When talking about "Transforming Problems", I
think you might prefer I talk more about rejecting problems, rather
than transforming them. Our usual attitude is to reject problems,
"I don't want problems! You can have them! It's
not fair that I have problems. I shouldn't have problems. My life
should be happy. The universe is unfair if I have problems.
Something's wrong if I have problems. Everything should be perfect."
This is our usual attitude. Our usual attitude
is one of rejecting problems, isn't it? "Problems should go away
because the universe should treat me better."
Why? "Because I'm me! I'm important! I should be
happy! The universe should treat me very well! Nobody should
mistreat me. If I mistreat other people, it's because they deserved
it. But nobody should mistreat me. Nobody should insult me. If I
insult other people, it's because they were really creeps and made a
mistake. Nobody should do that to me." My happiness is really
important - much more important than anybody else's happiness. The
universe should know that. Everybody should appreciate me - don't
you think? Don't you think I'm the most important one in the
Isn't this how we think? We're much too polite
to admit it in public, but you know what I mean. This is really how
we live our lives. So, our whole life we reject problems.
Something is wrong. When we have a problem, it's
never our fault, is it? Have you ever started a fight? I mean, when
there's a fight, it's always the other person's fault. Very clearly.
When there's a quarrel, it's never my fault;
it's always the other person's fault. It's all these other people
who are uncooperative, and obnoxious, domineering, bossy, and
critical. Not me. "I was going through life minding my own business,
completely kind-hearted, loving, compassionate to everybody. Then,
all these mean people do all these awful things to me. It's unfair.
It's terrible." Right?
I have a friend who teaches conflict management;
dispute resolution. He often gives people a worksheet, to record a
recent conflict they had, and to assess how they handled the
conflict, and how the other person handled the conflict.
He said, "It's remarkable! All the people who
were cooperative, kind, and harmonious, they all come to the
conflict resolution workshop. But all the people who were
disagreeable and quarrelsome - they never come."
According to the form - it's amazing, he said,
all the people who come to him were those trying to solve the
problems; who never start them. It's just remarkable.
This is kind of how we live our life, isn't it?
Problems are never my doing, they're somebody else's doing. And you
know - "That's because other people are idiots. They just don't know
how to treat me properly."
Then we come to a Buddhist thing, and we hear,
"Well, when you have problems; when you have suffering, it's due to
your karma." And we go - "My karma?! I'm not doing anything wrong.
Look at that guy! He's creating negative karma being mean to me. I
didn't do anything wrong. This is unfair. I'm going to complain to
the Chief of Karma, because I didn't create any negative karma. I
mean, I'm just nice to everybody all the time." Right?
Me? "I never tell anybody off. I'm never
judgmental. I'm never critical. I'm never hostile. I never lie to
anybody. I never cheat anybody." Why is the world doing this to me?
And in my past lives, I'm sure I never did any
of that. Never! "My past life, I was a Rinpoche. I was high. They
just don't recognize who I am this lifetime. But I was very special
in my previous life. Maybe not a Rinpoche, but I was very high, you
know? I never created any bad karma. What are you talking about,
'it's my bad karma' when I have problems. Baloney!"
This is what we think, isn't it? We accept the
Dharma when it's convenient for us. When we hear suffering comes
from negative karma, we accept that so the person who's harming us
gets it in their next lifetime! Then we believe in karma. But when
we have a problem - to think it's because of what we did in our
previous lifetime? Never! Never! And, certainly not this
We're all right, aren't we? We're always right.
When there's a conflict, we're always right. So there's no need to
talk about 'Transforming Problems', because we're right. There's
nothing to transform. "I'm right! You're wrong! You change!" Very
easy. That's how we should solve problems.
We kind of go through our whole life with that
attitude, don't we? When there's a problem: "I'm right, you're
wrong. You should do something different. Me? I shouldn't. I'm just
the innocent victim."
This attitude really compounds problems because
every time we face some difficulty, first we reject the difficulty,
and secondly, we blame it on the other person. Both of these typical
behaviors and attitudes really increase problems. Because, when we
reject a problem, then we're fighting the reality. The reality is -
there's a problem. There's suffering. I have a problem. Something's
not going right.
