Thursday
Feb012007

Doer of Good

When after a long absence,
a man safely returns home from afar,
his relatives, friends, and well-wishers
welcome him home upon arrival. 

As kinsman welcome a dear one on arrival,
even so his own good deeds
will welcome the doer of good
who has gone from this world to the next. 

The Dhammapada
translated by Venerable Buddharakkhita

 

Wednesday
Jan312007

Greed, Fear, Anger, Retaliation

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While we wish to be caring and tolerant, we often fall back into our bad habits of acting otherwise. Once again, we become trapped by our negative emotions.  

In the grip of these negative feelings, we react to other people, to our situations, not out of the wish to help others but from the compelling urge to protect ourselves. Anger arises when we are selfish, when we are only thinking of what we want but failed to obtain. The other person does not go along with our ideas—we do not receive their agreement and praise for our cleverness. The article we want eludes us—we do not possess the object we are convinced would make us happy. The person we desire rejects us—we are alone and afraid.

All these fears lie at the core of our anger. We convince ourselves that the ideas, the possessions, the person will make us happy. We want it to happen. We expect it to happen! But our expectations fail to materialize. Happiness once again eludes us. Instead of looking at ourselves to see if we perhaps were the cause, we blame others for arguing with us, for not giving us what we deserve to have, for not loving us as we hope. And so our fear of not being admired by others, our fear of not having what others have, our fear of being lonely and alone arise. We strike back defensively at those around us. We strike at those we perceive as having robbed us of what we wanted, of what we felt we deserved to obtain, and of what we believe others already have. We are afraid.

In our fear, we feel vulnerable. In our insecurity and anxiety, our fear gives birth to anger. We may hold our bitterness, resentment, or pain inside, or we may react by striking out at the other person. Either way, we give in to anger once again. In the same way, our family members give in to anger. Friends and co-workers give in to anger. Those with power and the means to inflict great harm give in to anger. And our world is engulfed in greed and disappointment, in ignorance and delusion, and in anger and retaliation.

Not just individuals but groups of people, bound together by ethnicity, religion, or by politics, react in the same way. Greed. Fear. Anger. Revenge. What is the answer? How do we resolve conflict and attain peace?

Wishful thinking will not end the hatred and intolerance in the world. Merely reading books will not solve our problems. Relying on others certainly does not work. The only way to create peace is through hard work and dedication, and by understanding how much is at stake here. We, each one of us, must be dedicated. We must do the hard work.

 

Tuesday
Jan302007

Not Even By a Buddha

Periodically, I am asked why the Buddha—an awakened being with perfect compassion and wisdom—does not end the suffering in our world. Why he doesn't help us.

The Buddha knew the problems of humanity. He had experienced them. But he overcame those problems. He awoke through the practice of morality, concentration, and wisdom. He experienced the truth of the cosmos. He found the path to awakening and left clear guidelines to enable us to follow after him. But that was all he could do—leave guidelines.

As compassionate as Buddhas are, they are unable to go against the natural laws of the universe. They know the truth. And they know the natural laws that govern the universe cannot be changed. Not even by a Buddha. So, as much as they want to help us, Buddhas cannot undo what we have already set into motion.

I created my life. Only I can change it. You created your own life. Only you can change it. Others created their lives. Only they can change their lives. Our lives today are the direct result of what we thought, what we said, and what we did in our yesterdays. As we have learned, our todays, just like our yesterdays, are lived in a world engulfed in greed and anger, a world enveloped in ignorance and delusion. A world created by all of us. A world that can only be changed by each one of us.

Monday
Jan292007

Childhood

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It is said “the child is parent to the man.” Usually that child is taught by those who are older, usually by adults. Young children might dislike another child for running away with their favorite toy, but until they are taught otherwise they will not think of disliking the other child because his or her skin is another color or because the shape of their eyes is different. It takes those who are older to teach discrimination and hatred to the child. It takes an impure mind to sully the innocent one.

Sunday
Jan282007

Perspective of the Grief & Healing Process

Normal grief is a process through stages. The timing is different for every person. Grief takes time. Some people progress more rapidly if they make the decision to "work through" their grief.

Shock: (Initial weeks following death)
Sense of bewilderment or shock
Many follow prescribed routines (visitation, funeral, etc.)
Survival mode with life on "automatic pilot"
Memory impaired; events are blurred
Reality has not sunk in

Protest: (First few months)
Period of self-preservation
Focus of life revolves around loss
Loss of interest in events, life in general
Physical symptoms can appear
Issues of anger, fear, avoidance common

Disorganization: (Approximately 3 to 8 months)
Recognition of finality of loss
No motivation, no energy to move ahead
Anguish, despair and confusion can dominate
Understanding that everything has changed
Life remains disorganized with limited vision of future

Reorganization: (Approximately 8 months to 1+ years)
Healing and reorganization accelerate
General acceptance of new roles
Willingness to start setting goals
Desire to return to a more normal life
New relationships, patterns can now emerge

Grief counseling, support groups, journaling and expressing your feelings are basic helps in this healing process.

~ Reflections, Issue 2 2007, Publication of The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care