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Buddhadharma : Summer 2011
winter 2005| 26 |buddhadharma workable. It’s the part that we put on top of our ordinary human experience that creates the prob- lem – and we all put something on top of it when we started our spiritual search. You then not only have your own suffering, you have all these ideals and images that you hold up for yourself. That puts a layer of spiritual suffering on top of the basic suffering. Michael Krasny: Some of the most joyous people I’ve met have been Buddhist teachers. They laugh and giggle and are filled with a wondrous sort of humor. Yet it seems that to understand what’s at the heart of the Buddhist teachings, you need to understand suffering. How do the suffering and the joy go together? Pema Chödrön: You have to know suffering in order to have the joy, and that has to do with not resisting what’s happening to you. It’s true that if you could do all those things on the list that Jack read, you’d be a dog. On the other hand, the teachings point out that you haven’t simply been dealt a bad hand and that’s the end of it. Instead of being resigned to your fate, you could get curious about what’s going on. You could take an interest in the irritation that’s rising up in you, and you could be curious about how other people are reacting. We tend to be so stupid about what actually makes things worse and what actually makes things better, because we don’t explore our experience carefully enough. This evening, the computer goes down and sud- denly the people behind the ticket windows are under a lot of pressure and freaking out. When everyone is getting mad, and then getting even madder as they all start talking to each other about it, we can look at this and ask, “How is this hap- pening? This simply doesn’t add up to any kind of happiness for anyone. In fact, it adds up to every- body getting ulcers. Why are we doing this?” One of the main things I work with personally is saying to myself essentially what Jack was saying: “This is how I am right now. I have a very short fuse and I’m losing it.” Then I ask myself, “Do I want to strengthen this habit so that a year from now my fuse is even shorter?” By sticking with and reinforcing our habit, we could get really profes- sional at making our fuse shorter and shorter. Ten years from now we could have the world’s shortest fuse. As I started to get older, I figured I ought to get smarter. I noticed that I had the habit of eas- ily getting irritated and angry. I asked myself honestly, “Do I want that? Does it feel good?” And the smart answer was, “No, it doesn’t feel so great.” So I was left with a choice: Did I want to strengthen it or find a way to shake it up, weaken it, and infiltrate it in some kind of way? Michael Krasny: Wisdom is supposed to come with age. Jack, you have talked about how people in other cultures have a veneration for wisdom, in contrast to the love of youth so prevalent in Western culture. Despite what we might think about the wisdom of age, many people find that their fuse becomes shorter as they get older. It becomes more difficult for them to do what you’re talking about because of helplessness and atrophy. Jack Kornfield: That’s one of the reasons it’s recom- mended to have some form of practice and to take christinealicino