So, I think a lot of our mental suffering comes
because we don't accept there is a problem, and we think the
universe is being unfair and should be different. Our non-acceptance
of the problem gives us more trouble than the problem itself. We get
all tangled up in our thoughts about how it's unfair, it shouldn't
happen, and blah, blah, blah, blah. Our non-acceptance makes it
Blaming the problem on the other person
increases the problem, too. Because, we can never control the other
person, can we? The problem is the
other person's fault - that means, I have no power. I have nothing
to do, because I'm not involved in it at all. If the problem is
entirely the other person's fault, then the only way to solve the
problem is for the other person to change. But we can't make them
change. And we try. We try very hard,
don't we? It is very hard to make others change. We give them lots
of advice. Especially our family members. So much advice - "You
should do this, and you should do that; why don't you do this, and
why don't you do that?" We give everybody advice, and they don't
appreciate us. They tell us to mind our own business. We're just
giving them advice about how they should improve and be happy… and
they say, "Get off my case, I don't want to hear your advice!" And
we reply, "Oh, but I was just trying to help you."
So this thing when we're always blaming the
other person? When we have that attitude we very much give up our
power and ability to do anything. We can't control the other person.
We can't make them change.
We might be right. There might be a conflict, and
we might be very right, and the other person might be wrong. But so
what? Sometimes being right doesn't solve the conflict at all, does
it? We can be very, very right and even the court system can agree
that we're right and the other guy is wrong. But there's still
conflict, and there's still unhappiness. Being right doesn't solve
And rubbing it in to the other person, that we
are right, doesn't solve the conflict either. And it doesn't make
the other person change. Frequently, when we're right, we really rub
it into the other person, don't we? Then, they feel hurt. They feel
misunderstood. They feel rejected. And they become even more
entrenched in their position than before. They're certainly not
going to go out of their way to help us when we're rubbing it in
that we're right and they're wrong.
So, often we have to give up this idea that just
because we're right, everything should change, and the other person
should do something differently. We might explain to them how their
behavior is harmful and they should do things differently, and they
have been doing it this way fifty or sixty years - fifty or sixty
lifetimes, you know? They are not going to change right away.
Sometimes we need to develop a little patience. Being right is not
But it's hard, isn't it? When we can see very
clearly what somebody's mistake is, and we know exactly how they
should improve, and they don't do it, and we still have to live with
them? We still have to live with them, don't we? We can't throw them
in a garbage can. We try. But they're too big. They don't fit.
This is something hard about life. Especially
when it happens in Buddhist centers, or at work, or in families -
when there's conflict and we might be right, and we must accept that
the other person is not going to change? Sometimes they don't know
how to change. They don't know how to do something differently. They
have this pattern, and that's the way it is. The only way for us to
be happy is to accept them for what they are. What they are may not
be what we want them to be. But surely, what we are isn't what they
want us to be either. So we're kind of even, aren't we?
It's an interesting thing to play with - to
think about conflicts in our own life; problems in our own life - to
see how we always want the other person to change, because, "it's
their fault." Then, to think, "Is it really realistic? Is that
person going to change? Do they know how to change?"
If they're not going to change, then what can we
do - spend the next ten years or the rest of our lives hating them?
Quarrelling with them? Making everyone else in the family, or the
Buddhist center, or on the job, miserable, because we're always
arguing, because, "They don't change!"?
Whereas, if there is a way to accept the fact
they aren't going to be who I want them to be… kind of an
interesting thought, isn't it? Accepting people for what they are?
Accepting they may not be what we want them to be?
It's hard, isn't it? Because, we feel, they
really should be what we want them to be. They should! "How am I
going to be happy if they aren't what I want them to be?" So, we go
back and forth in this way. We truly have to work quite deeply with
our mind, very hard with our mind, developing a kind of acceptance
of people for what they are.
We also need to work very hard with looking at
our own role in conflicts, acknowledging our own parts. This can
often require accepting what we did in this lifetime to get involved
in the conflict, and also considering what we did in previous lives
may be involved.
When there is a conflict, there is more than one
side, more than one person. How can we say it is always the other
person's fault? If I was not there, there would not be a conflict.
