Meditation Class: A Mystic's Journal Entry: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 by Laurie Conrad.
Friday, October 19
This week we continued our studies of the Eight Verses on Training the Mind written by Langri Thangpa (1054-93).
When I encounter beings of unpleasant character
And those oppressed by intense negative karma and suffering,
As though finding a treasure of precious jewels,
I will train myself to cherish them, for they are so rarely found.
Mary’s initial comment was that she found it difficult to view herself as a precious jewel, much less anyone else. Mary works with glass and makes beautiful round, coloured glass beads that she then makes into necklaces; a few weeks ago I had told her to image herself as one of her beautiful beads when negative thoughts arose; in response to her comment tonight, I told her to keep practicing the exercise I had given her.
My initial reaction to this verse was that it reminded me of Saint Francis of Assisi. (Suddenly I am experiencing the supernatural fragrance of flowers ...) Saint Francis and his followers, including Saint Claire, often went to tend the lepers and others that had been banished or cast aside by their fellow humans. M. then said that in the Interfaith Service, the Dalai Lama had mentioned Saint Francis - His Holiness had called the gentle saint, "Saint Assisi". We also thought of Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who worked with the lepers, the poor, and the sick and outcast in India.
So rarely found In other words, we should welcome those who most need our help, for they are rare amongst us.
Again we find the words: I will train myself, as we will in each of the eight verses or vows. If it were a simple task to cherish beings of unpleasant character and those oppressed by intense negative karma and suffering - our world would be peopled with only great saints. We must train ourselves, our minds and hearts, to cherish these beings. Our shared human vehicle, without training and practice, will not automatically take us to that place of Love and Compassion for all sentient beings. Here, the practice, the exercise, is to view the most difficult and the most suffering among us as precious jewels.
I asked the class to close their eyes and image those they knew to be unpleasant or difficult or suffering as precious gems. I then asked them what they had found. Everyone but D. said the exercise had worked, had brought them to inner peace. I told D. to try again; she said it had worked better the second time. If we can inwardly transform others into precious jewels, it will help them and us both. I asked the class which way was easier for them: to see others as precious jewels coming from Love or from Compassion. Interestingly enough, half the class said they came from Love and the other half said from Compassion.
M. then added that in his lecture, the Dalai Lama had said that our Compassion for others needs to come from a place of deep respect - not from pity or condescension. I added that in one lecture many years ago, the Dalai Lama had said that we should have Compassion for every sentient being merely because they are incarnate, i.e. in a vehicle, and therefore suffering.
When others out of jealousy
Treat me wrongly with abuse and slander,
I will train myself to take the defeat upon myself
And offer the victory to others.
This profound verse led to further discussion on Humility; I at once thought of Saint Martin de Porres. This great Catholic saint always readily agreed with those who wrongly accused him of some fault or action - and in that way brought them closer to seeing their own faults and also closer to God.
I asked the class what happened when we quickly agreed with another person during an argument, took responsibility for all - whether that responsibility belonged to us or not. I gave the class an exercise to try: imagine yourself in a bitter argument - and then admit you are the one at fault.
M. said: the argument ended. It came to an abrupt halt.
Yes, the argument ends. The argument ends because the individual egos no longer have anything to fight for or against. And the person who admits defeat or takes full blame - is the first to experience the peace that follows letting go of the ego, letting go of our thoughts and perceptions and opinions on a subject or situation.
Trudy then added that if we can end the argument, then we can better see what steps need to be taken. I agreed that we must stop others from harming themselves and others, and that we need to first disengage enough from the situation and our thoughts in order to see clearly - but that this exercise was of a different sort, and was designed to help us free ourselves from the unending snares of the ego.
Even if one whom I have helped,
Or one in whom I have placed great hope,
Gravely mistreats me in hurtful ways,
I will train myself to view him as my sublime teacher.
In past lectures, the Dalai Lama has said that our enemy is our greatest Teacher, and therefore most deserving of our respect. We discussed this at length, and I mentioned that I had always found it a very valuable and true teaching. I asked the class to close their eyes and inwardly kneel before their greatest "enemy". When I asked what happened, M. said without hesitation: "Huge relief".
I added that we should thank those in our lives who present us with the most difficulty because then we get much practice on the spiritual Path; they give us the very practice we need. And if we refuse to use our difficulties in this way and do not learn the needed spiritual lessons - other people and situations will take their place in the future, until we learn what we need to learn.