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Lions Roar : September 2018
HOT OFF THE PRESS evened out; it can only be experienced. There is no way that you can know how your relationship is going to turn out, regardless of how carefully you pre- pare, how clear you are about your needs and expectations, and how intently you listen to your partner’s wishes. Yet some- how when we commit to another person, we make and require promises. I will always love you. I promise to cherish you. Nothing will ever come between us. Sometimes you will love each other, and sometimes you will fume with rage. Sometimes you will cherish your part- ner, and sometimes you will wish they would, shall we say, disappear. Something will come between you every single day: work, family, ambitions, depressions, confusions, and different ideas about everything from how much money is enough and which personal values you ought to share to the “right” way to fold laundry. To enter a relationship for the long term is to enter the space of not know- ing. While this is so brave and beautiful, exhilarating even, it is not particularly comfortable. Romantic Materialism Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa defined something called the Three Lords of Materialism. These three lords, known as the Lords of Form, Speech, and Mind, rule physical, psycho- logical, and spiritual materialism. They direct us to acquire certain belongings or qualities with the promise that these will enable us to avoid sorrow and bring us lasting happiness. The Lord of Form says that there are certain possessions, attainments, and lifestyles that will exempt you from sad- ness, whether for a moment or for all time. If only you had a house in the right neighborhood, a degree from a specific institute, a certain amount of money in savings, a new iPhone, automobile, job, or hairdo, you would be happy. It’s not that these things aren’t wonderful. They are! But they will not save you. (Well, maybe the hairdo.) The Lord of Speech rules the realm of thoughts, beliefs, and philosophies. This lord assures you that when you can correctly assess your childhood wounds, sub- scribe to the right ideol- ogy, or adhere to the most accurate analysis, you will be safe. It’s not that these things aren’t wonderful. They are! But they will not save you. The Lord of Mind is most insidious. He seeks to convince you that medi- tation or other spiritual practices will exempt you from suffering and give you special sta- tus among your fellow humans. If only your meditation was perfect or you could think only “good” thoughts, you would be free from pain. It’s not that these things aren’t wonderful. They are! But they will not save you. All three lords point you down the wrong path. Each seeks to affirm your small mind and conventional view by urging you to create a cocoon that will protect you from suffering. Each would like to obscure your highest wisdom and true nature, which are available only when the cocoon disappears. I want to take the liberty of suggest- ing a fourth lord: the Lord of Romance. So that you may gain entry into a more heavenly realm, rather than directing you to acquire certain possessions, knowl- edge, or spiritual attainments, this lord says you can obtain access through falling in love, finding “the one.” He attempts to use our heart con- nection to another person as a means to escape suffering. He makes the case that relationships will protect us from sorrow, anger, frustration, disappointment, and all manner of physical, emotional, and spiritual loss. He is in league with the Lord of Form when he tells us to find a wealthy partner so that we can have a nice house and escape financial worry. He has teamed with the Lord of Speech when we find ourselves caught up in beliefs: that the right one will appear when our childhood wounds are healed; that our partner owes it to us to meet our needs, give us space, eat dinner with us every night; or any other unchecked assumption about what love ought to be. And when the Lords of Romantic and Spiritual Materialism get together, hijinks ensue. We might think that our relationship is supposed to provide shelter from every storm, heal our sor- rows, fulfill our longings, and create a life of unending happiness. If you are hoping for a relationship that will drop into your lap from heaven, put an end to all of your self-doubt, and snuggle you permanently, you may be running on the fumes of romantic materialism rather than the desire for true love (which is discovered on the spot rather than planned for in advance). There is nothing wrong with wanting bunches of money, philosophical clar- ity, spiritual attainment, and the truest of true loves. I hope you will have all of that and more, and that your relationship will give you a life of beauty, heart-to- heart connection, and deep healing on all levels. But if you are looking for safety rather than love, you may be under the sway of materialism rather than true kindheartedness toward self and other. The Lord of Romantic Materialism takes the wheel every time you think that there is a person out there who was born looking for you just as you were born looking for them, and that, once you find each other, difficulties will cross- dissolve into oblivion. He is present every THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS OF LOVE Buddhist Wisdom for Modern Relationships By Susan Piver Lionheart Press, 194 pp., $14.95 (paper) LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2018 73