Seems like a paroxysm of sorrow concerning events in Tibet. Wherever we turn, there is news of the self-immolations, paramilitary police crackdowns, mass arrests, and violent demonstrations. We search our hearts for answers, and strategies. We talk to each other about what next to "do."
Coupled with political sorrow, we also have emotions attached to the many great masters and inspiring practitioners who died during the past months. Some even died on the same day! We mourn what we consider to be our loss. We feel stunned to learn -- yet again -- that impermanence is actually impermanent!
Added to the above are the injustices we see around us. There are outrages associated with beloved teachers, the damaging ignorance associated with cults, and strutting oppressors who tour the carnage they have wrought with a blind eye to suffering. We feel anger, frustration, and depression. We find ourselves overcome with confusion.
When we are young, we want to immediately take to the barricades. I can picture myself as I was, and see quite clearly the energy I would have expended on events such as those now passing before us. I can see the time I would have spent looking for causes and cures: a head to lop off the monster, so the tentacles would lose their grip. I can see the obsession with the sword, to do the lopping!
But, as we get older -- and as practice begins to show its results -- what seemed useful in the context of malfunctioning emotions comes to be seen as unnecessary, useless, and often counterproductive. It has been ever thus. Our confusion seems to make all sorts of demands upon us, and we work ourselves to death. Yet, if we sit down and think calmly about the matter, the Dharma has already given us marvelous tools with which we can easily "fix" anything.
Look at this photograph of absurd Westerners dressed in the costume of Tibetan ordained, demonstrating against His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is so easy to become appalled by this sort of transparent agitation by Red Chinese government stooges. Yet, if you were ask any one of these hooligans, "Are you doing the right thing?" the answer would be a resounding "Yes!"
The politically naive believe entirely in the righteousness of their actions, no matter the effect upon others. Like psychopaths, they carry on with a crystal clear conscience. We can call this the net effect of co-existing with demons, if you like.
Now contrast this powerful image of a Tibetan nun, expressing despair, self-sacrifice, and martyrdom. One such death is too many, yet hers is one of a regrettably growing number of self-immolations in Tibet. No words can express the sorrow we feel when coming upon such a sight. Were you to have asked her, "As a nun, are you doing the right thing?" she might have answered that she was not; but, she was doing the only thing left open to her, under the terrible yoke of Red Chinese oppression.
Until the illness of suffering is cured, the illness of the bodhisattva's compassion cannot be cured.
Nobody with a heart can see these things and not be moved. As our beloved teachers are seemingly dying in front of us, these images arise in bewildering array, and we are everywhere surrounded by arguments, what is right, what is wrong?
Stop right there.
Imputations of right and wrong, good and bad are the basis of the delusion that guarantees us endless suffering. They -- and the confusion they spawn -- are reflective of the destructive, habitual division between one's self and others. The Dharma tells us that as long as we are taking "sides," we are digging ourselves deeper and deeper into sorrow. From this sorrow -- the very sorrows we see around us at this instant -- there is no respite, lest we once and for all decide to recognize our own state, generate bodhicitta, and apply ourselves as we have been taught to do.
We begin every practice with three times refuge and three times bodhicitta. During the centuries of our shared belief, it has become so for a reason.
The reason is simple.
It is the best way.
If you apply yourself to enlightenment on behalf of beings, there is nothing left to question, nothing left to confuse, and nothing more to argue. The grip that tumult holds on you drops away. How many ways need I say this?
The time for practice is now.