So, how did I get here? What am I doing? What did I do that bugged
the other person so that they're acting like this? Maybe I did
nothing. Maybe it's all coming from their side - in which case,
then, it's due to my previous life's karma.
But, sometimes, looking in this lifetime we can
see we haven't been the most considerate person to other people.
They get angry and upset with something we've done, and we feel,
well, "Why me? What did I do? I didn't do anything." Yet, if we look
a bit closer, maybe we did.
Sometimes we did something without meaning to,
and we were just careless, completely unaware. It's not that we're
bad people. We're not careful, so we do something disturbing to
somebody, and they get angry.
And at other times we do things and we kind of
know it's going to bother the other person, don't we? It's the small
things… we kind of do it, and try to slip by as if it were just an
accident? But we know it's going to bug the other person. And we do
this with the people we live with, the people we know very well.
Because we know what bugs them, don't we? They know what bugs us; we
know what bugs them.
Say, my husband's not paying enough attention to
me… so I just do this little thing. It's very innocent. But he gets
mad, and I go, "What did I do? You're always so irritable! Why are
you behaving like this? You don't love me?"
But if we look closely, we know what we're
doing. We know how to push their buttons. And, so sometimes, part of
our mind deliberately pushes other people's buttons. Because then
they pay attention to us. Finally my husband stops reading the
newspaper and looks at me!
Thus, often it's worthwhile to think in a
situation, "Did I do something carelessly, or maybe with my own
rather manipulative mind wanting to irritate the other person?" In
this case I should own up to it, and acknowledge my role in the
conflict. Then, seeing how our own energy, in this lifetime, was
involved in the conflict, that gives us some ability to actually
transform the problem. We see what we could do differently. "If I
were more careful, if I didn't deliberately push that person's
button, then some of these conflicts wouldn't happen."
Now, especially in families, there are repeated
conflicts. Have you ever noticed we fight about the same things all
the time in the family? It's like, "Okay, we're going to have Fight
Number Five. Put in that video!" Now, we have the five standard
fights - we lack creativity. We can't think of something new to
fight about. It's the same old thing… 25 years, we're fighting over
the same stuff. And it's the same with our parents and our kids,
isn't it? Same old spats, again and again, and again. It's real
boring, isn't it? Boring. We know precisely what's going to happen -
we're going to say this; they're going to say that - you could
almost write a script for it. It's true, isn't it? We could write a
script: "Okay… you're lying…"
It would be good to trade roles, then... "Okay,
Fight Number Five. You play me and I'll play you, and then, let's go
do it!" Because, the fight is so old hat. We've done it again and
again. "So, let's switch roles this time, okay? You be the one who
wants to spend the money, and I'll be the one who wants to save the
money. Let's do it differently this time!"
This is why it's so interesting - seeing what
our role is in this lifetime, how we get involved; then also,
recognizing the karmic effects from our previous lifetime. There are
many times we don't deliberately antagonize someone, we really are
minding our own business, and someone gets all bent out of shape
over something we do, and they really rip into us. And, it's like,
"Wooo...what's happening here?"
Often, if we look closely, the other person is
acting out of their own pain and unhappiness, and confusion. It
doesn't really have so much to do with us.
But we take it personally anyway, don't we?
Often, what the other person is doing when really dumping on us -
when they're critical, speaking harshly, they're making a stronger
statement about themselves than about us. They're actually saying,
"I'm unhappy," or, "I'm confused," or, "I'm miserable." But, we
don't hear that message. We only hear, "Get off my toes! What are
you doing to me?!"
Then, it's often effective to step back and
think, "Why is this person doing this? What are they really trying
to say? What's motivating them?" And that approach helps us to
develop some compassion towards them.
Considering our previous life's karma is
involved can be very helpful, too. Especially when somebody
criticizes us and we feel, "I really didn't do anything." It's
helpful to think, "Well, maybe in previous lives, I criticized
Look at us! We've all hurt others' feelings.
We've all criticized others. We've lied. We've stolen. Ten
non-virtuous acts? We've all done them! We know everything about
each other. We've all done this - in previous lives especially,
we've had lots of time for training in non-virtue. No, not so much
training for virtue in previous lives… otherwise, we wouldn't be
here. You know? Very good practice in non-virtue. So, of course,
this lifetime we have some problems. It's no big surprise. Is it?
