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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    consider posting on the web site some advice for those having difficulty dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina Perhaps others would visit your site looking not for soothing words but practical ways to deal with these emotions I think there may be others like myself who are having difficulty after watching the disturbing news reports of death anarchy and horrendous suffering and problems of victims Many of us feel helplessness grief as well as anger and frustration that relief efforts are not meeting the basic needs of victims We feel a heaviness throughout the day thinking about the scale of the suffering Thanks you With respect Jack Venerable I m horrified about the people black people no coincidence who are being left to die of starvation thirst and disease in New Orleans I can t think of what to do other than perhaps write to newspapers around the country saying I think it s a shame on our nation and on our president in particular I would go to New Orleans myself if I thought there were something I could do and if I had the money to get there Any suggestions Peter Dear Jack and Peter The scenes of the hurricane s aftermath are horrific and I too find it appalling that minorities and the poor are those who suffer the most even in a natural disaster This is an excellent reminder of the nature of cyclic existence and thus the importance of generating the determination to be free Our ordinary minds don t think that things like this can happen Somehow we hold the idea that cyclic existence is pleasant and suffering shouldn t happen As much as we talk about karma in the moment when suffering occurs we forget that it is caused by our own harmful actions we forget that our lives are under the influence of mental afflictions and karma So by witnessing the suffering of those in the South let us become disillusioned with cyclic existence and seek liberation instead By seeing their suffering let us overcome our complacency and generate bodhicitta the aspiration for full enlightenment so we can benefit others most effectively Our first instinct may be to mourn and get angry that relief efforts aren t reaching the victims in a timely manner But we know that anger doesn t make food and clean water get to the victims any quicker I suggest turning it around and rejoicing that so many people are working together on relief efforts The city and state governments are up against huge obstacles because the communication systems were destroyed and there is no electricity But they keep on doing their best even though it may be imperfect But cyclic existence is imperfect by nature In times like this we see more clearly that not everyone in society is treated equally Where does bias come from The human mind specifically from attachment and anger holding some people dear and others distant To free ourselves of us

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005november/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    practice the Dharma Then if unpleasant things happen at work we can observe our minds and try to apply the Dharma antidotes to disturbing emotions such as anger If we are not successful with quieting our mind down on the spot when we come home we can review what happened and apply the Dharma antidotes in this example by doing one of the meditations to generate patience In this way we can see that giving up worldly ambition will actually make us kinder more relaxed and thus more efficient at our work And curiously those are the qualities that will naturally bring us a better reputation and even a promotion although we may not directly be seeking them Sometimes if we are not careful our worldly ambitions become involved with Dharma projects For example we may become attached to being someone important in the eyes of our spiritual master and become jealous of or compete with fellow disciples for our teacher s attention We may seek to be powerful in our Dharma center so that things are done according to our ideas and we get the credit for the center s achievements We may want to have many expensive and beautiful Buddha statues Dharma books and photographs of spiritual masters so that we can show them off to our Buddhist friends We may want to have the reputation of being a good meditator or one who has taken many initiations and done several retreats In such cases although the objects and people we are around are Buddhist our motivation is not It is the same worldly ambition only now it is more deadly because it focuses on Dharma objects It is easy to get caught in this trap We think that just because we work in Dharma groups go to teachings or have Buddhist objects that we are practicing Dharma This is not necessarily the case A motivation seeking reputation possessions and so forth for the happiness of only this life contaminates our actions It is only by repeatedly looking at our motivation that we can discern whether or not it is worldly or Dharmic Often we discover our motivations are mixed we do care about the Dharma and want to serve others but we also want our efforts to be noticed and appreciated and to receive some recognition or remuneration in return It is normal to find such mixed motivations for we are not yet realized beings Should we discover a mixed motivation or one tainted by worldly concern then we need to contemplate its disadvantages as explained before and deliberately generate one of the three Dharma motivations When people first begin Dharma practice they often ask Buddhism says clinging attachment is a disturbing attitude If I diminish my clinging attachment what will happen to my ambition Will I be listless and lack motivation to do anything What will happen to my career Similarly they wonder What role does ambition play when we organize Dharma events and volunteer work in a Dharma center How do we know if our efforts are positive These are good questions and to answer them we must distinguish between constructive ambition and destructive ambition Ambition like desire can have two aspects depending upon the motivation and the object sought Negative ambition pursues worldly success and worldly pleasures with a self centered motivation Positive ambition seeks beneficial goals with one of the three kinds of Dharma motivation to have a good rebirth in the future to be liberated from the difficulties of cyclic existence and to attain full enlightenment in order to benefit all beings most effectively When speaking of the first hindrance to genuine Dharma practice attachment to the happiness of only this life the Buddha spoke of the desire or ambition for material possessions money fame praise approval and sensory pleasures such as food music and sex Due to our strong desire to have the pleasure we think these things will bring we often harm manipulate or deceive others to obtain them Even if we strive for these things without directly ill treating others our mind is still locked into a narrow state seeking happiness from external people and objects that do not have the ability to bring us lasting happiness Thus the time we could spend developing unbiased love compassion and wisdom is diverted into seeking things that do not satisfy us in the long term To bring about lasting happiness we need to decrease this kind of ambition by first seeing its disadvantages these actions create problems in our relationships with others and also plant negative karmic imprints on our mindstream and second recognizing that the things worldly ambition seek lack the ability to bring us long term happiness There are many rich and famous people who are miserable and suffer from emotional problems and alcoholism As we gradually decrease our worldly ambition space opens up in our mind to act with compassion and wisdom This is positive ambition Compassion the wish that living beings be free of suffering can be a powerful motivator for action It can replace the anger that previously motivated us when we saw social injustice and inspire us to act to help others Similarly constructive ambition is imbued with the skillful wisdom that reflects carefully on the long and short term effects of our actions In short through consistent practice the energy of our selfish ambitions for worldly pleasures is transformed into the energy of practicing the Dharma and benefiting others For example let s say Sam is very attached to his reputation He wants people to think well of him and speak well of him to others not because he really cares about people but because he wants people to give him things to do things for him and to introduce him to famous and powerful people With this motivation he may lie cover up his shortcomings pretend to have qualities he doesn t have or to have contacts are in fact bogus Or he

