We can learn so much from the Dalai Lama and the study of Buddhism. My studies have taught me to understand what is within my realm of control and what is not. Buddhism is not a religion, as many people believe. Rather it is a philosophy or path of practice. It is the spiritual development that leads to enlightenment and the true nature of reality. The teachings are logical to me, with the lessons coming from within instead of rote memorization. I’ve studied Buddhism for years, and still understand so little. Some lessons, however, have finally lodged within my soul and being.
The Dalai Lama has simplified so much for me. He is perhaps the greatest spiritual leader in history. Read a few of his quotes and you will see what I mean. These were life-changing for me.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” It costs nothing to be kind. The return on investment is priceless, to plagarize a common advertisement. This lesson was taught to me first by my father, and it’s probably the key lesson in life. What a simple concept. Be kind.
“If you can, help others. If you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” This one has special meaning for me. I’m a caretaker by nature, and I want to fix everything. It’s been a humbling lesson to understand that I simply don’t have that kind of power. Someone close to me is hurting, and reacts by striking out at both family and friends. I’ve tried to help, and failed. So now I have to follow the second option; at least do not harm them. I’ve blocked all of the calls, and texts and emails. This is very difficult for me, but I know that if I respond, even with the best of intentions, it will only be adding fuel to the fire. And that would harm the person in question. I have to remind myself, if I can’t help a person, then do not harm them. At the same time I have to take care of my own well-being, and remind myself that this isn’t my problem. If I can’t fix it, then I shouldn’t try and carry the burden. It’s ok to just walk away. “Silence is sometimes the best answer.”
“Basically we are all the same human beings with the same potential to be a good human being or a bad human being... The important thing is to realize the positive side and try to increase that; realize the negative side and try to reduce. That’s the way.” This is something that I’ve always known deep inside of myself. I’ve never understood bigotry and racism and judgmental behaviors. Across the globe and throughout time we are all human beings with potential for goodness. In this and every other election year in America, you will see the opposite behaviors. Political discussions are most often based on why one is against a candidate instead of looking to the positive and finding a reason to support a candidate who will do their best for their constituents. It’s a very depressing argument, so I choose to stay out of those (as much as humanly possible as I do enjoy a good debate), and research all of the issues through as many archives as are available.
Am I Buddhist? No. I consider myself a Zen Christian. I cannot support any religion that is exclusionary. That pretty much covers all of them. So I study as many different religions and beliefs as I can, and take the best teachings from each. The interesting aspect of theology is the commonality of so many beliefs. As a small child I believed (on my own, without anyone teaching me this philosophy) that God presents himself to a people in a way they can most accept. We really aren’t all that different.
The Buddhist path is the most logical and satisfying to me. Lead a moral life. Live a mindful life and be aware of your own thoughts and actions. Develop wisdom and understanding. And one undeniable truth is karma, which is the law that every cause has an effect. Good actions lead to a better life. Bad actions have negative consequences. So if a person considers the following before taking an action, the results are likely to be more positive. 1) What is the intention? 2) What effect will the action have on oneself? 3) What effect will the action have on others?
Lao Tzu said : “Knowing others is Wisdom. Knowing yourself is Enlightenment.” Think about this. All a person can control in life is his own actions and reactions. Look within to understand why some things are so much more important than others, and then determine if they are really all that important. I’ve been chasing the wrong things most of my life. I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to learn a better way to live, before it’s too late. Zen Buddhism is liberating. It doesn’t preach. It enables you to wake up and become aware. And that’s a great start. An old Zen proverb states that when the student is ready, the master appears.
Some final thoughts. The Dalai Lama said "People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they are not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost." A favorite Zen proverb of mine is this one. "Before Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Have a beautiful day.