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Keeping it Real

October 28, 2012

The main cause of all our suffering, according to Buddha, is being out of touch with reality, or put more specifically, delusion. Every time we get angry, jealous, proud, scornful we are out of touch with reality, we see a world that doesn’t exist, except in our own mind.

On the other hand, the main cause of happiness is inner peace. As Geshe Kelsang says in Transform Your Life, “Without inner peace, outer peace is impossible”. Inner peace naturally brings our view closer to reality, so we find that with it we are more loving, less proud, more patient and so on.

Escape to inner peace?

Copyright 2012 Leonida

© 2012 Leonida

For some people, like me, whose tendency is to escape our problems by ignoring them this idea of inner peace sounds like exactly the thing we do best. Ignore the world, ignore the problems and all will be well. But actually, having thoroughly tested that approach I can guarantee that it won’t work. So what is the difference between inner peace and getting lost in a good book or movie?

For one thing, its not possible to ignore the problems of the world indefinitely and remain sane or at least a functioning individual. There will always be bills to pay, food to gather, sickness and suffering to deal with. Buddha said for ordinary beings problems are like waves on the ocean.

Trying to ignore the world is like closing your eyes and crossing a busy road, hoping that by not seeing the cars, they won’t hit you. True inner peace is the exact opposite, it is seeing the world exactly as it is. And consequently, to extend the analogy, being able to navigate it safely and help others too.

Being honest in daily life

In my work, I have to be honest with the people I work with about both my success and failures. If I try to pretend that problems don’t exist, then I cut myself off from the support I need and also in the long term I let down the people who depend on the results of my work, because its not there!

The same is true in my spiritual life. But, its human nature to try and cover up a problem, at least I have a tendency to try and avoid them when I can, and the thing is with practicing Dharma, it is all in the mind, so its quite easy to hide our faults, even from ourselves. However, before we can see the world honestly, we have to learn to see ourselves honestly and share that truth at the very least with Buddha.

If I have a problem with someone or something, lets say they make me angry, and I try to pretend that that isn’t the case, then I am cutting myself off from the help that Buddha, Dharma and Sangha could bring, and instead of putting energy into changing my mind i’m putting energy into sustaining an elaborate deception.

Let me give a few specific examples:

A person at work drives you mad, but you pretend that you get on fine with them, because as a Buddhist you know that hating them is wrong.

You’re in an abusive relationship and really unhappy, but you think the solution is to practice patient acceptance.

You do your prayers and practice everyday not because they touch your heart, but because you are expected to do so.

Your friends never do things you enjoy, but you don’t want to have self cherishing, so you bite your lip and go along with them, week in week out, experiencing no pleasure.

I’ve either experienced or seen these situations play out, and every time the end result is that it kills spiritual practice and personal development turns in on itself, until we become twisted and distorted inside.

Know where you are

There a few reasons why we can fall in to these habits, but I think the biggest reason is not having the courage to be honest with ourselves. Its true that Buddha taught that the accomplishment of happiness depends on seeing the world honestly, being free from delusion, but getting to that state begins by seeing yourself honestly, as you are, delusions and all.

One of the commitments of Kadampa Buddhism is:

“Do not allow your practice of training the mind to cause inappropriate behaviour”

In his commentary, Universal Compassion, Geshe-la gives the example of someone who gives up their possessions believing that they have overcome attachment, cautioning that such such behavior will only hinder our spiritual practice. And says specifically

“We should always act in a manner which is appropriate to our level of spiritual development”

If we look at the examples I gave above I think the unhappiness each experienced was not because the behaviour per se was wrong, but because it was wrong for their level of “spiritual development”. And by not honestly acknowledging their spiritual capacity they also lost the opportunity to work with the right Dharma teachings for their needs. I have heard Geshe-la say,

“If we think that Dharma is not working, its because we are not practicing Dharma.”

I think the above might be one example of what he means, for example saying Buddhist prayers is not necessarily the same as practicing Dharma.

Being OK with Who We Are, A Few Examples of Keeping it Real

The truth is that as a Buddhist practitioner, almost any behaviour is acceptable if you do it honestly and with an intention to improve.

  • In Joyful Path of Good Fortune there is the story of the butcher who could only promise not to kill at night because if he stopped entirely his family would starve and he couldn’t bear that.
  • Geshe Ben Gungyal did “no meditation in the traditional posture and recited no prayers” but is held up as one of the best examples of a Kadampa practitioner because of how honest he was in dealing with his mind.
  • The Indian master Shantideva, the author of Guide to the Boddhisattva’s Way of Life was constantly sleeping, and continued to do so in the face of criticism and insults from other monks. Why? Because the most appropriate practice for his level of spiritual development was the yoga of sleep – a very powerful and swift practice to attain enlightenment.
  • Venerable Atisha, says in his advice: “Avoid friends who cause you to increase delusions”

Not very compassionate? Well, it is when you think of the long term consequence of allowing your delusions to increase.

