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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly winter 2 0 10 20 senD your questions by mail or to teachers@thebuDDhaDharma.com Zenkei blanche hartman: It is very hard for me to answer your question in the abstract. Perhaps you have an exceptionally difficult and demanding fam- ily situation with an undue amount of responsibility resting on your shoulders. Or you might be trying to live up to an unrealistic ideal or saintly model of a bodhisattva. Or you might just have a habit of guilt- tripping yourself. It is good that you are reflecting on your motiva- tion. Even the Dalai Lama tells us that he begins his day by checking his motivation. In one quotation, which I keep on my desk as a reminder for my own practice, he says, “Each morning as I wake, I think, ‘ Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlight- enment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts toward others. I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.’” If he needs to continue to cultivate his bodhisattva vow after fourteen lifetimes as the Dalai Lama, you and I should not be surprised that selfish thoughts arise in us from time to time. So, never mind the guilt. Just see it as a mental habit that does not lead to hap- piness (don’t you find that to be so?) and do your best to let it go as soon as you notice it arising. If you can cultivate gratitude for this human life, seeing it as a gift, then your generosity to others will not feel like “sacrificing” yourself as much as it feels like passing on that gift. What is this “self” you are sacrificing, and how are you sacrificing it? What is this “ego” that “makes you angry?” Where is this “you” that becomes angry? Does it truly exist separate from those “loved ones?” And how is the happiness of your loved ones dif- ferent from your own happiness? I suggest that you ask the teachers Zenkei blanche hartman is former abbot of the san francisco Zen Center Geshe tenZin WanGyal rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet narayan liebenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge insight Meditation Center Question: I consider it a bodhisattva practice to make my family and my job my top priorities. But ego makes me feel angry about sacrificing myself, instead of feeling good about being generous. I think I would feel lots of guilt if I didn’t behave in a way that helped others—especially my loved ones—feel happy. So am I practicing guilt or generosity? (lEFT-RIgHT):barbarawenGer,maryellenmccourt,marylanG