The following is an excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called “Conceptual Proliferation”
In our ongoing continuum of trying to understand correct view from many different angles, I would like to talk about the conceptual proliferation that we continually engage in and how that actually occurs. If any of you have had any familiarity with any kind of psychotherapy or counseling, or with any kind of inner work at all, one of the things that you might have noticed during your work is that dependent on how you accept information and how you react to it, under those conditions you’ll have a certain kind of experience. And that certain kind of experience really depends on how you accept things, on how you hear things. How many of you have noticed that? That it isn’t what happens to you; it’s how you hear it or how you accept it. Are there any of you who haven’t noticed that? Some of you didn’t raise your hands. I was just checking. You haven’t noticed that. OK. Here’s what I’m saying: Whatever happens to you isn’t always what determines how you feel. It’s how you accept what’s happening to you. Do you agree with that? OK. Because one thing can happen to two different people and they can have two totally different experiences. Isn’t that true? That’s true.
Let’s say two different people have a car accident. Buddha forbid. Two different people have a car accident. One of them tends to be a heavy breather, you know, and they’re just going through the tragedy, and the shame of it, and the anger of it, or whatever it is that their particular habit—and habit may be the operative word there—happens to be. But another person tends to accept things like that kind of like water rolling off a duck’s back. It goes down easier somehow. It’s just their temperament and their personality. They both had the same experience, and maybe they both walked away without injury and had their cars totalled, or both broke a leg, heaven forbid, or whatever; but they might still have totally different experiences even though they had the same kind of situation. So basically that’s what I’m talking about.
So you all have seen that, I’m sure. Even in your own lives you’ve seen that. And a lot of time during the course of counseling, you don’t really engage in trying to change the facts of your life, the things that you cannot change; but you more often engage in changing how you respond to certain things and how you understand them. Well, if this is true in something as relatively simplistic as human psychology or psychotherapy, as we know it,… And I say relatively simplistic because the Buddha’s understanding of what our nature actually is is much more profound, or much deeper, than a psychologist’s understanding of what our nature is. Even if we understand that phenomena on a very simplistic level—and it seems to be an accepted fact these days that we understand that our perception really dictates our experience—how much more so must it be at the level that the Buddha approaches it from.
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