To get my news, I have taken to watching the late night comedians from time to time. It seems as reasonable as anything else in this post-facts world, and at least you get some laughs in.
It has always been strange times in samsara, however. Ask human beings all over the world.* Maybe for a lot of us, right now, it is just a bit more obviously strange.
(*Not to mention asking the 50,000 underwater beings I met yesterday at Vancouver Aquarium – “How strange is life for you, umbrella jelly fish?” for example. “What is it like to identify with that body and mind?”)
Continuing from this article on developing self-confidence.
Everyone seems to be annoying everyone else these days, but in truth living beings are never our actual enemy – delusions are our only enemy. As a Buddhist verse says:
This fault I see is not the fault of the person
But the fault of delusion.
Realizing this, may I never view others’ faults,
But see all beings as supreme.
We can do a lot of things to help our world — complacency or opting out may not be the best options. But I think it’s important to consider that external action might be of limited use unless we’re remembering who is the real enslaving enemy here. If we want to know who is truly unjust, cruel, narcissistic, and relentlessly unreasonable, causing the maximum damage to every single living being without caring even the tiniest bit, it is, and always has been, our delusions. Delusions lead to negative intentions and actions, or karma, and all its resulting unpleasant experiences, including sickness, ageing, not getting what we want, getting what we don’t want, dissatisfaction, death, and then all that all over again, rebirth, etc.
If everyone could just become a little less selfish, for example, or a little less angry, this world would improve overnight. That would be real evolution.
Right now, as humans we have a real shot at this. Our only shot. At Vancouver Aquarium yesterday I met fish who can do nothing but swim backwards and forwards day after relentless day, and anemones whose only activity is to suck their tentacles in and out, whose mouth and anus are one and the same.
This particular fish spent an age swimming up to my companion, a Buddhist monk, mouthing the words: “You have a chance to do something about samsara! I don’t. Help yourself. Help me!” At least that is what my friend heard his new fishy friend say.
To get rid of our real enemies, we need the self-confidence that believes:
I am the conqueror of my delusions; they will never conquer me!
On the subject of solving external problems, I appreciate some (not all) of Avaaz‘s campaigns, especially on climate and animals. They have managed to right some wrongs, maybe because the founder, Ricken Patel, has his heart in the right place:
We need to be strong, and to challenge the forces of regress. But let’s not be twisted by the darkness and act from fear and anger. We are warriors for love and wisdom. We must act from that light. When we do come from love and wisdom, we can see that our ‘enemy’ is not so much any people, as it is unwisdom. Misplaced fear and anger. Lack of awareness and understanding. These are age-old foes of our people. Our grandparents faced far worse with far less, and they won progress. We have every reason to hope, and no excuse for despair.
In general, it is a good deal more beneficial if our outward actions are nourished by renunciation for samsara, compassionate strength, and the wisdom realizing that all of this is the play of samsara, or drama inseparable from emptiness — nothing is really going on, as I was trying to explain in the last eight articles. We also need to grow our skill, which comes from compassion and wisdom, so we don’t make too many mistakes when trying to help others.
I reckon the best way we can help others right now is to show them that it is possible to remain peaceful, compassionate, and wise regardless of what we do on the outside – for the internal march toward lasting mental freedom and bliss is the one we must all take sooner or later.
Are you a prisoner?
Samsara is likened by Buddha to a prison. We need to remember that we don’t have to be in prison, at least not while we have a human life and the ability to change our deep-seated thoughts. We don’t have to feel part of the prison population; we can think out of the
box. If we knew we had a way out, we’d focus on that, not wasting time with detailed gossip on the annoying and dreadful new prison guards – instead it’s “I’m outta here!” We’d be making plans to burn this thing down. There are no safe spaces in here, no real comfy corners, so we need to stop fiddling about in a samsaric pleasure garden of complacency and develop faith in the enlightened world, an enlightened society, outside the prison walls.
First thing we could usefully do is give up our useless or harmful self-image. We are whom we tell ourselves we are, whom we identify with. So we can close that gap between the ordinary prisoner we might think we are now and the liberator we really want to be, thinking, “I AM a conqueror of my delusions”, not the other way around.
Sometimes people pride themselves on their rebellious streak, stick it to the Man and all that – in my distant youth my own rebellious streak manifested in …. well, I wrote it down but have just thought better of publishing it! In any case, a lot of us don’t want to submit to the “establishment” or the “system”, whether worldly or religious, and hold ourselves at a distance.
