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.




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.


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


Gone in an Instant


Sometimes, if one is very, very lucky after losing his or her anger, there comes a moment of horror when the person realizes what they have done, realizes what might have happened.

Some time ago, I was told about such a moment by a person who is one of the lucky ones. In a moment of uncontrolled fury, without thinking, he picked up the person he was angry with and threw the person through a store window. Seeing the person lying on the ground, with pieces of the shattered glass all around, he thought that he had killed the unmoving man. The anger drained away in an instant as the horror of what he had just done washed over him. 

You can possibly imagine some of his relief when he realized the man was alive. He told me that at that moment of realization all his anger drained out of him, forever.

He was very lucky.

If we are fortunate, the realization of what our anger can do to others will, at some time, meet us head on and we will be able to let all the anger go in an instant. For most of us however, the realization isn’t as clear. Most of us have to work very hard at controlling the anger.


Rebirth? No-rebirth?

In two of my classes this week, questions have arisen over the necessity of believing in rebirth to benefit from the Buddhism.

In the Kalama Sutta, the Buddha was asked several questions by people who had been visited by various religious teachers. Each of them said that their doctrines were correct, and those of the others were wrong. From the response of the Buddha, we see that the underlying issues concerning the Kalamas were the reality of rebirth and the karmic retributions for good and evil deeds.

A section of the sutta, or sutra in Sanskrit, gives four assurances, two of which address rebirth. Essentially, the Buddha said that if there is rebirth, the noble student who has a pure mind that is free from greed and hostility, and who pervades the universe with loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity, will encounter two possibilities. If rebirth exists, this person who no longer experiences craving or hatred will enjoy the results from his goodness in a future life. If there is no rebirth, this person will still get to enjoy the immediate results from no longer being pulled first one way and than another by insatiable cravings or from feeling the bitter residue of hatred. Either way, the person receives good retributions. 

Rebirth can help us to understand why there are times when bad things happen to good people. And conversely, why bad people sometimes seem to be immune from suffering the consequences of their actions. But even if we are not yet convinced of the existence of rebirth, we can still practice the teachingswe can still feel the joy from doing what we know in our hearts to be right.