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Lions Roar : January 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2009 21 accomplish something. When our mind is trying to accomplish something, it’s because there is a sense of dissatisfaction, a lack of contentment. This kind of ambition is different from exertion and practicing correctly; in fact, it is the wheel that keeps samsara going. We don’t recognize the openness of our own nature, and since we do not understand who we are, we keep going around in a circle. We feel that we are getting somewhere, but later we see that we have gotten nowhere. There is always a sense of gain and loss. Ambition is a sign that we are trying to appease our suffering by thinking that something external will make us happy. Because that approach is ego-centered and aggressive, it will never ap- pease the suffering. It will only fire it up. This kind of ambition is actually bewilderment, not knowing what to do and where to put our faith. We are putting our hope and ambition into all kinds of things, and coming up empty-handed. Meditation, and the postmeditation practice that follows it, heighten our awareness of the qualities of a worthy object. That is why we do formal practice. When we have the courage to literally take our seat and work with our mind, we are cultivating lack of ambition in a positive sense; we can relax into who we are. Opening up our mind in this way gives us the insight to overcome aggression and increase compassion. When we put ambition into this enlight- ened context, it will actually materialize as something of value. Another impediment to moving forward in a dark age is Coming Out of the Dark It’s easy to be carried along by the tendencies of the dark age—ambition, attachment, fear, and depression. But SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE tells us that a slight shift is all we need to move our energy in a positive direction. ACCORDING TO MANY wisdom traditions, we are in a dark age. More than a thousand years ago, Padmasambhava, the great teacher who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet, predicted that this particular dark age would be distinguished by our increasing cleverness. We would create myriad ways to keep ourselves entertained, becoming ex- perts in how to spend free time. We would use our intellect not for betterment but for hanging out in one form of distraction or another, constantly on holiday. Our discursive minds would run ram- pant. Padmasambhava predicted that as we became shrewder and cleverer, compassion would seem increasingly futile and we would forget how to bring meaning to our lives. In the Shambhala teachings, we call this dark age the “setting sun.” The Tibetan word for “setting sun” literally means the dregs, the remains of the day. “Remains” refers to the last remnants of virtue, the positive activity that takes us forward and opens our hearts and minds rather than shuts them down. Virtues like compassion and loving-kindness lead to happiness because they uplift our being. In a time when positive activity is not valued, turmoil and negativity thicken our minds, causing confusion and unhappiness. We don’t have a clear understanding of our purpose or potential. When the activity that enables us to move forward to enlightenment is on the wane, our life-force energy is low. If we do not really understand where things are going or what the journey is—if we do not have a map, so to speak—we lose energy by spinning in circles, not practicing properly in the right direction. What keeps us from moving forward? What is it that we need to overcome? First of all, we must overcome ambition—trying to PAINTINGBYTONYMATTHEWS SAKYONG MIPHAM RINPOCHE is the spiritual leader of Shambhala, an international network of Buddhist meditation and retreat centers. He is the author of Turning the Mind into an Ally and Ruling Your World.