It's really no big surprise.
I find this way of thinking very, very helpful
for situations when I feel I had no intention of starting a
conflict, and yet here's this whole horrible thing happening. If I
think, obviously, in previous lives I did something, and here it is,
and it's ripening, then I accept it.
I accept it. It's ripening. I got myself into
this situation. Now, my job is to ensure I don't create more
negative karma. Because clearly the problem now is due to a previous
life's karma. So, at least let's not create more negative karma, and
we can avoid perpetuating the same thing again.
But, what often happens, how do we react when we
have a problem? We get angry, don't we? Or, we get very attached. We
have a problem, so we cling to something because we feel insecure.
Or, we want to strike back at whatever is causing our problem. Yet,
when we react to problems with clinging, or anger, what we do is
create karmic imprints for problems in future lives. And we continue
Personally, I find it helpful to think, "Okay.
This is a result of my previous life karma. No sense getting
attached. No sense getting angry. Here it is. It's happening, folks.
I just have to live through it. I must do as best I can to make the
best of this situation."
It's often quite helpful when recognizing the
problem as due to karma, to transform that problem, saying, "Okay.
This is the challenge." Instead of rejecting the problem, say, "This
situation is a challenge for me to grow." Our problems are
challenges for us to grow, aren't they? They really are. Often, if
we look back over our life, we see the times when we've grown the
most are those times we've had lots of problems. Can you look back
at times when you've had problems, really painful times in your
life, and look at yourself now, seeing how you are as a result of
having had that experience?
And sure, it was painful. It was awful. But it's
over now. It doesn't exist anymore. We lived through it. And, we
actually grew in some ways. Because, in particular, when things are
really a challenge, when everything seems to be falling apart around
us, then, that's an excellent opportunity to find our own inner
resources, and the support of our community, or within our Dharma
friends in the broader society.
So, when we have problems, there really is a lot
of opportunity for growth. If we take that opportunity. If we avoid
retreating into our old patterns, like getting angry, or feeling
sorry for ourselves.
We fall so easily into our old patterns of
self-pity, or lashing out and dumping on the other person. But when
we do, we never grow. We completely ignore the whole opportunity for
growth that this problem is presenting. We just do the same old
thing again and again. And the curious thing is, the same old thing
never makes us happy, does it?
We have these old behaviors for
handling problems, and they never work. Say there's a conflict, and
I'm so mad; and what's my typical behavior? "I'm so mad at you that
I'm not going to talk to you! Chao!" I shut down, completely. I will
not talk to you. I walk out of the room when you come in. I look
away. I go to my room feeling sorry for myself, and angry at
And we think this is going to make us happy. So
we keep doing it. And, we feel miserable.
So, I believe it's very important for us to
identify our old habits, our old patterns, do some serious
reflection, while asking, "Do these old patterns and habits make me
happy? Do they actually resolve the conflict?"
Or, do we get unhappier because of the way we're
handling the conflict? I say, "I'm so mad, so I won't talk to you!"
Then, I complain how we're not communicating. Isn't that it? They
respond, "Well how can I communicate when you won't talk to me?" And
we bark, "Well, you should find a way, because it's all your fault,
Consequently, it's extremely helpful to try a
new way of looking at a situation, and to try a new kind of
My friend who teaches conflict management says,
sometimes when you feel really stuck in a problem, do exactly what
you don't want to do. He says, sometimes you need to break that
pattern, break that cycle. Do the exact opposite of what you feel
like doing. So, if you're so angry you don't want to talk to the
other person, then maybe the challenge is to go and talk to them.
Or, if we're so mad that we want to talk and never want to listen,
then perhaps the thing to do is be quiet and listen.
Often, it's quite helpful to realize, "Hey,
here's my old pattern, this is how I usually handle it. I've tried
that before, and it doesn't work. How could I think differently? How
could I behave differently?" Then we can develop some creativity
with the situation. Play with it. "Well, what would happen if I did
this? What would result if I looked at it this way?" So, instead of
the situation seeming so solid, so concrete, so terrible, we develop
some creativity to handle it in a new way.
