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.

Sunday
Feb112007

Truth of Interdependence

"Our emotions and perceptions are like seeds in the garden of our minds - and mindfulness is like cool water. When we water the seeds of joy in ourselves, they will grow and flower without struggle or effort. This is one of the simplest and most wonderful of miracles. When you nourish yourself and others in this way, you see that all things - this piece of paper, the air you are breathing, you and I - are deeply interconnected. This is the truth of interdependence. No one can be one's self alone. We have to inter-be to be."

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday
Feb102007

Impermanence and Relativity

956849-669355-thumbnail.jpgIn our desire to possess that which we believe will make us happy, we even wish to possess other people. We want others to respect us and to love us. We want others to only think of us. To always come back to us. To forever be with us. This is a form of craving and a major attachment, which is due largely to not yet realizing that we are all impermanent: We all change from second to second. None of us remains the same. None of us can forever hold on to what we now have.

Our lives are brief. Time seems to tick by so slowly when we are miserable. But when we are happy, that moment in our lives feels very brief. Albert Einstein, while trying to explain the theory of relativity, put it into simple words that most of us can understand. If we put our hand on a hot stove for a few seconds, it will feel like eternity. But if you are a man sitting next to an attractive woman, ten minutes can feel like seconds. Everything is relative.

But even as brief as our lives are, nothing will remain with us forever. The person with us now will not always be with us. This is so painful for us because we become attached, in this case, to people whom we do not want to lose. When they are gone, we will miss them as we continue to think of them and the pleasant times we had together. But, for good or for bad, we cannot keep any person with us.