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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
WINTER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 17 THE “GOOD” STUDENT Nancy Thompson wants good grades from her Buddhist teacher, but it doesn’t work that way. Three years ago, I started working one-on- one with a Buddhist teacher. One thing I run up against constantly in this student–teacher relationship is my desire for affirmation. I got good grades all through school because I knew how to discern what teachers wanted and then do my work that way. I can’t do that with this teacher. What he wants is for me to know my own mind, not to be good at buzzwords or jargon (although he seems to like buzzwords and jargon). The relationship is a dance—sometimes a formal minuet, sometimes a funky, unself- conscious groove to the tunes of the artist formerly and currently known as Prince, sometimes a contortion straight out of Mar- tha Graham, with swirling skirts and beating fists. I’m constantly finding my way between trying to please my teacher and following his recommendations to see what I can learn about myself. Through this dance, I explore how am I reacting to his suggestions. Have I reacted this way in the past? What am I defending? Can I drop my concepts and take to heart what I’m hearing? In Woman Awake: Women Practicing Bud- dhism, Christina Feldman writes that women who embark on a spiritual journey find them- selves trying to accommodate themselves to structures and traditions largely created by men—similar to what occurs in the larger culture—in order to feel safe, accepted, and loved. When I am in touch with my deepest self, my original nature, I know that I don’t need someone else’s affirmation that I’m good—I already know that I am basically good. But to stay in touch with that knowledge, I need to be aware of when I’m operating not from that place but from the place of the ten-year- old who was validated by getting an A on an assignment. And when I am that ten-year-old, I need to hold her in loving awareness and let her know that being that way is okay. An A— or a B or even (I feel the tension rising in my chest) a C—is not a measure of my wisdom, just my knowledge. And it’s not a rating of my being, just my work. Maybe I can improve my work. But I don’t need to improve my nature; it’s already off-the-charts good. These are the things I’m learning from working with my teacher. FROM THE INTERDEPENDENCE PROJECT (THEIDPROJECT.ORG/ BLOG), SEPTEMBER 2012 THE POWER OF A SMILE A simple smile is enough, says Geshe Dorji Damdul, director of Tibet House in New Delhi. If you wish for happiness and joy, have an affectionate smile. Don’t restrain it, ever. Shine forth this smile of unconditional love toward everyone, leaving none aside. Even the poorest have a smile from their hearts to give you. What greater gift can you expect, even from the richest person, than this most beau- tiful smile from the heart? It is so immaculate, so precious. Wisdom—seeing all things as miragelike— provides you with peace and confidence in all situations. Drink this nectar of wisdom yourself and share it with all sentient beings. Rescue them from the turbulence of fierce samsara, caused by our failure to realize that all things are dreamlike. Let’s walk the path together to this oasis of wisdom nectar, pervaded with the soothing sunshine of unconditional love and tenderly blossoming with the fresh, beautiful flowers of sentient beings. Forever you will be free and in peace. May this wisdom of dependent origination soon be born in you. May this sunshine of infinite compassion soon be poured forth upon you. FROM TIBET HOUSE BULLETIN, MARCH 2012