Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Contemplation of the week

'Practise not causing harm to anyone, yourself or others, and every day do what you can to be helpful.' ~Pema Chodron

This doesn't seem like much to ask, does it? Don't be hurtful; be helpful. This seems to me to be the precious essence of Buddhism. It is also a very deep practice, and not easy.

It's not easy to take the focus off yourself for even one minute. As my very wise husband observed today, we have been brought up in a culture that teaches us to hate, to judge, to suspect. We are trained on so many levels to do only to the extent that something has been done for us. If we go one step beyond that, we feel like martyrs. We sit back and wait for the recognition, the gratitude, the return of the favour. And if that doesn't come instantaneously, oh, the outrage! The righteous indignation! The blame -- and the descent into black self-pity. Why do we do this? How do we escape this trap of self-absorption?

We are all so self-absorbed. We respond to situations and to others only to the degree that it personally affects us. We have no real interest in other people, and no desire to make meaningful connection to them. We have always been like this. We talk, talk, talk about ourselves. Our version of listening is to wait for the other person to stop talking so that we can inject our next comments about ourselves, about our opinions, about our lives. We talk about ourselves. We think about ourselves. We want to make ourselves happy. We may have an abstract wish that 'all beings be happy', but at the same time we also hope that they would just leave us alone, or failing that, at least give us our due. We want it both ways. Every sentence starts with 'I'. Everything we've ever thought or done in our lives has started with 'I'. Maybe it's time to change that.

I know I can't make other people happy, but I can try take the focus off myself. I can try, occasionally, to do something without ultimately aiming for what's in it for me.

May the focus of my thoughts be others.

May the words of my mouth be others.

May my interest be for others.

May my affirmations and gratitudes be for others.

May this behaviour continue until it is my habit.

Here's a link to something I'll bet you've never seen: a rapping Buddhist monk.

Mipham--"What About Me?"

Please watch it.

May all beings be at ease.


Mark said...

Oh dear, this sounds all rather bleak. I think it is right to an extent and perhaps an inevitability of human evolution that on a fundamental level we are all selfish and perhaps pure alturism doesn't exist. But I am not sure I would be so negative about the human character as to condemn it to being one that is self-absorbed and uncaring of others. I think what you are talking about speaks to a wider ill in our society - the privelaging of material possessions above emotional well-being. Everything seems to me has a price but we don't understand the true value. I think a lot has to do with the absence of religion or at least some structure of belief from people's lives. I think we need that to be able to make sens and give purpose to the lives we lead.

Sorry, I am just wittering on with what comes out of my head, lol!

Carla said...

Mark, this may seem a bleak outlook, but I think it is actually truthful. From a Buddhist perspective, the focus on self is part of dukkha. The self is an illusion. We are not only self, we are also other. Just as the wave is not only a wave but also the water. It's when the wave realises that it is water that it can be happy. When we take the focus off ourselves and put it on the other, then we find true happiness. I do have a deep belief that I am part of a complex and beautiful whole, that I am not separate from anything. I believe that we all are part of it. I long to 'wake up' to it and see it and know it and embrace it. But, limited as I am, I hope to try to start where I am just change my language, my thoughts, to take the focus off 'me' at least some of the time.

Did you watch the video on youtube by Mipham? It's really good!

Morandia said...

ok... a rapping monk first thing after I get to work isn't a good thing *grin* That was... interesting....