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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 43 our world. This does not mean that we ignore the enormousness of people’s sorrows or that we make ourselves foolishly vulnerable to unstable and perhaps violent individuals. Indeed, to find the dignity in oth- ers, their suffering has to be acknowledged. Among the most central of all Buddhist psycholog- ical principles are the four noble truths, which begin by acknowledging the inevitable suffering in human life. This truth, too, is hard to talk about in modern culture, where people are taught to avoid discomfort at any cost, where “the pursuit of happiness” has be- come “the right to happiness.” And yet when we are suffering, it is so refreshing and helpful to have the truth of suffering acknowledged. Buddhist teachings help us to face our individual suffering, from shame and depression to anxiety and grief. They address the collective suffering of the world and help us to work with the source of this sor- row: the forces of greed, hatred, and delusion in the human psyche. While tending to our sufferings is criti- cal, this does not eclipse our fundamental nobility. The word nobility does not refer to medieval knights and courts. It derives from the Greek gno (as in gnosis), meaning “wisdom” or “inner illumination.” In English, nobility is defined as human excellence, as that which is illustrious, admirable, lofty, and distinguished, in values, conduct, and bearing. How might we intuitively connect with this quality in those around us? Just as no one can tell us how to feel love, each of us can find our own way to sense the underlying goodness in others. One way is to shift the frame of time, imagining the person before us as a small child, still young and innocent. Once after a particularly difficult day with my teenage daughter, I found myself sitting beside her as she slept. Just hours before, we had been struggling over her plans for the evening; now she lay sleeping with the innocence and beauty of her childhood. Such innocence is there in all people, if we are willing to see it. Or, instead of moving back in time, we can move forward. We can visualize the person at the end of his JULY 40-45.indd 43 JULY 40-45.indd 43 4/25/08 11:39:27 AM 4/25/08 11:39:27 AM