Monday, August 24, 2009

You're So Vain (I Bet You Think This Blog Is About You)

"Even if someone says all sorts of unpleasant things about you, proclaiming them throughout the universe, in return you should extol that person's good qualities with your loving-kindness. That is the way of bodhisattva practice."
--The Thirty-Seven Practices of A Bodhisattva,

You know, this one comes up all the time. But, even when it is right in front of us, we often cannot see it. We make up really elaborate, complicated, and enormous rationalizations, perceiving all sorts of abstract "enemies" and "threats." We waste energy exercising vigilance in regard to something external, when all along, the vigilance needs to be directed inwardly. Really, we exhaust ourselves, collecting all sorts of absurd evidence for and against. We all do this. Anybody who says they are immune is quite probably mistaken.

The thing is, one tries.

One tries every day to put the ideals into action.

One never stops trying.


Sometimes, people read things into our posts that are simply not intended. I noticed this in the past, when I used to publish poetry that I wrote for my wife's amusement, and certain of my readers thought it was addressed to them! I have noticed this again, with some of the critical pieces, which some readers apparently believe are ill-intentioned.

From time to time, I have criticized certain individuals -- sometimes vigorously -- and this is most particularly when I see them making errors that I have already made. Because of this, people probably get the mistaken impression that I bear the object of criticism some sort of obsessive ill will. In some cases, the students think I am vilifying their teacher. They think this grants them a license to vilify me.

I put that sort of thing down to too many kung fu movies.

It is impossible for me to vilify anybody's teacher, when their own conduct has already vilified that teacher to the point of saturation.

In any event, and speaking very personally, I actually hold those I criticize in considerable esteem. I would not waste breath on them otherwise. I am always gratified to see when most -- if not all -- of the obstacles in their lives that seemed so insurmountable in the past dissipate like mist in the sun. Surely, has that not been the result of their criticism of me?


Shantideva said, "Listening to the buddhadharma is joyous and inviting, because it does not need further ambition." The great Trungpa Rinpoche expanded on that thought by adding:
"There is no drive to accumulate credentials. The Dharma does not demand rigidity, adherence to external ideals. If a teacher understands this, he needs no confirmation from his students. The turning of the wheel of dharma will be a mutual creation on the part of student and teacher."
Since this 'blog began to attract readership beyond its originally-intended audience (my family), and since we began to publish the work of other authors, we have gradually attempted to make it a symbiotic entity -- primarily discussing Tibetan Buddhism in the West -- wherein we post something, hear your response, and let the matter evolve as it might. I have subscribed to this because I was so very impressed with Trungpa Rinpoche's approach, as stated above.

Really, to my way of thinking, there are some dramatically opposing currents developing in Tibetan Buddhism in the West. I think they deserve to be examined -- to be ventilated, if you like that better -- and sometimes, open criticism can be a valid approach.

Sometimes, we have opened and let evolve what seemed to be highly charged lines of criticism, because of something else he wrote:
"[W]e should invite them back, the ups and downs of those sudden attacks of neurosis. It is quite dangerous: wives might be afraid of getting black eyes again and again, and husbands might have fears of being unable to enter their home and have a good dinner. But it is still important to invite them again and again, to realize their possibilities. We are not going to get rid of them. We are going to have to acknowledge that and be thankful for what has happened."
I used to think that if somebody misconstrued my words and took offense, then I had no more responsibility in the matter. Maybe I should simply wait for their lightbulb to go off someday, somewhere, somehow. As I grow older, I have come to feel that isn't entirely correct. While I cannot be held accountable for the myriad personal insecurities that cause people to feel "singled out," I have nevertheless come to feel that this may well be a reflection of my imperfect expression -- my imperfect speech. Indeed, I have come to feel that a little subsidiary explanation can occasionally be a good thing.

So, if you are among those who feel "singled out," let me explain this --

This is an opinion 'blog about Tibetan Buddhism (and rabbits, and sometimes deserts). Out of the 1,104 (and counting) posts on this blog, fewer than a dozen are openly critical of this or that individual or institution: hardly an obsession, and certainly not demonstrative of ill-will or malice by any stretch of all but the most twisted imagination. Upon reflection, I decided to take some of those posts down -- not because I believe that everything is hunky-dory with Tibetan Buddhism in the West, or because I can't stand the heat of expressing unpopular opinion -- but simply because they have so been so woefully misconstrued that there must be a better way of getting the message across.

Well... that, and I felt as if I was beginning to channel Andy Rooney.

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1 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

but simply because they have so been so woefully misconstrued that there must be a better way of getting the message across.

Poetry is good.

A drunk I am
Like Li Po drowned
I lean too far
Over the boat's edge
Kissing my love
The moon's reflection
On the water

I too prefer drowning
In this way
Than to die with
A heart that never
Kissed the moon
And missed its union
With my reflection