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005august/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    way to contribute to the welfare of society A common misunderstanding exists that the Buddha wanted his followers to leave society This is incorrect Where can we ever live where we are entirely disconnected from other living beings In a monastery in a Dharma center in a family we are always in relationship to those immediately around us as well as to the broader society and to all sentient beings Even in a remote hermitage we still live in relationship with each and every living being Our challenge is to make this relationship a healthy one physically verbally and mentally With a pure motivation voting and being politically active can be ways of sharing our vision and values with others in an attempt to stop harm and create happiness in society The challenges of being an informed voter and a wise citizen are many For example how do we keep abreast of current issues without being swept away by the media blitz How can we learn enough to make wise choices without becoming involved in trivial affairs or allowing attachment and anger arise towards candidates and their views This involves discipline on our part We need to have a wise relationship with the media knowing how much we can handle discerning media excesses and halting our infatuation distraction and addiction to TV radio newspapers and the internet We only develop this balance by examining our own minds and by trial and error in our daily lives Another challenge is forming wise views without clinging to them as part of our ego identity I am a Democrat I support affirmative action We can all too easily solidify these labels into identities that we then feel compelled to defend How can we have views and yet make sure our minds are tolerant of others who hold opposing ones Sometimes it seems to me that some Western Buddhists expect all other Western Buddhists to have similar political views A woman in our center had to remind us during a discussion on compassion and politics that she was a Buddhist and a Republican We must also be mindful not to make the opposition party and its candidates into solid figures that we then disapprove of ridicule fear and even hate One person once said to me I have compassion for almost everyone but don t know how to have compassion for Republicans If in the name of caring about the welfare of all sentient beings we condemn those who hold different views we have adopted their mental state we help our friends those who agree with our opinions and are hostile to our enemies those who have different views Much meditation is necessary to separate people from their views knowing that although someone s views may seem harmful those people still have the Buddha potential Repeatedly re forming our attitudes is required to develop equanimity towards all How do we use Buddhist values to inform our political decisions Or do we first decide what

