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Buddhadharma : Spring 2011
55 spring 2 01 1 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly As conveyed in this verse, the Buddhist teach- ings on genuine reality tell us how praise and blame are merely empty sounds with no true existence. In essence, they are no different. We are able to distinguish the concepts of praise and blame only by contrasting each with its opposite—each depends on its opposite for its own definition. They do not have any inde- pendent identity in themselves. These sounds of praise and blame are merely unborn sounds, like echoes reverberating or thunder rumbling in the sky. This can be quite difficult to remember when we are faced with praise or blame. Our minds are easily carried away with the alluring sounds of praise and disturbed by the harsh sounds of blame. So it is useful to examine the relationship between them, develop skillful methods for working with them, and investigate their ultimate natures. The Relationship Between Praise and Blame Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, teach- ing in Spain in 1995, spoke of praise and blame this way: “The more people there are who praise you, the more people there will be who criticize you. For example, if you become president a lot of people support you and praise you, but then more and more people also criticize you.” Even when we simply look at praise and blame in an everyday context, we find that. The more you are praised, the more others criticize and blame you. This is known in England as the “tall poppy syndrome”—the flower that grows above the rest will be cut down to size. Whatever praise there is lift- ing a person up, an equal force is applied to keeping them on the ground. An example could be a mother who has had a successful week at work finding her stock of blame and criticism well maintained by her censorious children. Or a teenager whose friends pay her the greatest compliment by trying to imitate her innovative new outfit but upon returning home she finds her father outraged that she left the house in such attire. This even happened to the Buddha. While he had many devoted students, his jealous cousin, Devadatta, was continually attack- ing him. He spread vicious rumors about the Buddha and tried to kill him. Since that time, while many revere the Buddha, others have been extremely hostile, resorting at times to vandalizing or destroying Buddha statues. My current inspiration for thinking about working with praise and blame came out of a recent incident. My husband, Ari Goldfield, and I were invited to teach in Asia and we were exchanging emails with the organizers about the program. At one point, we emailed our standard document about our diet and other details pertaining to the visit, as this usually proves helpful for our hosts. But not in this case—they thought our message was inappropriate and were offended by our forthrightness. On the same day that this happened, we received another email from two lamas in America who were hosting us upon our If you know that all the many utterances of praise and blame Are sound-emptiness, unborn, Like the sounds of guitars, echoes, and thunder in the sky Then all attachment and aversion to these sounds of praise and blame Will be completely pacified. —Unchanging Sky’s Beautiful Melody Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche