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Lions Roar : November 2014
purpose, it relates to our genuine being, as particular and per- sonal as it is. We don’t have to fake anything. We don’t have to compare or compete. if we have a dharma friend who is doing very well in her practice, that’s wonderful. We should in fact rejoice for her. it’s said that when you rejoice in the meritorious actions of oth- ers, you accumulate the same merit. your genuine joy in their accomplishments is equal in virtue (or selflessness) to the virtue of their diligent and compassionate actions. isn’t that wonder- ful? you don’t have to do anything—just rejoice. instead of feel- ing jealous and competitive, rejoice. Independence there’s a saying in tibetan Buddhism: “all independence is happiness, all dependence is suffering.” What that means essen- tially is that the only person who is capable of setting in motion the processes that will create peace and happiness for you is you. No one else can do it for you. the ideal of living as an independent, self-reliant person is ingrained in our culture. this illusion of independence starts early. as children, we’re encouraged by our parents and teachers to be independent. as adults, we seek jobs that support our inde- pendence, and we buy cars, vacations, and lifestyles that make us feel in control and free. even into our eighties and nineties we’re told that we can continue to enjoy “independent living” in our golden age retirement homes. (the twenty or so nurses, cooks, and housekeepers are simply a well-deserved convenience.) everything is about getting and sustaining our financial and social independence, but how independent are we really? When you go to a grocery store to buy an apple, you just walk into the store and get the apple all by yourself. that’s being independent, right? But when you think about it, you’re just one part of a vast network that grows, harvests, transports, markets, sells, and finally buys apples. the farmers themselves depend on the soil, the sun, the rain, and so on. if conditions aren’t favorable, the price of your apple goes up, or the crop disappears altogether. there’s nothing really independent—that is, not subject to the influence or control of other people or external conditions—about your purchase of that apple. When we’re fixated on the sacrosanct nature of our own independence, we don’t want to rely on the say-so of anybody else to get what we want. We struggle with issues of freedom and independence as small children, as adolescents, and into our full maturity. ironically, clinging to our narrow understand- ing of independence creates a lot of suffering. there’s another sense of independence, however, that’s not all about attaining self-determination or freedom from some- one or something else. this spirit of independence is present in our mind from the beginning, even as small children. it’s con- nected to the power of our own internal resources, our natural intelligence, our innate wisdom and compassion. of course in the beginning the discovery of that wisdom is dependent on outer sources. But once we’ve discovered that wisdom, we can depend on our own judgment. that’s genuine independence. We’re free from the need to rely on anything or anyone outside of us. We have a sense of complete power—the potential to achieve anything we want. So independence comes with a sense of power, and because of that we have to be responsible. if we don’t exercise responsibility, that’s when things can get dangerous. When this powerful feeling of independence meets with our sense of individuality, we realize that we have a choice. We can turn this unique mind of ours into something extremely destruc- tive or into something genuinely beneficial. it’s totally up to us. among all the forms of independence that we experience, the highest and most genuine form of independence comes from wis- dom. a wise mind is not only understanding and intuitive; it’s high functioning and sharp, with strong powers of reasoning and logic. the ultimate form of independence is to know our mind well, and to know how to train, purify, and transform that mind. if we have that knowledge, we have control over our own liberation and don’t need to depend on anyone else for it. otherwise, we have to rely too heavily on our spiritual friend or teacher, who needs to leave us now and then. When he or she is gone, we think, “oh, now i have to wait until my teacher returns to get back on my track to liberation.” the Buddha said that such guides are necessary to our path in the beginning, but at the end we must become independent. Wisdom isn’t some generic form of higher consciousness. even with wisdom, we’re still unique beings, and the way our intelligence manifests reflects our individuality. if our minds were all alike, the world would look very strange. it would be full of robots. Wisdom isn’t identical from person to person. We’re each endowed with our own unique qualities. Sometimes these quali- ties aren’t evident to us, and we need a process to help us uncover them and get them to shine through our confusion. that’s what the practice of buddhadharma is all about. the concept of The ultimate form of independence is to know your mind well— to train, purify, and transform that mind. SHAMBHALA SUN NoveMBer 2014 31