The three lifetimes:

striving, indulging, paying the price.

Buddhism speaks of a cycle of three lifetimes.

In the first, a person strives to be good. Having little, he gives whatever he can, soothes others’ fears and worries, and remains ever vigilant for ways to help. He thus amasses good fortune.

In the second lifetime, due to all this good fortune, he becomes arrogant. After all, he has status, wealth, power. There’s much to be proud of. Caught up in personal indulgence, he ignores others’ suffering. Now, instead of watching for opportunities to help, he pursues opportunities to wield his power, to awe others, to control, and create fear. To dominate. The more power he has, the more lives are affected. And destroyed. One with great power, for example the leader of a country, can affect the lives of millions, even billions, of beings.

In the third lifetime, having blown his good fortune and created untold suffering, he plummets into the deepest of the hells.

Such is the terrible fate of misusing our second lifetime.  


Please don’t give me frustration. 

I have enough already, thank you.

When you suggest something to a person, pay heed to her response. Does she accept happily? Or unhappily? Perhaps she offers an alternative or declines with an explanation? If, upon having perceived a less than enthusiastic response you discuss other options with the person, any frustration that could have arisen will be amicably avoided. But what if you aren’t listening carefully? What if you’re so focused on your proposed plan that upon having heard a reasoned “No thank you,” you forge ahead with a minor change to your original suggestion. The person again demurs, further clarifying why she cannot accept. But, yet again, you once more tweak the plan and persevere in obtaining acceptance. The person, recognizing the railroad car of destiny barreling down the track, decides to accord with conditions and accepts. Gracefully, I might add. Maxim: Just as there is merit in offering, there is wisdom in accepting “No thank you.”


When taken advantage of, 

view it as a karmic repayment 

or as something put away for the future.

When someone takes advantage of us, one of two things have transpired: either we owe the person a karmic debt or we don’t. Owing the person, being taken advantage of means we have reduced or perhaps even canceled it. Having spent lifetimes creating such debts, eliminating just one seems a mere drop in the bucket. But if we can gladly repay it, we’ll do more than just settle a karmic score. Because our grasp of karma is deepening, we’ll have progressed in our cultivation. So our repayment is a good thing! Not owing someone, being taken advantage of means that since we don’t owe him, he will have incurred a future debt to us. Having a karmic credit is also a good thing. But let’s progress here too. Not wanting to incur another enmity, we will forgive the person of his future debt to us. So either way, when properly viewed, being taken advantage of is a karmic benefit. 


Why seek transitory happiness 

in phenomena,

when joy without end is within our reach?

Myriad pleasurable things available to people with a bit of good fortune—people like us—are sought for the happiness they can bring. Seeking such enjoyment seems so much more reasonable than trying to attain something referred to as “joy” or “bliss.” After all, we have already experienced happiness to various degrees, so we know what it’s like. We don’t know what joy, much less bliss, feels like. So giving up the known to seek the unknown seems risky. And yet, this giving up is precisely what the Buddha encouraged us to do. He knew if we persevered, we would realize that happiness cannot compare to the joy to be found in our Buddha-name chanting when for a sudden, unexpected moment, we transport ourselves to a state of joy. This moment—incredibly serene while at the same time gloriously joyful—is all too brief. But it holds the promise of unending joy.


When about to tell others your Dharma door

is better than theirs,

remember, “That’s their choice.”

We all have our unique combination of roots, habits, causes, and conditions. Knowing this, the Buddha compassionately taught 84,000 Dharma doors. If a person has good fortune, she will intuitively find the most suitable method for her to practice. Just as, hopefully, others too will be fortunate enough to be drawn to the method best suited to their previously developed roots and current abilities. Having made our choices, we need to respect those of others. If one method were perfect for everyone, the Buddha would have taught just that one. He didn’t. Until we uncover a lot more of our wisdom and eliminate a lot more of our ignorance, we won’t know which method is most suitable for different people. Attempting to convince them to abandon their practice for ours runs the risk of leaving them confused, frustrated, and abandoning Buddhism. Rather than instigate that, we need to accept—and respect—their choice.