An excerpt from a teaching by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo called Turning Adversity Into Felicity
The result of poverty and not having enough is due, according to the Buddha’s teachings, to not having been particularly generous or forthcoming in our support or caring for others in the past, perhaps even before this lifetime. So we might look at our lives now with a sense of honesty. Is that the case now? Perhaps it’s also the case now, and we just haven’t thought of it that way. Or perhaps if we really look in our heart of hearts we might discover that there is a certain dark corner in there somewhere that has a strong element of selfishness and lack of giving. We might see it sneak out every now and then. Maybe not all the time, but it’s in there. Or we might discover that perhaps in our past, in our deep past, we have been less than generous.
So, in order to create the causes of having plenty, to open the doors and liberate the conditions under which support and wealth and prosperity would come to us, we would create the causes, by transforming our minds through practice into that which is supremely generous. If we have only $5 to our name, a good idea is to give maybe 50¢ of that, maybe a dollar of that, to somebody who doesn’t have 50¢ or a dollar. If you have nothing, I’m sure you can get it together to have enough to place a simple candle on the altar and make prayers that the merit generated by offering this light would help all sentient beings see their way through the darkness. A small offering like that and prayers to benefit sentient beings begins the process of creating the causes by which our suffering or lack begins to change, and as well our minds begin to transform into that which is filled with kindness. We begin to create the habit of caring for others, of kindness.
The idea is that we proceed with confidence in the teachings and in the teacher who has given them to us. That’s how you have faith in the Guru—not by making some bland statement with no depth, not by faking your way through samsara, not by controlling your mind with positive thoughts so that delusion only increases and you have no idea what you are perceiving—but instead by creating the causes through acts of generosity.
On the other hand, if we have experienced great disappointment in love, let’s say, the first thing that we think is, “Oh, now I’ve lost my boyfriend, or girlfriend or whatever, so I have to do everything I can to get them back.” Grasp, grasp, grasp! And when that doesn’t work—it doesn’t, you know—then what you do is you make prayers to the Guru: “Oh please, oh please, oh please!” And we hope and pray that the lotto will come for us on the romantic level. And then we even think stupid thoughts like, “Oh, please deliver him or her to me now! Along with the check, put him in the mailbox. I’ll pick him up tomorrow.” You know that’s the kind of thinking that we have. It’s like magical thinking, but that’s a different religion. That’s not our religion.
In our religion, if that had happened, we would look for the causes. What are the causes of such a loss? Perhaps I have not been kind and loving. I’ll tell you how it is, if no love is given, no love will be received. It’s like that. If we do not invest in generosity and caring and loving concern and regard for others in an unselfish way, there will not be a great deal of love forthcoming freely into our lives because we have not created the causes. We have not held up our part of the bargain. And so we begin, therefore, to create the causes: a real concern, a real interest in the welfare and well being of others. Not just the one you want back. That’s easy. Others, all others, with kindness and love and generosity coming forth from our hearts. That’s the investment that’s needed here, that we ourselves would be responsible for not abandoning and leaving without comfort, loved ones and friends, not just the one we want, but all our loved ones and friends. And then take it further than that. Not only our friends and loved ones, but also our not-so-friendly friends, maybe the people we don’t have much concern for, maybe even our enemies. A loving concern for them is what’s required here.
© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo