Monday, October 13, 2014

Remaining Steadfast Amidst Changes, by Shang Rinpoche

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche Blog Image
Shang Rinpoche's sculpture of Guan Yin,
c.12th Century
A few days ago I visited a certain non-profit organization where I was invited to give a lecture. After the event there was a number of businessmen in leadership positions as well as entrepreneurs who were very intrigued but unable to fully understand something that I said, “The world is forever changing and this principle is the only thing that never changes.” They approached me with the hope that I could provide a clearer explanation. Depending on the capacity and background of the listener, I tend to approach topics from different angles. Science tells us that the brain is divided into left and right sides, most people understand this. Those whose left brain is more developed will use logic in dealing with everyday affairs whereas those whose right brain is more developed will generally be more subjective and use their intuition to judge situations. The latter is more likely to be influenced by their emotions and five senses because they use their feelings to make judgment calls. Regardless of whether you are a left-brain or a right-brain thinker, if you are dealing with situations like most other humans, you will be aware of your inability to recognize if this current thought is the continuation of the previous one. This is one kind of continual change.

There is a koan in the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. The story concerns the question of whether the wind is causing the flag to stir or if it is our mind that stirs. We live in a twofold world of external circumstances and internal emotions. Spiritual practitioners can stay well-adjusted by managing both sides and find no contradictions or conflicts in this. However, those who have not undergone similar training of the mind will often become emotionally flustered by the slightest disturbances from the external world. Changes in your office, for instance, may cause you to lose your peace of mind. This is something modern people face on a regular basis. For most people, the thing that causes fear or anxiety is not external changes or internal emotional fluctuations. The thing that most of us cannot accept and keep resisting is when external factors require us to change. When someone faces outside pressure to change, they tend to resist and their resistance will, in turn, create pressure and all of the accompanying emotions. Therefore, people in management positions should pay more attention to the management of emotional issues while leading a group. Leaders need the wisdom to observe subordinates to tell if some are agreeing with you only on the surface when, in fact, everyone is preoccupied with their own thoughts as well as the negative emotions that come with resistance. Be cautious that you do not bargain, play power or mind games with your employees. If you are already operating in such ways, then there is a problem with your leadership skills, and you are in a hazardous position.

The above was my explanation directed towards those who held managerial positions. After they heard this they were each filled with a certain level of understanding. However, for those not present at the time of the lecture, this might be confusing. In actuality, it is not quite so as it seems. The question boils down to how we can effectively manage our internal and external environments each day. I believe that regardless of whether this is for a spiritual practitioner or an ordinary person, it is about staying steadfast in watching the constant myriads of external changes much like a flock of geese flying over a river--the water is not moving; or like clouds passing mountain tops--only the clouds move, the mountains remain still. These are the analogies depicting a profound meditative state. A person’s troubles come mainly from their ignorance and feeblemindedness. Feeblemindedness is not that customary kind of foolishness, but the kind that is full of doubts. This is because doubtfulness likes to investigate, and investigation and probing generate excessive wishful thinking and attachment. Consequently, the mind becomes easily influenced and manipulated. If a person can practice to the level of 'the external world is the external world and the internal world is the internal world’, each has its respective place--this would be fairly good. As the very least, it is not too far away from the state of “samatha.” 

Just one more step forward will bring the mind to a state of clarity; as though standing in front of a mirror you could observe all of your movements and see very clearly who is it that is being moved and who is it that is watching. That indicates a higher level of meditative state. This means that you have already inched your way into the level of both “samatha and vipassana”. Upon reaching this state, the external world and its slander, praise, wealth, poverty, promotion and demotion, are all but meaningless. For this kind of person every place is an exit. At this point, they have already mastered the skills of dealing with any kind of problem without involving their brain. This is no longer a question of right or left brain, but of using one's mindfulness. For this kind of person there is already no such thing as ‘pressure’. Loss and achievement, depression or happiness, for them, they are the same experience. Their day from beginning to end is “free from bad weather but also free of nice weather”. Anything that comes imposes no limits or obstacles for them.

So how do we break through and achieve this mind that remains unchanged in every moment? This is what modern people should vigorously pursue. The condition of the greatest blindness for humanity is being unable to understand that we are always the audience watching a movie. Even more aggravating than this is that many people put themselves into a movie to the point where they doubt that it is just a role they are playing, they get too involved in their part. They become trapped in the web of afflictions utterly unable to extract themselves. Now, for those who aspire to be unfettered by any disturbances from the internal and external worlds, the only way is to observe your mind at all times and to remain unaffected and unmoved. If we could frequently practice so it becomes second nature, much like eating, sleeping and drinking, then you could enter into an unchanging, unmoving and unshaken state of being.

This is one small part of what I, Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche, said to five to six well-known entrepreneurs who each has over a thousand employees working under them.

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