Last night I attended a lecture… or a “speaking”… I’m not sure he would say he was lecturing anyone. The speaker was a Tibetan monk who was instructing the audience on the way to end suffering. He referred several times to the concept that one’s suffering and life full of challenges is merely imaginary. This is a hard concept for most of us to grasp, and I struggled with the idea that I should just smile through difficult times because I can find comfort when I remember that none of the pain and frustration of life is “real”. Reality, as our teacher described it, is the divine that is in each one of us. That’s it. It’s the only thing to be concerned about, because it is the only real thing. Divinity. Our own divinity, the divinity in each and every other person in the world, and the divinity that exists even in the trees and rocks and dust of the earth.
Big concept, huh?
So, what about the unpaid bills and the lost jobs and the illnesses the children’s bad grades? (thankfully, I’m only dealing with that last one most of the time) What can a person do who wants to believe that these things aren’t reality, but who is faced with them every day? Anam Thubten instructed us that we have to be open. He spoke of “emptiness” but said it’s not a true emptiness in the sense that we have nothing left in us. Instead, it’s an “openness”. We have to choose to be empty/open to Love. He did not use the following words, but the message he was sending, and that I have read in a book by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is that when one is open to love the other things are easier to bear. The reference to “imaginary”, to me, means that our lives here on earth are transient; just temporary challenges on our way through the eternity of our soul’s existence.
The image that kept coming to mind last night as I listened to him speak was one of a container. For me it was a glass that is filled with my life and all the daily things that come along that make me worry, stress, grumble, etc. If I can open up my container and flood it with the love that is the divine, those challenges are diluted and become more manageable. It’s really the same message that Zig Ziegler used to teach on the tapes that my mom listened to on road trips – the Power of Positive Thinking. The message then was that when one dwells on the negative, negative things will happen; they will weigh us down, they will ruin our lives. When one dwells on the good (the divinity!) that is all around one, even the challenges that are unavoidable are not so burdensome. It was all about making a choice every day to be happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the spiritual reality of Buddhism is as simple as “turning that frown upside down”. The history, traditions and truths of the Buddhist faith are much deeper than this simple human can put into words on a blog post and I repect it too much to say I’ve figured it out (far from it!) and that Zig Ziegler nailed it for $39.95 in 1977. But it seems to be a similar message, one that I can wrap my brain around for now. I do believe that one must choose to be open to love. Out of that choice, comes happiness. But not happiness in the superficial way we tend to understand it. This happiness is a feeling that comes out of the belief that life is joyous and precious and short-lived. It comes from knowing that we have a divine core, and that that seed of divinity can change our lives – the transient one and the one that goes on. One must choose to open up to positive and uplifting messages and to turn away from that which is not enlightening or positive. It may not get me to Nirvana, but no matter what spiritual path I am walking down, it will be a brighter path, and one that runs more parallel with the divine and my purpose in this life and what lies beyond this life.