, but at the same time it has a larger social context. We’re not just thinking about ourselves. In the traditional setting, the relationship also has to do with family values, longevity, and stability, so there is a larger context than just the couple. I’ve noticed what people want from a relationship is slightly different in the West. Here, it is often only about your own feelings—whether the other person makes you happy or not. When the other person doesn’t make you happy, you’re disappointed. That’s a lot of stress on two people. How do we work with that? Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: When all the focus is on the feelings between the couple, the relationship becomes a challenging kind of balancing act, one of those not- too-tight, not-too-loose situations. When Khandro Tseyang came to North America, she would see people who really seemed to be in love, who couldn’t stay away from each other. Later she’d ask, “What hap- pened to that couple?” and I’d say, “They’re separated now.” So there has to be balance. One of the most difficult things in relation- ships is dealing with all the strong emotions that come up—the anger, the hurt, the irritation. What is the best way to work with emotional upheavals, both your own and your partner’s? Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Most of all, you need to take a big view of the mean- ing of your relationship and be firm about your commitment. Ask yourself, What is the purpose of the relationship? What do we both want to share? What outcome do we want? How does it fit with what our families want? Often we don’t include our relationship in the big picture. We don’t acknowledge that the relationship is so important that it will affect everything else we’re doing. At some point we have to realize that the relationship is at the center of our life, and therefore we have to be willing to sacrifice to make it work. Khandro Tseyang: As sentient beings we all have mind, so we are bound to have emotions. When emotions come up, it is important to look at what they are, where they’re coming from, and how serious they really are. We should know how to deal with emotions because sometimes they are very silly and stupid. We have to realize that. The most important thing is not being carried away by them. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Somebody said to me once, “I have one question: How do we deal with emotions?” And I said, “It’s called Buddhism. That’s the whole path.” Meditating is fine, but you also need a bigger perspective. For example, our re- lationship is not just about our own feel- ings. There are other people involved, and a culture and structure that give us strength. If you’re trying to live in a Buddhist way and it’s just the two of you supporting each other, you’re going to be very challenged. You have to make the context bigger. Having a sangha, in effect. Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche: Yes, having a sangha. As Khandro Tseyang was saying, a family. Her family likes to do everything together. In the West, that’s pretty unusual now, but it used to be normal. So many institutions have dissolved—the family unit, the village, and so forth—and what’s left is the couple. Putting all that stress on a fragile situation means that the relation- ship comes down to the weakest point of those two people—anger or whatever it is. There needs to be a context for build- ing up both individuals. Otherwise it’s a short-term situation. When Khandro Tseyang and I first met, I asked her, “What do you think is important in a marriage?” She said, “Hav- ing compatible views about what we want from our lives.” That was a very insightful thing to say, because obviously if you’re NOV 64-67.indd 66 NOV 64-67.indd 66 9/1/08 12:22:48 PM 9/1/08 12:22:48 PM