Friday
Feb162007

Affinities and Enmities

From all our past lifetimes, the people we encountered are more than we can count. Some of these relationships were good ones, while others, unfortunately, were bad. Sometimes, when we encounter people we had known before, we “recognize” them. Most of us have had the occasional experience whereupon meeting someone, we felt like we were meeting an old friend. In a sense, we were. We felt like we could have sat down and talked for hours, and maybe we did. Whenever we are with such an “old friend,” we feel happy and relaxed. This is a good affinity, a natural positive connection with another person.

Conversely, we all probably have had the experience of meeting someone and instantly felt an immediate dislike for that person. The individual did not say anything offensive, perhaps only said hello, but still, we felt a strong dislike. Whenever we encounter our “old antagonist,” we feel uncomfortable and tense. These are enmities, or negative affinities from our past.

When we encounter someone with whom we have a negative affinity, we can remind ourselves that, very possibly, we are irritating him just as he is irritating us. Why have we ended up in this situation? Karma. Karma is literally an “action.” Our thoughts, verbal and physical behavior plant causes. Everything that happens in our lives today is almost entirely the result of the causes we planted in our past lifetimes. Very little of what is happening to us now is the result of what we did earlier in this lifetime.

Since the causes were already created, there is nothing we can do to change them. We can, however, control the conditions that allow the causes to develop a result. For example, a seed is a cause that needs the right conditions to grow: good soil, adequate water, and plenty of sunshine. When these conditions are present, the seed can grow. But we can keep the seed from maturing by withholding the necessary conditions. Without soil, water, and sunlight the seed cannot grow—the cause cannot mature—because the necessary conditions are absent. Therefore, if we cannot diffuse the anger by letting it go, we can try to control the conditions.

Thursday
Feb152007

Excellence

956849-669396-thumbnail.jpgTo strive for excellence is to do the best we can in everything that we do. It is in this striving that excellence lies. But in today’s success-driven world, excellence is measured by the outcome. While we can control the effort we put into something, never have we been able to control outcomes, in spite of our best attempts. As a result, measuring “excellence” by the outcome instead of by our sincere endeavors is an ill-placed criterion which will usually end in frustration. We would be wiser to strive for excellence in effort.

Wednesday
Feb142007

Easing the Fears of Others

An important form of giving is to relieve the worries and fears of others. A friend told me of an incident that had occurred in her home. A caring woman with an excellent sense of humor, she does draw the line at some things. Upon walking into her bathroom, she saw a large python on the floor. Having good reflexes, she drew the line and firmly closed the door. Knowing she was not at risk, her immediate thought was for her elderly cat that could no longer move quickly.

Jenny, who is Buddhist by practice, called to her husband, Rob, who is Buddhist at heart. Rob looked in the phone book and located a snake catcher. However, before the snake catcher was allowed to leave the premises with his catch, Rob painstakingly queried the gentleman: Was the snake okay? How would it be released and where? Would it be safe or would it be subject to any risk?

The snake catcher patiently explained that he would take it a considerable distance away before he would release it in a safer and more natural environment. My two caring friends watched while the snake catcher carefully checked the python, and then assured them that it had not suffered any from its capture and that it would be fine in a safer habitat.

How many of us would have taken the time, made the effort, and gone to the expense that was involved in catching and saving the snake? This was a case of the giving of safety and of caring for the welfare of others, even when the “other” is a six-foot python This is helping other beings feel safe around us because this offering of fearlessness and safety was not given to only one being—the cat—but also to another, to the snake.

Every thought we have is instantly felt by all others throughout the universe, for we are all one: We are all inter-related. We just do not yet realize this because we have not experienced this oneness. In the above example of the snake, the thought was to protect one life without harming the other. That thought, of compassion and loving-kindness, was felt by all beings whether they were in the house with the snake or on the other side of the universe.

Many people who find themselves in this situation probably would have thought “To protect my cat I will kill the snake.” But Jenny and Rob’s thoughts did not come from attachment to their cat or from the desire to protect what was theirs. Rather, their thoughts arose spontaneously from the reverence held equally for all forms of life and their wish to provide security and safety.

Tuesday
Feb132007

Nothing Exists On Its Own

Everyone and everything is interconnected. Nothing exists on its own. When we were young, our family supported us and our friends looked after us. As we grew up, we went to schools built by the communities we lived in. Then as now, our country protected us through the armed forces and emergency services personnel. Living in a country with the freedom to choose our faith tradition—our standard for ethical living—we are able to not merely survive but to grow spiritually and emotionally.

This page that you are reading come about through the hard work of many people. Many of these people were in turn supported by other people, perhaps financially, perhaps emotionally, who were in turn supported by the efforts of countless others. This interconnectivity goes on and on. Understanding that we do not live solely on our own, that no man is an island, we will begin to develop a sense of gratitude to all the infinite beings who help us to live better, more meaningful lives.

But what of those who have harmed us? Do we need to be grateful to them too?

Ideally, we should also be grateful to those who have harmed us, not just those we like and who care for us. Remember, we reap what we sow. Our lives today are the results of our past karmas of thoughts, words, and actions. There is no one else to blame when we experience unpleasant circumstances. Those who have harmed us are simply bringing us the consequences of our past karmas. We can do as we have always done: complain and become angry. Or we can choose to understand what is happening and accept that we have a karmic debt to repay. Gradually, we will even be able to feel grateful to those who harm us. Those who harm us provide us with an opportunity to repay a debt that we had incurred.

Monday
Feb122007

Purity

Purity is a state of mind in which we have no selfish or judgmental thoughts, no thoughts of like or dislike, or of pride, greed, or anger. It is the mindful state of mind in which we are no longer moving erratically between feelings of great happiness to those of discomfort or sadness. It is achieved when our minds are serene and stable, when our thoughts are of benefiting others, and when we are contented and are able to remain calm and at ease with everything we encounter.