A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

When pain strikes all else becomes unimportant

Yesterday I mentioned jealousy. This can be triggered by possessiveness or vulnerability. If it is vulnerability, it will quickly pass and not be repeated on a regular basis. Possessiveness however is a serious problem, which is ego based. We can’t change other people, we can’t choose their friends, we can voice our concerns, but we must then let it be. The same applies to our children; we want them to only have good friends, the brightest, wisest and kindest playmates. The trick is not to be overcome with worry about the future, into allow the stresses to build to where instead of bending with the wind, we snap. As parents and spouses there will be days, weeks maybe even months where we become overwhelmed by the choices our spouses or children make. Buddhism teaches us to live in the present, to shake off that which troubles us, to not let the past cloud our plans for the future.  To analyse what happened, if it can be corrected, to correct it, if not to accept it. It is not a magic formula; it is not a divine power which with a snap of the fingers everything is fixed. It is about having the knowledge to know what can be fixed, to know what can’ be fixed, the wisdom to know the difference, and the strength to not be paralysed from taking the next step. There is an old saying “It’s hard to remember your initial objective was to drain the swamp, when you up to your butt in alligators”. Buddhism gives us the tools to wisely prioritize the problems we face, to rationally look at them, choose the best course of action, then to act on the problem. There is no pray, pray some more, keep praying till a resolution happens. The helplessness a parent feels the first time their child has a toothache, is quite startling. As soon as possible we have them into the dentist’s office, to remedy the situation. We don’t agonize over the issue, wondering what to do, we have the knowledge and apply it to solving the problem. Later we will consider the other issues that maybe involved, such as diet or proper brushing and flossing techniques. Buddhism equips us with the rules that allow us to handle life’s everyday sufferings, not be stopping to pray for help, but to analyze the situation and take prudent immediate steps within our means to alleviate the suffering. Mankind has been here a few thousand generations, and with very few exceptions today’s problems are just new variations on the same ones faced for the last few thousand years. Even the relatively new challenges we face such as nuclear issues, space travel, and environmental catastrophes can be solved by applying the wisdom from the Noble Eightfold Path.


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