What all these examples show is that wherever we are, its ok, just so long as we are being honest and trying to overcome our delusion and learn to see reality more and more clearly.

So how should Buddhists Behave?

I think its quite clear that there is no one right way to behave. So, depending on your present spiritual capacity, it can be good to tell your work colleague you have a problem with them, or to leave your partner (or go to the police if they are violent) to tell your friends you want to do something different, or find a different way to connect with Buddha if formal prayers make you unhappy, (like perhaps just sitting and gazing at an image of Buddha, enjoying that sense of peace).

In the most extreme example I quoted above, the Butcher, although he continued to kill, by relying on Buddha he was able to do so less often. And eventually no doubt he would be able to stop killing entirely. If on the other hand he just pretended to stop killing, but actually never did, well, you get the idea!

In a future post I hope to write about other aspects of delusions and overcoming discouragement. But as a final thought i’d like to share one last story. I love this one because it shows no matter how bad we may think we are, Buddha’s only ever respond to us with love and support. We can always turn to them no matter what we have done or thought and if we want to change, they will help us!

Copyright 2012 Leonida

I know its not a Tiger, but I love the photo! (Copyright 2012 Leonida )

In one previous life, Buddha came across a starving tigress who was about to eat her own cubs. He felt such compassion for the tiger and knew that killing her cubs would only lead her to more pain, so he lay down in front of her and gave up his own life to feed and protect her. He didn’t reject the Tigress for wishing to eat her own cubs, but had compassion seeing how her delusions controlled her and made her suffer.

Your thoughts?

I`d love to hear about your experiences in connecting how actually feel with your Dharma practice. So please do comment, and please feel free to share this blog on Facebook, Twitter and so on, if you enjoy it. Many thanks!

From → Fundamental

  1. Edwin permalink

    great post – I feel better already

    • Very happy to hear that Edwin. That’s just what I hope people feel when they read this one. Sort of “I know I’m doing the right thing for where I am now, and I’ve got a good idea where I want to get. And I plan to get everything I can from each step if the journey”

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  2. Shared. Great post!! Keep up the good work.

    • Thank you Luna! You’re such an inspiration and your support means I even get a few visits :)) Actually nearly had thousand hits since we started HoC 🙂 I hope people have found something useful.

      • Well, I have found it plenty useful!

        I love this Keeping it Real article and am going to borrow bits of it for one of my next articles…

        Please post links to your blog articles on the Kadampa Life Facebook page when you remember.

  3. Raka permalink

    Thanks, that’s just what I needed! Have been trying to be all things to all people…but obviously this is not possible. The only thing we can do is be honest about where we are and work with it 🙂

    • Dear Raka, thanks for sharing your experience. What was it Archimedes said? Give me firm ground to stand and I will move the earth? I think you are on firm ground 🙂

  4. Anon permalink

    I have reallly got a lot out of reading this article.
    The examples you have given about the ‘elaborate (self)deceptions’ are very constructive and helpful.When I really take an honest look inside my own mind and see pride,laziness,frustration,indifference and so on, at least I acknowledge how much work I need to do and if I m sincere,I can find start to ‘purge’ those faults with the correct medicine.For example,I had to acknowledge quite recently that I still had some resentment in my mind towards someone because of some action they did years ago at a Dharma Centre.It stopped me brushing the dirt under the carpet and I knew then how much work I have to do in my mind.Really,using Dharma wisdom,this person is doing me a kindness,like Atisha’ Cook,but it doesnt have to stop me from behaving with intelligence and good motivation if people act out their delusions and harm others.
    Looking forward to more articles.Thank you xxx

  5. Great article thanks!
    i just needed to read it today…

  6. Great article thanks. It is so important to practice from where we are, and not pretend to ourselves and others than we’re better than that. Genuine spiritual progress requires honesty doesn’t it, however painful that can be.
    I love the ‘closing your eyes and crossing a busy road’ analogy. I can see myself doing that all the time, and it doesn’t work, does it. LoL, slowly but surely I’m learning.

  7. Thank you so much for this article. I can identify quite well with most of the deceptions classed above. We all need this reminder to Keep It Real. Thanks

  8. Hey Lam Chung…just read this article via Kadampa Life…hits me right in the centre of my chest, opening it up and dissolving away my discouragement…Kadam Dharma lives, Geshe-la rocks!

  9. After experiencing the same situations the author cites this is the lesson I learned:
    Before practicing correct karmic actions such as generosity etc, its worth checking if the person (or cause) is a suitable recipient for such a blessing. Some people just ‘take’ and learn absolutely nothing – The intention of giving was good but the right action itself became 90% worthless.

  10. Dear Luna – you are wonderful!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. In praise of integrity – Kadampa Life
  2. Elogio a la Integridad | Luna Creciente

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