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Lions Roar : March 2017
ARLENEGEE Every time I see my family, I end up hurt and frustrated because no matter what I say they believe Buddhism is a weird fringe religion. How can I make them understand? You can’t make anyone believe anything— not if they don’t want to—but you can change how you respond to your family’s criticisms. Most schools of Buddhism avoid proselytizing, and traditionally Bud- dhists are taught to not speak about the dharma unless someone asks. So consider making it part of your practice not to ini- tiate conversation about Buddhism with your family. If they bring up the topic, keep your comments simple, maybe just saying that Buddhism emphasizes awareness and compassion. You could point out that Buddhism focuses on ways to work with the mind, because that’s the cause of so much of our suffering. If they try to goad or debate you, practice mindful breathing and see if you can gently lead the conversation in another direction. In the end, the most convincing argument will be seeing the posi- tive effect Buddhism has had on your life. I’ve been meditating for quite a while, but so far I haven’t experienced much of that calm and well-being people talk about. Mostly I just experience my own discursiveness and discomfort. Am I ever going to feel good when I meditate? Not if you keep trying to. That’s not facetious. When you’re instructed to rest in things just as they are—including how you feel—that’s not just Buddhist stoicism. Goals like feeling good cause struggle, and struggle is painful. In fact, one definition of nirvana is the cessation of all struggle, also known as peace. So not struggling to feel good—or any other way, for that matter— might be the key to feeling good. (Of course you can’t try not to struggle, because, yes, that’s just another form of struggling.) The catch is that struggle is entertaining, even if it’s painful, and nothing threatens ego like boredom. That’s why Chögyam Trungpa described meditation as a state of “cool boredom” in which we stop struggling and experience our basic nature. (Spoiler alert: that feels good.) ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? KWAN YIN THE EMBODIMENT OF COMPASSION, Kwan Yin is known as “she who hears the cries of the world.” One of Buddhism’s most beloved bodhisattvas, she also holds a special place in the hearts of people of other faiths, including Daoists and Confucianists. Kwan Yin is the protector of women, children, sailors, fishermen, anyone in trouble, and the sick, disabled, and poor. Some Buddhist schools present her as male and female interchangeably. The idea is that a bodhisattva—a being of great realization who vows to forego enlightenment until all sentient beings are liberated—can manifest in whatever form will most effectively free beings from suffering. Kwan Yin originated in India as Avalokiteshvara, the male bodhisattva of compassion. He was introduced to China in the early centuries of the Common Era, but apparently there was a hunger for a feminine face of compassion, and by the eighth century female forms of Avalokiteshvara emerged. By the ninth century, Kwan Yin had become the main representation of compassion in China, and from there her veneration spread across Asia. Eventually, she became known by many names, including Kannon in Japan and Quan Am in Vietnam. According to legend, Kwan Yin tried so strenuously to alleviate the suffering of beings that her head split into eleven pieces. Wanting to help, Amitabha Bud- dha awarded her eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the world, but when she heard all the cries and reached out to address the needs of so many, her two arms shattered. This time, Amitabha gave Kwan Yin a thousand arms, and it’s said that even now she’s still using those arms to offer her compassion to all. Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at