Now, someone might say, "But some situations are
so awful, how can we see them in a new way?" Or, "Someone in my
family is dying, and you talk about an opportunity to see problems
in a new way? What do you mean? There's only one possible way for me
to behave, and that is to go crazy! I have to go crazy with grief
because this person I love is dying… there is no alternative!"
This is how we think at times. We get all
wrapped up in our grief, totally bogged down and tied up. But, when
we think there is but one way to handle it, we miss out on
everything the situation has to offer. If it's true someone we love
is dying, it may be we can do nothing to prevent it. That is the
reality. But, they have not died yet. And maybe during the time we
still have, we can really communicate. Maybe we can say a lot of the
things we have failed to say to each other before. Perhaps we can
share something very deep and meaningful. As long as there is life,
there is still a lot of potential and richness in how you can
relate, and what you can share with another.
Thus, it is significant to stop and question
ourselves, to see the potential in situations, and get away from
locking ourselves into the belief that there is but one way to feel,
one way to act. There is always a choice. The thing is, you know, do
we take this choice?
Think about how to apply these approaches to
problems in your own life. Because if you do this, then the Dharma
will become really tasty, very meaningful. But if you simply listen
to the Dharma and think of it abstractly… "Oh, she's talking about
problems 'out there'; other people's problems," then, you never
taste it. We must look at the Dharma in terms of our own life;
bringing it to bear on our own actions.
There are situations where we have a problem,
and, perhaps, we blame ourselves. We are very good at that, too,
aren't we? We can really get into that one…"It's all my fault.
Something is wrong with me. I'm terrible. I'm this awful person!
Look at me! Oh, nobody can love me. I'm horrible. I did it
It's called the "Beat-myself-up" syndrome. And we
do it very, very well. Very well. But this is that same faulty way
of thinking, that when there's a problem it comes only from one
cause. It's like blaming the other person, but in this case the
'other person' is yourself. It's the same narrow way of thinking.
Except, it's fascinating, in that it's really a way of making
ourselves extremely important. "The whole thing collapsed because of
me. I'm such an idiot; I'm so incompetent, I make the entire project
a disaster." Or, "The whole family is in turmoil, all because of
We're very important, then, aren't we? Extremely
important. So it's very curious how, when we get into this
performance of blaming ourselves, and feeling guilty, and
self-hatred. It's actually a rather contorted way our
self-cherishing mind has of making us extremely important.
It's so strange. I find we often fail to do
things that are our responsibility, thinking they are someone else's
responsibility. And things that are not our responsibility, we
accept responsibility for, and blame ourselves. It's very, very
interesting. Very curious. And, I think, parents do this a lot.
When your child has a problem, you think, "It's
my fault. I should protect my child from every single problem in
this universe. " Parents love their children. Their children are
helpless. So, it's, "I should protect my child from every problem."
The kid is 25 years old, and he stubs his toe - "It's my fault!" Or,
my boy's 35 and fighting with his colleague - "It's my fault." We
blame ourselves for all sorts of things that are not our fault at
all. They're someone else's responsibility.
This is quite thought-provoking. I think we need
to go back and do a lot of meditation on this, reflecting on what it
means to be responsible, and what things are our responsibility, and
what are not? And, when things are my responsibility, am I the only
person playing a role in this, or does it have something to do with
another person? This concept of blaming ourselves is very lop-sided.
We are not the only one making this whole world go wrong. There are
other factors in the situation.
Now sometimes, it's true, people have had a
negative experience in the past, and we do something similar to what
occurred to them before. So they get really, really defensive. We
can't understand why. So it's often wise just to cool down, and
recognize you need not take this so personally. This person isn't
really attacking you. They are attacking the past experience. That
isn't your responsibility. You are only responsible for what you
said, or did, to trigger the problem. If their reaction is way out
of proportion, if they are unhappy and something else is going on
with them, then maybe you need to ask some questions. Give them a
chance to express themselves. Help them discover what's really at
the root of the situation, and what is really bugging them.
I have had that happen to me. Once I did
something, not intending to start a conflict, and this other person
was so angry they told me off for, like, 45 minutes over the phone.
I mean, I'm glad they were paying for it. No… it's a local call.
