The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Transmuting Karma Neuroses - Perseverance & Enthusiasm
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Changing Envy into Skillfulness through Perseverance
There is a subtle difference between the intelligence behind any of these energies and the neurotic expression of them. Envy is the word that we use for the sense that we're missing something that someone else has and that we want. With Envy, we falsely think that if one person has something, then we can't also have something similar.
We may not be able to have that particular red sports car, or that particular job, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a red sports car or that type of job. Envy also contains within it the false belief that we can't change our current situation or abilities.
With Perseverance, we recognize the process of cause and effect and the change-ability of all aspects of our world. This means that, just because we don't have something we want, there is no reason to give up trying to get what we don't have. If we continue to make effort in the direction of our goals and ambitions, we can eventually achieve them.
If we keep heading in the direction of Vancouver, even if we are only walking, we will eventually get there. If we take detours and stop to rest, if we continue to return to that direction, at some point, we will arrive at Vancouver.
We need to remember that all aspects of achievement and creation are a process and a set of specific steps. If I want to be a concert violinist, there are certain abilities I need to have and certain things I need to do. It doesn't matter at what level I'm at or what qualities I have. IF I have x & y and another person has w & z, both of us need to have w, x, y, and z to get the same thing.
Our problem comes because some things require more effort than others and some things appear easier for one person to obtain over another. We automatically, at that point, jump to the conclusion that, because it takes extra effort, it's impossible to achieve. Things are not always going to be easy, because there can be a large gap between where we are and where we need to be in order to get what we want. We seem to develop the expectation that if one thing is easy to get, everything should be.
We also forget that we can't have things just by wishing for them. In order to get something we like, we may need to do a whole set of things that are difficult or unpleasant. Varying degrees of effort need to be applied, and it's nothing personal. It only has to do with the difference between where we are and where we want to be.
We could also feel that we don't have the ability to make the effort required to obtain what we want, but this is also a failure to recognize that our circumstances could change. If we feel we don't have the ability to make the effort at this time, or under these circumstances, there is no reason why we can't work towards gaining the ability or circumstances needed to make the required changes.
We can also end up being miserable by not letting go of goals and ambitions that are out of our reach, even if it's only out of our reach at the current moment. We can make ourselves miserable when lamenting the interference and obstructions caused by others, instead of recognizing that these obstructions are merely part of what we need to work on in order to get what we want.
It also means accepting the current limitations that we have and recognizing the necessity of fulfilling some ambitions before others. As we age, we may not be able to achieve certain things anymore in this lifetime. It may be too late for some things, but, quite often, with a little extra time or effort, we can accomplish some things that we thought we wouldn't be able to. The question then becomes how important is achieving this particular goal? Is the extreme amount of time and effort worth the end result? This involves a degree of realism as well as patience.
There may also be times where we are not able to accomplish something right away because of our current circumstances. For instance, when we are sick, we can't necessarily keep the house as clean as we like or do some of the physical things that we used to do all of the time. We may not be able to study as much or as long as we wish because of fatigue. We may only be able to do some things with assistance that we were once able to do by ourselves. This requires us to be patient and to persevere in our attempts to get better, so that we can return to our previous abilities.
We may need to recognize that getting and staying healthy is a higher priority and must be put ahead of other goals. Risking our life and health for the sake of our ambitions is something that we need to evaluate all of the time. We need to be able to recognize our changing abilities and adapt ourselves accordingly.
With the perfection of perseverance, we need to also know when to act and when not to act. A good conversationalist knows when to talk and when to listen. When we water a plant, we can't water it too much or it will die. We need to know when to leave things alone, and when to interfere. We also need to learn when to interfere a little bit and when to interfere a lot.
Related to that is the problem in Karma family neurosis where we feel that the world will end if we don't achieve a certain goal or if a certain thing doesn't happen. The universe is beginningless and endless and, even though things rise and fall in the middle of it, the universe will keep on going regardless of what we do or don't do and regardless of what happens or doesn't happen. We often forget this part of reality.
We need to become very realistic in the importance of our goals. We also need to recognize the relativity of all of these ambitions, remembering that much of the results that we seek relate only to this life time. The tendencies that we have in thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting get reinforced in the process, and those tendencies are what continue from lifetime to lifetime.
If in the process of trying to achieve our goals, we reinforce impatience, anger, jealousy, longing, or cruelty, or wrong viewpoints, then we will be reinforcing future suffering that results from these mindstates and the actions that arise from them.
We reinforce perseverance by reminding ourselves that we need to keep applying effort and being watchful until the goal we are seeking is reached. If we stop paying attention to our goal and stop making the correct amount of effort, then our goal will not be reached.
