Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Key to Success and Achievement

Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche BlogPeople frequently ask me about the definition of true success, and about the real meaning and goal of life. How can people have so many uncertainties and unknowns? Many people are also full of doubts, including spiritual practitioners who, when faced with difficulties in their daily lives, will even question why they’re studying Buddhism. Life is full of doubts. Every person will have moments of weakness, fear and failure. We are uncertain about how to succeed. I once told a student, “You should learn from your failures and then success will come naturally, so there’s no need to study the way to gain achievement.”

I’ve met many famous artists and authors, and some are models of success. They don’t have dazzling academic certificates, but I’ve noticed they all have some very distinct characteristics, one of these being a fighter’s spirit that never succumbs to setbacks. Once, when traveling in Europe, I came across a church that had an ancient and rustic yet delicate marble stone with a maxim of Solomon carved into it. I found this quite interesting: “Time and tide wait for no man.” Anything can be replaced or made up for and we can even reclaim some things that have slipped away, but the greatest truth is that time waits for nobody. Time waits for no one. In fact, it is always running away from us and if you let down your guard it will slip away. Many great figures have a distinct characteristic that sets them apart from ordinary people, which is that, on no occasion will they waste time. When they are resolved to do something, they will persevere until they have reached a satisfying conclusion.

If we take the writings of Newton, for example, he was never satisfied even after countless edits. Only after incessant urging from his students and loved ones would he finalize his manuscript. I’ve read most of Charles Montesquieu’s books, but one phrase in particular really made an impression and has stuck with me, “The books I’ve written could be read in a day, but all the gray hairs on my head are the result of writing them.” Herbert von Karajan, the orchestra conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, is an artist I greatly admire. He conducted expertly for a full seventy years, led countless world-class musicians, and released over a million recordings. So who would have thought that once, on a tour in the U.S., there would only be 25 people present in the audience for a Baltimore concert? Before beginning the concert, Karajan gracefully and calmly addressed the small audience, saying, “Although I’m quite certain that this is the smallest audience I’ve ever played for, I think that this audience is the most extraordinary, excellent, and world-class, because you didn’t come here due to the influence of the media. You’re here for one reason only, and that’s music. So this orchestra will do our utmost to give you the most spectacular and magnificent performance.”

For the past hundred years, Sister Sœur Emmanuelle of Belgium, a famous cleric known to almost everyone in Europe, referred to as the guardian angel of the poor, tirelessly spent her whole life helping impoverished people throughout Europe and Egypt, often associating herself with the trash-collecting homeless whilst simultaneously busying herself collecting money and establishing schools for the poverty stricken. She had no life of her own, nor did she have any personal time. She constantly devoted herself to the poor until she was forced to retire at the age of 88. Another thing I admire her for is that she showed great respect for other religions and was especially reverent towards Buddhism. She also used the most secular methods to determine what people of different social strata needed the most. From the examples of the spiritual leaders (and other world greats) listed above, the special characteristic common to all of their success is that they remained uncompromising in the face of adversity, never giving in to defeat. They also took their work as a source of joy and pleasure.

People think that life is something that can be controlled, but if you have the concept of impermanence, you’ll know that nothing in the world lasts. The sun rising in the sky is just a symbol of slow decay. The river of life is sometimes a steady flow, and at other times dries up completely. There is nothing in the universe that does not follow the birth and death of yin and yang. The four seasons; the four directions; the four characteristics of medicinal herbs, namely cold, hot, warm, and cool; and the four emotions of happiness, anger, sorrow and joy; all are symbols that life is constantly undulating with impermanence and karma, forces which nothing can resist. So if you want to live a successful and meaningful life, whether secular or spiritual, it is imperative that you first understand the speedy impact of impermanence. Like a fish out of water, no matter what trials and tribulations you’re faced with, you mustn't give up easily, especially regarding spiritual practice, the goal of transcending samsara, conducting worldly affairs in a harmonious manner, taking helping society as your raison d'être, and using all obstacles and setbacks as touchstones towards your eventual achievement. This is the only way to be successful, striving toward the ultimate liberation of a broad-minded life.

These are some suggestions that I, Shang Longrik Gyatso, gave to some people of this modern age who were afraid of failure and lacking in confidence and conviction.

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