Maybe that's why it lasted so long? If it was long distance, maybe
they wouldn't have talked that long?
Anyway, they totally dumped on me. It was
incredible, and over this small thing. But, seeing this person's
reaction was well out of proportion to what was going on, I just
kind of sat there, listening. I didn't need to take it personally.
Something was going on with this person and they really needed to
unload. And now, when I see this person, everything is fine. There
was no residual hangover from that conflict.
Perhaps we might see somebody doing something
negative, say, catching fish, or something like that. How can we
convince them? Well, frequently we aren't in a position to convince
them. Sometimes it's better to say nothing. As long as sentient
beings have a garbage mind, they are going to kill. I mean, when you
get angry, is it the lama's fault he can't control your mind?
When you get angry, if someone comes along and
says, "Jangchub, don't get angry," do you say, "Oh yes, I'll listen
to you. You're right."? No. You say, "No, I'm angry for a reason!
You be quiet!" Look at us. Other people offer us advice. We don't
listen, do we? Not very carefully.
But sometimes when somebody's doing something
negative, we can want to intervene out of compassion. And sometimes
we want to intervene out of a sense of being self-righteous. These
are two very different motivations. We really must distinguish
between the two. It's very easy, when we're self-righteous, to think
we're being compassionate. But we aren't compassionate, we're all
puffed up with ourselves. Then it's, "I know good ethics. I know
good karma. You're doing it wrong! You should listen to me because
I'm morally superior. I know more about Dharma. You should listen to
me and follow my example!"
We don't actually say it like that, because we
would look bad. But that is what we're thinking. We're being very
proud and self-righteous. We're not helping anyone. We're just
acting out of our own garbage mind.
That's very different than seeing somebody doing
something negative, and having true compassion for them, as well as
for whoever they're harming - two completely different motivations,
even though the action may seem the same.
We must look beyond the action and at the
In the place I live in the States, there is a
lake nearby. I sometimes walk around, and I'll see people fishing.
When I see them pull up a fish, it's very painful for me. I want to
go to that person and say, "Please, put the fish back and don't do
this." But, I know that's not a skilful way to handle the situation.
They're not going to listen. They're more likely to get angry and
probably think negatively of me and about Buddhism. And they're
still going to kill the fish.
I'm not the right person in that situation to
help them, and it's not a situation where I can really help.
I can do nothing directly, so in my heart I make
prayers. When I see the fishermen out there, I pray they don't catch
any fish. I do! I don't tell them I'm praying this. And, when they
do catch a fish, I do the taking and giving meditation. I really
pray, "Can this person in some future time meet the Dharma and begin
to see the error in what they are doing, and correct it."
But, you see, it's significant, when we see
people doing negative things, occasionally we are the right person
and it's the right situation, and we can intervene. And sometimes we
It's also important to remember to check our own
behavior; look at our own mind, checking our motivation, ensuring we
are acting out of a true heart of kindness.
Now let's consider someone who's blaming
themselves for having done something wrong. Again, what we can do
depends on the situation and our relationship with that person.
Sometimes the best we can do is to listen to them. Let them talk.
Help them by asking questions. Help them realize all the
responsibility does not fall on their shoulders.
Sometimes that's not the best way to handle it.
Sometimes if the person feels very bad for having done something,
then it's helpful to encourage them to do some purification
practice. Then, either teach them some purification practice or
introduce them to a teacher who can. So, it depends much on the
Question & Answer Session
Q: Can the masters take away the bad karma of
If they could, they would have already. Isn't it
true? The Buddha is so compassionate, if the Buddha could have taken
away all of our bad karma, the Buddha would have done it already.
Our teachers are very compassionate. If they could take away our bad
karma, they would have done it.
The way our teachers intercede and help us is by
teaching us the Dharma. They can't take away our bad karma, like
washing the dirt off our hands. They can't do that. But they can
teach us how to wash the dirt off our own hands. Our teachers help
us to take away our negative karma by teaching us the Dharma. Then,
by practicing the Dharma, we are able to purify our own mind. No one
else can purify our mind for us. We must do that for ourselves.
