Sunday, May 18, 2014

Forgiveness and Growth: On Transforming All Mishaps into the Path of the Bodhi

Yes, a long silence. To the 15 of you who read this blog regularly, I apologize. I had a series of busy weekends, and then there's the fact I've pledged to get more sleep. The upshot is that this side project, as much as I love it, had to be left by the wayside for a while. The point of Lojong Ruminations, as I keep saying to myself, is not to adhere to some schedule like I do with my other blog. The point of this blog is the exploration, and so long as I keep going along the path it's serving its purpose.

Now onto the real subject at hand: the next teaching.
When the world is filled with evil, transform all mishaps into the path of the bodhi.
The bodhi tree is the tree under which the Buddha was sitting when his enlightenment happened. In the context of this tenet, "bodhi" can be understood to mean "enlightenment" or "awakening." This can be seen in the translation of this tenet provided by "When misfortune fills the world and its inhabitants. Make adversity the path of awakening," (source). The explanatory paragraph they provide adds a little more:
"Whatever adversity comes your way, use it as a basis for taking and sending, Take in all the similar misfortunes of others and send out your own sense of presence and equanimity."
After sitting with the original wording, the alternate translation, and the explanatory note for a while, I turned to the Tricycle piece on this mind-training. The first paragraph hit me hard:
"When things go wrong, when we encounter obstacles, the last thing on our minds is the dharma. Instead, what is the first thing on our minds? Ourselves! It is all about how we are being inconvenienced, burdened, put upon, attacked, misunderstood, rejected—you name it. Not only do we lose track of the path, but our concern for others goes into hibernation as we focus front and center on our own particular problem."
I highly recommend reading Judy Lief's whole piece about this particular teaching. The idea of using our personal mishaps to push ourselves along the path to enlightenment is the very thing that attracted me to studying lojong. We, all of us, have upsets in our lives. Every single day. Multiple times per day. Sometimes they're major, like a divorce or the loss of a job or the death of a friend. Other times they're minor, like someone not finding a good parking spot on a rainy day or the grocery store being out of a favorite flavor of yogurt. It's not the things that happen to us that make up who we are, it's how we react and move on from the events.

And that brings me to the people you see in that picture above. I've been working on The Forgiveness Challenge lately. Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Mpho Tutu, have literally challenged the entire world to forgive. It is a 30 day long effort, with daily mini-challenges such as writing about a time when you were hurt by a close friend, what you did in response, and how it made you feel. It dovetails so nicely with the lojong teaching under consideration. For Desmond and Mpho Tutu to transform the pain of Apartheid into this beautiful idea of helping people everywhere heal... awe-inspiring. One quote in particular resonated more than anything else so far: "You forgive to set yourself free, not the other person." For me, that kind of freedom is the thing that brought me to and keeps me practicing Buddhism. I aspire to the kind of equanimity I see in Desmond Tutu, and his personal religious practice isn't as important to me as his actions are. So that's what I'll be working with this week (and for a few more weeks to come).

Until next week, namaste and all that.