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Lions Roar : May 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2007 73 In Buddhism, this basic goodness is called buddha- nature. It’s not associated with the historical Buddha, but it is what the Buddha possessed that enabled him to transcend suffering and fear. We each pos- sess this enlightened quality, and we can each re- turn to it, just like the Buddha. Buddhanature is so innate and so precious that when self-loathing was explained to the Dalai Lama, he asked, “But how can people dislike themselves when they possess buddhanature?” HOW NOT TO BE AFRAID OF OTHERS: DELIGHT As I write this, I’m sitting in my room at a Bud- dhist meditation center in the Colorado Rockies. It’s six a.m. in the dead of winter, and I’m at my desk waiting to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over snowy mountains. All around, I can hear the other retreatants begin their day: some are walking to the dining hall for coffee, others are doing their morn- ing stretches. The first time I attended a program like this, I sat in the seat closest to the door. I wanted to be able to slip out silently if it was too weird. I watched my fellow meditators make their way to their seats and, with each new arrival, I felt more dismayed. Everyone looked so bogus—self-important or New-Agey or just plain silly. The woman who sat down next to me must have gargled with patchouli oil and bathed in sage. Yick. Was I going to have to put up with these smells the entire week? In fact, every single person in the room looked unbeliev- ably irritating. I did not belong here. This was a giant waste of time and a huge mistake. A week later the retreat was over, and as I gazed around the circle at my fellow students, I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving them. There were many hugs and meaningful gazes. As we said good-bye, we cried. In the last seven days I had developed a willingness to jump into their lives and help them and love them in any way I could. How were these people transformed from ridic- ulous losers into people before whom I felt hum- bled? It was easy. I stopped listening to myself and started listening to them. Each had a very real, even shocking story of difficulties endured. Each was making the best effort he or she could to go on with life. If there were fifty of us in the group, my heart broke forty-nine different ways. By the program’s end, I was in awe of each of them. By bringing awareness to thought, the practice of meditation helps you get free of your immediate negative reactions, which are fear-based. Instead of being judgmental, you can become inquisitive about other people and take delight in them. You can take them in completely. You can do this even if you still end up not liking them very much. Delight comes when you replace criticism with openness and genuine curiosity about others. Be- cause you have experienced the recovery of emo- tional equanimity during meditation, you can take chances. The first response to others is usually to play it safe and wait until general trustworthiness is proven, but in doing so you miss the opportunity to The good news and the bad news is that your breakability and your fearlessness are the same thing.