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005july/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    What they noticed more than anything was the Buddha s great skillfulness as a teacher He knew the cultural educational psychological and spiritual backgrounds of the people in the audience and spoke in the way best suited to the particular audience he was addressing at the time For example a good math teacher teaches differently when she s teaching young children in pre school when she s teaching in secondary school and when she s teaching in college Similarly when children are little and are not able to understand things in a sophisticated manner do parents explain things in a detailed precise way Or do they explain things in a way that the child can understand this is not a good action As the child grows up parents will explain the same situation differently according to the child s ability to understand at that particular time The Indian sages wrote commentaries to the sutras In them they delineated sutra passages that could be taken literally from those that required interpretation They said that because the Buddha taught people what was appropriate for their particular level or way of thinking he was not lying when he said different things to different people These sages then set out guidelines so we would know what to understand literally and what required interpretation They also taught guidelines for how to discern the difference between passages that gave the definitive meaning of emptiness and those that set forth the stages of the path and the variety of phenomena and thus were interpretable For example the sutras describe the world as being flat We do not take this literally because scientists have proven that the world is round The Buddha said this because this was the predominant view of society at his time Q In the sutra mentioned above and in several other sutras it says that many evils and much negative karma can be purified by copying reciting or making offerings to the texts Is this true Couldn t someone think that he can do many wrongs but purify at the end and thus not suffer Also isn t this unfair to the victims of that person s harmful actions Answer This does not mean that just by copying reciting or making offerings to a sutra all of a person s negative karma will be gone Any positive action we do has good results and thus copying sutras and so forth when done with an altruistic motivation or with trust in the Three Jewels can help to purify negativities However just reading or writing a sutra without focusing on its meaning or with a good motivation doesn t have much good effect because it s simply a rote activity The sutra talked about the good effect of copying the sutras and so forth to encourage people to purify their negative karma rather than to spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty and not practicing the Dharma because they feel so bad The fact that

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005june/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    we fall into as well How many times have we excluded or ignored others Or chosen friends for foolish reasons Or been unappreciative of those who have tried to help us When we look at our own lives we can find many times when our ignorance anger and attachment have obscured our minds so that we ve made dumb decisions or done harmful actions We understand the person we were that did these things We can have compassion for him or her We see that we still have Buddha potential and good qualities If we can have compassion and patience for ourselves then we can give up judging others who do the same things and have some compassion for them Our disappointment in others often comes because our expectations are too high We d really like others to be perfect whatever perfect means And if they can t be perfect we expect them at least to listen to our sage advice and change their lives ideas and behaviors so that they do what we think is best for them When we examine these expectations we see that they are pretty ridiculous Our own ability to give wise advice is limited by our own ignorance Sometimes we give good advice but at an inappropriate time Sometimes the way in which we give advice isn t very skillful and it sounds more like we re ordering someone around judging them or trying to run their lives for them Other times we give advice when it hasn t been requested Part of our own process of growing in the Dharma is learning how and when to make suggestions We can t control others at present we can t even control our own mind so when we give advice it s best to also give the person space to think for themselves and make their own decisions Sometimes someone will reject suggestions at first Still a seed has been planted and later on they may remember our suggestions and be open to them After all may people have given us advice that we ve disregarded We ve even gotten angry at them for giving advice Yet later on we ll re think the situation and realize that their advice was sound and adopt it at that time It s helpful to remember that the few people who we don t seem to connect with well aren t representative of all sentient beings The karma may not be there at that moment to help those particular people but the karmic connection to help many others may be present Thus there s no reason to think that it s impossible to reach out to sentient beings We can use the fact that people are stubborn and suffer from disturbing emotions and detrimental values to increase our compassion for them It s easy to love and be compassionate towards people who are nice to us who agree with our opinions and who do things our way Even

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005May/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    hopes that someone will fix our problem Instead of asking someone directly for help we recount our sad story again and again in the hopes that he will get the message and change the situation for us We may do this because we re too lazy or frightened to try to solve the problem ourselves For instance we complain to a colleague about a disturbing situation at work in the hopes that she will go to the manager about it We complain to vent our emotions and our feelings of powerlessness We criticize government policies the corruption of CEOs and the politicking of the politicians that prevents them from actually caring for the country We dislike these things but we feel powerless to change them so we preside over what amounts to a court case either mentally or with our friends in which we prosecute convict and banish the people involved Venting is often used to justify ranting to whomever about whatever we want One friend told me that he regularly hears people say I just have to vent I m so angry I just can t help it They seem to feel that they will explode if they don t let off some steam But I wonder about that Shouldn t we take into account the consequences for ourselves and others of venting In the Buddha s teachings we find many other options to resolve our frustration and anger without spewing out on others Discussing vs Complaining What is the difference between complaining and discussing certain topics in a constructive way It lies in our attitude our motivation for speaking Discussing a situation involves taking a more balanced approach in which we actively try to understand the origin of the problem and think of a remedy In our mind we become proactive not reactive We assume responsibility for what is our responsibility and stop blaming others when we cannot control a situation Thus we can discuss our health without complaining about it We simply tell others the facts and go on If we need help we ask for it directly instead of lamenting in the hopes that someone will rescue us or feel sorry for us Similarly we can discuss our financial situation a friendship gone awry an unfair policy at work the uncooperative attitude of a salesperson the ills of society the misconceptions of political leaders or the dishonesty of CEOs without complaining about them This is far more productive because discussion with knowledgeable people can help give us a new perspective on the situation which in turn helps us deal with it more effectively Antidotes to Complaining For Buddhist practitioners several meditations act as healthy antidotes to the habit of complaining Meditating on impermanence is a good start seeing that everything is transient enables us to set our priorities wisely and determine what is important in life It becomes clear that the petty things we complain about are not important in the long run and we let