Nobody can generate realizations on the path for us. We have to do
that for ourselves. But our teachers can help us, and that is why we
Q: How do we apply the notion of emptiness to
It is very interesting, this potential of
applying emptiness to a problem. There are many ways to do this.
Often when we think, "I have a problem," we
think, "Oh, everything is so heavy! The whole notion of my problem
is heavy. My problem is very concrete. It's very real. It's so real
I can almost touch it. I mean, "This is my problem! It's there!"
It's very helpful at that point, to ask
ourselves, "What is this problem? Where is this problem?" Because
our idea is, "I have this problem," as if it's this real thing,
almost physical. So where is it? Is the problem inside me? Is the
problem inside you? Is it in the space between us? Is the problem
the sound waves that are going back and forth between us? Is the
problem my ideas? Your ideas? Where are my ideas? Where are your
ideas? Where is the problem, really?
It's very interesting when we start analyzing
and ask, "What really is a problem; where is this problem?" All of a
sudden this problem that seemed so real, so concrete, somehow
disintegrates a little. We can't find it. It doesn't seem so
concrete anymore, because we can't find where it is. So, that is one
way of applying the idea of emptiness to transforming problems.
And when we have a problem, we also have a
strong sense of "I", don't we? "I hurt. I have a problem." When we
have a problem, the "I", the sense of self is extremely strong.
"This is my problem!"
The self is very real. Anything happening to the
self is much more important than what happens to others. So there's
a very strong sense of a self that is suffering at this point. Then,
it's a very interesting experiment, too, to hold onto that strong
sense of self that is being treated so unjustly, and that is
suffering, and with another part of the mind, ask ourselves, "Who's
suffering? Who's the one who has the problem?"
The self with the problem seemed really solid.
So if there were really a solid self with a problem, we should be
able to find that person. "Who is it? Who has the problem? Who is in
pain? Is it my body? Is it my mind? Which thought? Which part of my
body? Which part of my mind?" And again, this seemingly very solid
self with a problem, can't be found. The idea of this tangible self
starts to evaporate. This is another way to apply the meditation on
Q: When we have a problem, it has been said we can
pray to our Guru and receive some blessings. Where do these
blessings come from?
So…I have a problem, and I pray, "Lama, help
me!", then my lama comes with a magic wand, waves it, and "Boing!"
Then it's, "Ah…bliss!" Is that what happens?
When I pray, "Lama, help me!", and I don't get
bliss afterwards, does that mean something's wrong with my lama?
He's off duty?
No. When they say "receiving the blessing" or
"receiving the inspiration", what this means is that our mind is
transformed. It's not some real, solid, concrete thing coming from
the lama and going "boing" and we got it, okay? What is very often
happening, I think, is very different, and it depends on how we pray
to the Buddha, or to our lamas.
We might pray, "Buddha, please make this problem
go away." And, that is not the right way to pray. We should pray,
"Buddha, please help me to find my inner strength and resources to
deal with this problem, and transform it into the path to
Now, when we transform a problem, it ceases to
be a problem. And we transform it by changing our attitude. So
depending on how we pray, and depending on our attitude when our
mind is transformed, that is called receiving the blessings.
Sometimes maybe, some energy from the lama is happening at that
time. But often, because we've previously heard teachings, when we
pray, "Please help me find my internal strengths and resources…,"
this opens our mind to recalling what our lama has taught. And when
we remember, we begin applying them, and our mind gets transformed.
But sometimes, unless we pray properly, we don't remember the
teachings, so we don't use them.
You might need to observe your own mind, and
what occurs when you pray, and as a result of it - and how that
helps your mind. Think about what receiving the blessing means from
your own experience.
But receiving the blessing is not something the
lama does - it's not like, "Oh here, have a blessing." Because
sometimes our minds are very fertile and are easily transformed. And
sometimes our minds are like a rock. At times we could sit in front
of Shakyamuni Buddha himself, and if our mind is like a rock,
nothing is going in. We're going to be cynical, bitter, and
sarcastic, even sitting in front of Shakyamuni Buddha.
That isn't the Buddha's fault. Our not receiving
the inspiration isn't the Buddha's problem. It's because our mind is
so obscured by negative karma, there is no space. So we need to do
some purification. Purification is very important.