Thursday, October 9, 2014

How to Get Back Up on Your Feet, by Shang Rinpoche

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog ImageSeveral young students came to see me, hoping I could shed some light on their psychological obstacles. One of them said that recently he had been idling away his time, too lazy to even get out of bed for days, allowing his mind to completely space out and drift aimlessly, feeling as if his life had been drained. Another in the group said that, since breaking up with his long-time girlfriend, he has felt as if his world has shattered and that life is no longer worth living. He feels as if the time they shared was the best gift imaginable and now that he has lost this ultimate prize, he has developed an extreme self-loathing. He feels numb in everything he does, like a piece of machinery, like a walking corpse. He wants to pray to the deities and Bodhisattvas, recite mantras and sutras but he just fails to muster any focus to do so. There was also a young woman who, on a 28 or 29 degree (Celsius) autumn day, was wearing a turtleneck and a vest and still seemed to be shivering, so it was easy to see something had been tormenting her for some time. When it finally came her turn to speak, she slowly, feebly and quietly told her incomplete story of how her father passed away not long ago only to be followed by her mother’s death seven months later. She also mentioned that her fiance was killed instantly in a car crash on the highway. This chain of events left her utterly uncertain about the future, not knowing how she could possibly carry on.

In recent years, I am most surprised by the increasing amount of bad news outweighing any positive news covered by the media. My pressing concern is that if the majority has been carrying so many worries bearing so heavily on their minds, how much longer can they endure? Will the world someday sink into an abyss of depravity due to our heavy karma and afflictions? But another voice inside tells me that since this world is also called the World of Forbearance, maybe most people will be able to get by and endure life’s suffering. So where does this problem lie? This actually doesn’t directly relate to spiritual practice or religious faith. Both spiritual practice and religious faith serve as a lens in that they allow a clearer and more certain vision of your goal. However, putting on glasses alone will get you directly to your goal. All the stories in Buddhism are encapsulations of the Bodhisattvas, as well as symbols for the essence of human nature. Bodhisattva Sadāprarudita’s story and his tribulations while seeking the Dharma might appear very different from the Christian accounts of Jesus shedding his blood and the death of Abel, Eve’s son. However, the extraordinary lives led by the various gods and bodhisattvas deeply move us and are, in fact, no different from our lives. So, why was the young David able to slay the giant Goliath? Faith and courage are what I believe differentiating ordinary folks from Bodhisattvas.

I think the constant complaints of so many people about the world and humanity stem from their own selfishness and the lack of understanding of impermanence. For all the young people brought up in the overly lovey-dovey post-80’s era, they are incapable of contemplating the horrors of samsara and impermanence or the fact that life is just like a honey bee trapped in a glass bottle. People have long forgotten the fact that they had been reborn as ants and cockroaches over countless kalpas and that if you were to stack up all these bodies, the pile would be higher than Mount Everest. They have also forgotten the tears they have cried each time they had been reborn in hell, the ghost realm or the animal realm because of heinous karma they have created, which if added up would definitely be more than the five oceans. If modern people carefully contemplate on life in hell, how horrific would it be to be killed and reborn again and again in order to burn off your bad karma? Moreover, fifty years in this life is just one day in the realm of the Four Heavenly Kings; and five hundred Four Heavenly Kings years is just a fraction of a day in hell. In this context, the temporary obstacles of suffering and grievances of this world would be utterly insignificant. We should thoroughly examine our greed and attachments and strive to find the source of our self nature. Rather than wandering aimlessly through life like an opportunistic vagabond, we should strive to have heroic perseverance, going vigorously and bravely forward. Those who cower at the slightest setback will never achieve anything; the brave ones, who even when struck by one hundred arrows and thrown into prison, never doubt that the world is for the taking, will be like a warrior who finds the rainbow at the end of the storm and can therefore definitely achieve all. A real practitioner knows how to gain treasure from bad experiences, for after all, who has ever seen an empty bag standing on it’s own accord?

This is a portion of what I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, told some friends who had lost all hope because of some transient obstacles in life. After this conversation that lasted for several hours, it was very encouraging to see that almost all of them was able to snap out of their moods as if awakening from a dream.

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