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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 50 of us don’t have a lot of models of loyalty and faithfulness around us. The U.S. divorce rate is around fifty percent, and for nonmar- ried but committed partners the rates are similar or higher. We tend to compare ourselves with others and to wonder if we have enough to offer in a relationship. Many of us feel unworthy. We’re thirsty for truth, goodness, compassion, spiritual beauty, and we’re sure these things don’t exist within us, so we go looking out- side. Sometimes we think we’ve found the ideal partner who em- bodies all that is good, beautiful, and true. That person may be a romantic partner, a friend, or a spiritual teacher. We see all the good in that person and we fall in love. After a time, we usually discover that we’ve had a wrong perception of that person and we become disappointed. Beauty and goodness are always there in each of us. This is the basic teaching of the Buddha. A true teacher, a true spiritual partner, is one who encourages you to look deeply in yourself for the beauty and love you are seeking. The true teacher is someone who helps you discover the teacher in yourself. According to the Buddha, the birth of a human being is not a beginning but a continuation, and when we’re born, all the different kinds of seeds— seeds of goodness, of cruelty, of awakening—are already inside us. Whether the goodness or cru- elty in us is revealed depends on what seeds we cultivate through our actions and our way of life. At the moment of his awakening at the foot of the Bodhi tree, the Buddha declared, “How strange—all beings possess the capacity to be awakened, to understand, to love, to be free—yet they allow themselves to be carried away on the ocean of suffering.” He saw that, day and night, we’re seeking what is already there within us. We can call it buddhanature, awakened nature, the true freedom that is the foundation for all peace and happiness. The capacity to be enlightened isn’t something that someone else can offer to you. A teacher can only help you to remove the non-enlightened elements in you so that en- lightenment can be revealed. If you have confidence that beauty, goodness, and the true teacher are in you, and if you take refuge in them, you will practice in a way that reveals these qualities more clearly each day. Each one of us is sovereign over the territory of our own being and the five elements (skandhas) we are made of. These elements are form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. Our practice is to look deeply into these five ele- ments and discover the true nature of our being—the true na- ture of our suffering, our happiness, our peace, our fearlessness. But when we’ve abandoned our territory, we’re not responsi- ble rulers. We haven’t practiced and, every day, instead of taking care of our territory, we’ve run away from it and allowed conflicts and disorder to arise. We’re afraid to go back to our territory and face the difficulties and suffering there. Whenever we have fifteen “free” minutes, or an hour or two, we have the habit of us- ing television, newspapers, music, conversation, or the telephone to forget and to run away from the reality of the elements that make up our being. We think, “I’m suffering too much, I have too many problems. I don’t want to go back to them anymore.” We have to come back to our physical selves and put things in order. The Buddha gave us very concrete practices that show us how to do this. He was very clear that to clean up and transform the elements of our selves, we need to cultivate the energy of mindfulness. This is what will give us the strength to come back to ourselves. The energy of mindfulness is something concrete that can be cultivated. When we practice walking mindfully, our solid, peaceful steps cultivate the energy of mindfulness and bring us back to the present moment. When we sit and follow our breath- NOV 48-57.indd 50 NOV 48-57.indd 50 9/1/08 12:21:35 PM 9/1/08 12:21:35 PM