When we notice that we are approaching a difficult situation, it's a good idea to recognize that we are going to need to persevere when the difficulty arises. Recognizing the need to persevere ahead of time makes it more likely that we will not give up and that we will find it easier to persevere when we need to.
We need to keep our foot on the gas for the whole journey and be ready to brake and then return to the gas as required in order to drive our car to its destination. The same is true for all types of effort required for achieving any sort of goal.
We can develop enthusiasm by thinking of the positive benefits of what we are trying to accomplish. The drudgery of preparing a meal can be counteracted by thinking of the pleasure of eating the food, or the pleasure of watching others enjoy the meal.
Often, we don't review the benefits of our efforts often enough. This also relates to the fact that we do not often review what our goals really are. Sometimes thinking of the benefits will also allow us to accept delays because we can tell ourselves about the enjoyment that we will have when we finally get what we're after.
It would help to notice when we don't feel enthusiastic and then try to generate some of that enthusiasm. We can use mindfulness in order to recognize when our enthusiasm wanes and then use that time to think about the benefits of what we are currently doing or how what we are doing advances our goals and ambitions.
Also, sometimes, if we don't feel enthusiasm for a goal or ambition, it may mean that our pursuit of this particular goal needs to be questioned. We need to look at that as OK and as a signal of the need to question what we're doing. We may need to abandon a particular goal, or change our values and ambitions based on our circumstances or any new discoveries or new understandings. However, after we have questioned ourselves, if we have decided that we should continue pursuing this goal, we should then think of the positive results in order to increase our enthusiasm.
Perseverance also requires patience to recognize that we need to plant seeds and then wait for them to mature. We need to maintain a watchful eye and then act only when it is required. We need patience in order to work out the conflicts between one ambition and another and to work on eliminating obstacles.
We need intelligence in order to recognize when to act and when to wait; to know when to question and when to proceed with confidence. We need to use intelligence to analyze what needs to be done to deal with obstacles and interferences and conflict between goals and ambitions either within ourselves or with others.
Balance, and contentment are important mindstates to maintain while pursuing our goals. One of the main problems with the neuroses of the various families is because of a pre-occupation with one way of being. Vajra family neuroses is about order versus disorder. Ratna family is about possessing or not posessing. Padma family is about relationship versus loneliness. Karma family is about doing or not doing. Buddha family neurosis is about understanding or not understanding, knowing or not knowing.
With the karma family, we need to recognize that it's not always about doing or not doing. There are understandings to develop, relationships to nuture, qualities to acquire and support, and organization of our world to consider. This is happening within what we're doing and is something to be concerned about and work on, besides just thinking about what we're doing or not doing or what others are doing or not doing.
Time is needed to devote to these other aspects of our lives and so we require some balance of attention to these other areas. For instance, for the sake of maintaining a good relationship with someone, it may be necessary to delay work on a goal or to accept a lesser result. For example, if we are teaching our kids to clean house or do the dishes, the purpose of teaching takes precedence over the quality of the cleaning job that results.
Also, we need to recognize that contentment, and peace of mind are important attributes to develop. People, when they are experiencing karma family neuroses, often claim that they are tired and unable to rest. This is often because, whenever they have a moment of quiet, stillness, and peacefulness, they automatically get agitated and start looking for something to do, something to fill up the space, or they start feeling inadequate because they are not working on their goals.
In order to really have the energy to accomplish what we desire, we need to have time to recharge, and reflect on what we're doing. Therefore periods of stillness, contentment, quiet, and peace are important to cultivate. It means learning to relax in the stillness and space. It means to first be happy with things as they are, before thinking about what's missing from our current circumstances. It allows for more perspective while we are actually involved in the process of doing.
Awareness and complete viewpoint will help us become more skillful in applying our efforts while we are setting and pursuing our goals. Never forgetting the context within which we are acting and never forgetting to reinforce positive spiritual values while fulfilling our goals is an important aspect of awareness.
We need to always recognize the transitoriness of ourselves and our goals, our inability to find permanent satisfaction in worldly pursuits, the interdependence of ourself and our goals with others, the necessity of others in fulfilling our goals, and the changeability and unfixed nature of everything. This is maintaining complete viewpoint while pursuing our ambitions. Reinforcing these views while working towards our goals is how we strengthen spiritual values.
The result of maintaining these mindstates while working towards accomplishing our goals will guarantee much more happiness both now and in future lifetimes. So perseverance, from a spiritual point of view, also includes making effort to maintain positive mindstates and virtuous actions while in the process of pursuing our goals, not just going after whatever we want at any cost.
Through continual perseverance, we become skillful in recognizing what we don't have and then working to acquire them. This could be posessions or personal qualities, or different circumstances. We end up with a high degree of many valuable accomplishments and the ability to achieve more at will.