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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
36 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 6 ourselves, but when are we “better enough” to step up and act on a bodhisattva’s heroic intent? The mind-set of samsara is that we can only be happy if we are someone other than our present self. Someday, somewhere, somehow—different. Oh, the things we would do if we were smarter, richer, thinner, if we had more knowledge or bet- ter opportunities. This is the clinging to a self that generates dukkha, or pervasive unsatisfactoriness. Dukkha often manifests in negative self-images and accompanying fantasies of a better me. Buddhism, by offering an alternate focal point, can shift our primary focus from this futile pursuit of our ideal selves. Instead of trying to be perfect, we focus on purifying our underlying motivations so that we can wake up, show up, and act with enlightened inten- tion—right here, right now, just as we are. Being mesmerized by limited self-concepts pres- ents the biggest obstacle to altruistic action. Every great Buddhist practitioner ever, in the history of Buddhism, knew their limitations and acted for the benefit of beings anyway. It’s because of their lack of hesitation that we can receive the dharma today. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche gives voice to this in his autobiography, Brilliant Moon: Hands of wisdom and love that rescue me from the precipice of samsara and nirvana; Lord of the hundred families, outstanding among the buddhas; Precious master, glorious chief of the sea of refuges; I shall constantly serve you within the ocean of my zeal... He follows this with sober, even severe, reflections on his limitations: In my case, the dung heap of my defects makes Mount Meru look small, and even though I was able to grow a tiny sprout of the appearance of holy qualities, it could not survive but has withered into a yellowish green and is now on the verge of drying up...while polluting the winds with the stench of my karma and emotions, aware of my flaws with- out hiding them from myself.... If the great master Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche felt he had a “dung heap” of defects, what does this say about ordinary people like you and me? And how could someone who felt so flawed have spent his entire life helping others, serving buddhadharma, and so beautifully reflecting our highest potential? Here we see one of the marks of a good Bud- dhist practitioner: aware of our limitations, we are not paralyzed by honest self-reflection. Driven by motivations stronger than any limited self-concept, we are able to transcend our perceived limitations in order to act for the greater good. Easier said than done—after all, the voices demanding perfection are not just inside our heads. They are everywhere in our culture today. They come from outside and inside. I, too, have fallen prey to such internal dia- logues—good teacher/bad teacher, good Buddhist/ bad Buddhist. In this suffocating atmosphere of habitual self-grasping, a battle between our good and bad self-images wages on endlessly, draining whatever vital energy, whatever rlungta, might oth- erwise infuse us with the experience of being fully alive. Underlying this inner critic, behind the veil of rampant insecurity, we find self-absorption. If we aim to ground our lives in a concrete sense of (Opposite) Connect, 1998 Carbon and casein on paper 30cm x 23cm PeMa KhanDrO rInPOChe is a lineage holder in the nyingma and Kagyu schools of tibetan Buddhism and founder of ngakpa International and MahaSiddha Center in Berkeley, California. harlemKunZanGdorJeloGan