After meeting Buddhism, I had an insight: I had been rebelling for years against the wrong things. It was kind of stupid. I had been throwing the baby out with the bath water. Although other people may boss me around and say what I can and cannot do, it is only my delusions who can truly yank my chains. Fact is, the only true and worthwhile rebellion is against samsara. Samsara is the rat race establishment that truly sucks, and self-grasping the callous, corrupt system that really needs overthrowing. As Geshe Kelsang says in The New Meditation Handbook, we have been slaves to our self-cherishing since beginningless time. We have to tear samsara down and build something new with fresh thinking. Not just thinking outside the box, but realizing there IS no box.
Samsara is the endless product of self-grasping and self-cherishing – so why not try now instead to produce a world out of compassion and wisdom, even bliss and emptiness? This may sound idealistic, like “How on earth are we all supposed do that?!” But, truth is, it is eminently realistic. Why? Because compassion and wisdom ARE reality.
Any other revolution is just gonna be another turning of the wheel of samsara.
Outward action nourished by a deeper understanding
We can come up with new ideas for organizing ourselves that are less self-serving and more in tune with our mutual dependence – I applaud people who are doing this. A system that is based on integrity, including sense of shame — or conscience — and consideration for others. Standing up for what is right. I also think that good ideas can spread if we are practicing them ourselves and not afraid of sharing them as widely as we can.
Within this broader understanding of our existential predicament, we can help others overcome their bad habits and negativities as best we can, as per our Bodhisattva vow, and respectfully, seeing past their delusions to their Buddha nature. We can restrain others as need be, at the ballot box for example, as a doctor restrains a mental patient, without anger, understanding that people create negative actions because they are confused by the mental illness of the delusions and not because they are intrinsically bad people. Sometimes it is very necessary to take action – but it is never going to be enough on its own.
Next article on self-confidence here.
Over to you. Comments and suggestions welcome.
Thank you very helpful.😃
Thank you so much for these beautiful, inspirational, relevant and practical posts L – my daily medicine. Thank you from my heart. With love always x
Are you the Alex Haskins i know from a little ways back?
Yes! Just reconnecting at classes, I think of you often 😊. Ally x
Very cool, Ally, i look forward to catching up with you soon 😘
Very much looking forward to that already 😘
Nice balance between keeping one’s attention focussed on the prize (getting out of samsara), while not becoming apathetic about what is happening around us in samsara. The way we get out, of course, depends upon our love and compassion for others. Sometimes this is interpreted narrowly as applying only to the inter-personal, but it seems to me that it also applies to the societal. We can acknowledge that racial segregation and oppression is/was an evil, and that the civil rights movement did accomplish something very valuable and beneficial. But we also avoid the extreme of getting absorbed in politics, where we lose sight of our main goal of “rebelling against samsara.” Is that a valid view? I sometimes struggle with the balance in our age of post-truth politics…
Seems valid to me 😊
Love ❤️ the post, helping other beautiful souls to see past their delusions 💡which is very easy to see as in excessive eating 🍔or drinking 🍷or smoking to drown out pain, but also heart breaking when you listen with deep compassion 💔 It would be wonderful to see the light of Dharma ☸️💟💡💡💡💡💡shining in all people’s minds a beautiful wish , (how far and long do you try when you see the same beautiful souls repeating the same act which is causing them more pain?) or you hear a lady say I have never felt love ❤️ or been shown any love ❤️ In my experience I just remember how blessed I am in my life to have met Geshe-la and those humble eyes 🤔 and to have been born into a loving caring giving and sharing family, and I share my good fortune of love ❤️ with who ever crosses my path with sadness x
A touching comment, thank you for this.
You are welcome 🙏
The middle path is indeed very joyful 😁😁😁
Luna I believe at the same moment (at least the same day) I too was having a transcendental moment with a fish – first a fish I met while snorkeling off the island of Vieques, and later that evening with millions of luminescent phytoplankton I met kayaking in the bio bay. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say – it was deep!! xox
😁🐠 Snorkeling off the island as you do …! Glad some fish got to meet you.
I feel very uncomfortable seeing a mainstream Kadampa blog promoting supposedly ‘liberal’ or humanitarian organisations because so many of them have been infiltrated by people who use them for the wrong purposes. Avaaz for example has often campaigned to support various governments war agendas as described here. https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/off-guardian.org/2015/07/18/avaaz-clicktivist-heroes-or-soros-wolf-in-woolly-disguise/amp/ Personally I think we have a responsibility to be a lot more careful about promoting things we know little of.
Hi Tess, thank you, I take your point. That link is to a bit of a hatchet piece, some of the comments below it seem more revealing, but I don’t blanket agree with everything Avaaz does either, as it happens. However, I do appreciate some of their campaigns, and I was mainly making a point about the role of motivation. We all lack some skill until we attain enlightenment. I have altered the blog to reflect that nuance. I agree too that it is always on us to try to do at least some research before signing any petition or handing over money.
Hi. Yes – the comments below the article were quite revealing. Thanks for the articles xx