The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Commitment to the Path”
Lord Buddha teaches us that we are wandering in cyclic existence, and that cyclic existence is tricky. We are taught that cyclic existence is like that room full of furniture, full of obstacles. You have to get through it, but lots of things are going to happen. You’re going to go through events; karmic ripenings will take place. There will be sickness. There will be old age, and there will be death. The only way you get out of old age is if you die first. These are the rules. That’s how the house works.
So that being the case, the Buddha teaches us, as well, that everything in samsara has a beginning and therefore has an ending. Literally every time you meet and come together with a loved one, at that moment, you have given rise to the parting from that loved one. These moments, these cause and effect relationships arise interdependently; and although they seem to us to be separated by time, that’s part of our delusion. Cause and effect arise interdependently.
So when we meet the great love of our life that we have waited for oh these many years, then we are also at that moment entering into the experience of separating, because it will happen. Should we attain fame, fortune, whatever it is that our society teaches us that we want, then we should understand that the moment we have achieved this very thing, we have also given rise to its end. There is nothing one can accomplish through and within samsara that has any real lasting value other than to cultivate the mind, other than to cultivate the practice. Only that brings results that are carried forward because it creates a virtuous mind and pure habitual tendencies. But not one penny of the money we make, not one bit of any relationship, other than memory, will survive death. We’ll all come together again, but it will all be different.
Lord Buddha teaches us that this is a constant, spinning, spinning, spinning in samsara. While each of us has in common the wish to be happy, we do not understand how to create the causes of happiness. We think that to have more will make us happy or to be with somebody will make us happy or to be cured of something will make us happy or to change our lives and sail around the world or whatever, that’s going to make us happy. But we find that ultimately it does not. You can travel all over the place, sail around the world, have all kinds of relationships, make all kinds of money and you will find that in the heart, you have not attained happiness. We do attain temporary happiness. I feel pretty happy right now. But having lived with yourself for lo these many years, surely you must know by now that this happiness is so, so temporary. It’s like the dew vanishing on the leaves every morning. It’s like that. That easy to lose. And there is no amount of positive thinking that is going to change that. All you can do is make yourself crazier, crazier, crazier and more neurotic. You know you are suffering. You know you’re not happy and you’re going, yes, I am. Everything is fine.
So Lord Buddha teaches us that what we have to do essentially in our path is to turn on the light. Some of the furniture we’re going to have to move, get it out of the way. That’s called pacifying obstacles, and we do that through practice. Some of the furniture we’re going to have to climb on top of. It’s just there and it’s going to have to be something we move beyond. Some of the furniture we’re going to have to get under, Maybe we could liken that to undoing some of our poisons, like the five poisons that we have within our mind stream. But whatever it is, things have got to change.
So Dharma is like that. Dharma provides us a way to turn on the light. You get the picture. You see what is in your way and you decide how to deal with it. There are methods for how to deal with it, but the big thing is eyes opened. To wish and hope that everything is going to turn out well because, you know, I’m a spiritual person, therefore, da da da, whatever, is just not going to cut it, because you are still whistling in the dark. You are walking through that room and you’re whistling in the dark. Buddhism says, “Turn on the light.”
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