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005%20April/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    Health with Kami McBride The Directory The Book Nook Archives Past Issues Creating Bridges Spirituality Philosophy Spirituality in Daily Life Q A Dealing with Anxiety by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron How can we handle the anxiety that arises from making decisions Anxiety when making decisions often comes because we look at the situation from the viewpoint How can I get the most possible pleasure Which of these 15 choices will give me the most pleasure and release me from the most pain That makes us very uptight because we do not know the future Maybe this will make me happy maybe that will make me happy I don t know which one will make me the happiest so I am confused and unhappy now trying to decide Sometimes the anxiety arises because we think there must be one right decision and we don t know which one it is This is a very limiting view because the unfolding of karma is very complex and the future is unknown because it hasn t happened yet It s better to let go of the idea of one right choice and instead to be mindful and kind in whatever situation we find ourselves When faced with a decision I try to use ethics as a criteria I explore Could any of these choices cause me to get involved in unethical behavior bring out my negative qualities or make me create negative karma Are there some options that would propel me to act constructively or to generate positive attitudes In other words I use ethical conduct as criteria for making a decision Another criterion is the benefit the various options would have for others In the long term what will be the most beneficial for others This viewpoint makes the mind more relaxed and is a lot more expansive than thinking What will bring me the most pleasure now How do we deal with the anxiety that comes from uncertainty about the future Almost everyone can relate to this concern because nothing is certain in our life Things are not fixed permanent and predictable This is the nature of samsara cyclic existence One of the disadvantages of cyclic existence that the Buddha described is uncertainty insecurity Because our minds are under the influence of ignorance anger and attachment we suffer from not being able to control what happens to us We can influence the world around us but we can not control it We can not make the external environment be what we want it to be The first step is to recognize that uncertainty is the nature of things None of us ordinary beings know the future Understanding this has two effects first it leads us to a greater determination to free ourselves from cyclic existence and thus to seek the wisdom that realizes reality in order to eliminate the ignorance anger and attachment that keep us bound in cyclic existence Second it helps us accept that change is part of life When things

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2005March/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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  • Spirituality in Daily Life
    enough to ask the teacher You ll see people bowing If you don t feel comfortable doing that don t There s no pressure Same with saying prayers take your time to understand them so you feel comfortable when reciting them As a beginner go to the classes for beginners Although the center may be hosting initiations by well known teachers wait to attend those until you have established a proper foundation in the lamrim gradual path to enlightenment and lojong thought transformation Learn how to calm your mind and work with your afflictive emotions before delving into more complex practices If you skip around from one class to another or frequently miss classes you will miss learning the important steps The importance of properly understanding basic Buddhist principles and establishing a solid foundation at the beginning can t be overestimated You ll hear many new ideas some of which may not make sense to you That s ok You don t need to force yourself to believe them or to discard them as ridiculous Instead put them on the back burner and return to contemplate them from time to time Gradually things will begin to make sense Don t expect to understand or actualize everything all at once It takes years lifetimes eons Learning Dharma is not like Western education where we learn facts and tell the teacher what they already know on a test Listen attentively to the Dharma and at home think about what you heard Check it out logically and apply it to your life to see if it works Listen to the same teaching many times because each time you hear it it will sound different because your mind has changed Read Dharma books slowly pausing to contemplate what you read applying it to your mind Although it s tempting to hurry to get a lot of information especially about exotic practices principally read books that correspond with your level of practice In this way you ll establish a good foundation and won t become confused Buddhism isn t intellectual concepts Practice is essential to bring the Dharma into your heart This entails setting up a regular daily meditation practice and sticking to it Only by making meditation a part of your daily life routine will you experience its benefits Making an appointment with the Buddha by writing it into your daily calendar will help you get to the cushion If someone calls and asks you to do something else at that time you can truthfully say Sorry I m busy We don t break appointments with important people like the Buddha In your daily meditation practice begin with reciting some verses to establish your motivation and make your mind receptive Then do checking analytical meditation on the topics you learned in Dharma class This formal time of meditation prepares you for practicing the Dharma the rest of your day at work with your family at school wherever In those situations be aware of what

    Original URL path: http://www.themetaarts.com/2004dec/chodron.html (2016-02-13)
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