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Buddhadharma : Fall 2011
27 fall 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Beauty and goodness are there in each of us. A true spiri- tual partner is one who encourages you to look deep inside yourself for the beauty and love you’ve been seeking. A true teacher is someone who helps you discover the teacher in yourself. Putting Down Deep Roots To keep our commitment to our partner and to weather the most difficult storms, we need strong roots. If we wait until there is trouble with our partner to try to solve it, we won’t have built strong enough roots to withstand the assault. Often we think we’re balanced when, in reality, that balance is frag- ile. We only need a wind to blow on the tips of our branches for us to fall down. A juniper tree has its roots planted deep in the heart of the earth. As a result it is solid and strong. There are some trees that appear to be quite steady, but they only need one raging storm to knock them down. Resilient trees remain truly steady in a violent storm because their roots are deep. The First Root: Faith We think that when we commit to another person, we need to have faith in that person, to trust that they are worthy of our commitment. But really, the other person is someone with challenges and strengths, just like everyone else. If we place our faith in a god, then perhaps later we will lose that faith. If we have faith in a person, then we may also lose faith in that person. We should have faith in something more stead- fast and enduring. We need to have faith in ourselves and the Buddha within. When we see people who have the capacity to generate happiness, this gives us faith in our own buddhanature. This faith is not a theory; it is a reality. We can look around and see that a person who lives with happiness and compassion has the capacity to make others happy. Someone who does not have the capacity to understand and love suffers and causes others to suffer. In the Kalama Sutra, there’s a passage where a young person says to the Buddha, “There are many spiritual teachers who visit us. Many of them also say that their way is the true way, and that we should follow them. We don’t know whom we should follow! Please, Buddha, teach us what we should do.” The Buddha said, “Do not have faith in something because a famous spiritual teacher said it. Do not have faith in some- thing because it was recorded in scriptures. Do not have faith in something because everyone believes in it. Do not have faith in something because it is laid down in custom. Hearing something, we should examine it closely, comprehend it, and apply it. If, when we apply it, there is a result, then we can To commit to another person is to embark on a very adventur- ous journey. There is no one “right person” who will make it easier. You must be very wise and patient to keep your love alive, so that it will last for a long time. The first year of a committed relationship reveals how dif- ficult it is. When you first commit to someone, you have a beautiful image of them, and you commit to that image rather than the person. When you live with them twenty-four hours a day, you begin to discover that the reality of the other person doesn’t quite correspond with the image you have of them. Sometimes you’re disappointed. In the beginning of a relationship, you’re very passion- ate. But that passion may only last a short time—maybe six months, a year, or two years. Then, if you’re not skillful, if you don’t practice mindfulness, concentration, and insight, suffering will be born in you and in the other person. When you see someone else, you might think you’d be happier with them. In Vietnam, there is a saying: “Standing on top of one mountain and gazing at the top of another, you think you’d rather be standing on the other mountain.” When we commit to a partner, either in a marriage cer- emony or in a private way, usually it is because we believe we can be and want to be faithful to our partner for the whole of our lives. That is a challenge that requires consistent strong practice. Many of us don’t have any models of loyalty and faithfulness around us. The U.S. divorce rate is around 50 percent, and for nonmarried but committed partners, the rates are similar or higher. We tend to compare ourselves with others and wonder if we have enough to offer in a relationship. Many of us feel unwor- thy. We’re thirsty for truth, goodness, compassion, spiritual beauty, and we’re sure these things don’t exist within us, so we go looking outside. Sometimes we think we’ve found the ideal partner who embodies all that is good, beautiful, and true. That person may be a romantic partner, a friend, or a spiritual teacher. We see all the good in that person and we fall in love. After a time, we usually discover that we’ve had a wrong per- ception of that person, and we become disappointed. photo duaNe brayboy