Recently I attended a Buddhist class and Rabten (my teacher) shared a story which shook me massively. A lady he knows in Australia who is into Buddhism and attends the Kadampa classes is going through a lot in life and he decided to check up on her. I’ll name this lady Ann to make it easier. Ann is going through chemo, she has a tumor. Her husband has a heart condition. Her kids are going through a lot. They both are aware that time is not on their side. Her husband had a very good job and they had the luxuries of life, houses in various places and 2 lovely children. When Rabten saw her recently during his visit to Australia he asked her how she was doing. She responded by saying, “I can’t imagine something really bad happening.” And so Rabten asked her to explain what she meant. She said, “I can’t imagine losing my faith, my inner peace or my Buddha.”
Upon hearing that, I was speechless but also embarrassed. This lady is going through what would seem like life’s most horrific tragedies and yet she said she can’t imagine something really BAD happening. This said a lot to me. For starters, it tells me that we put so much importance on ensuring we do not lose what we hold dear that are outside of us like friends, family, possessions etc. all of which will go because nothing is permanent. Ann however is well aware of that and knows that the only thing that matters is having her faith and if she has that, she’s good. She is aware that she will go, her husband will go, the money they have will go etc. and yet she says she can’t imagine something bad happening. She has placed her faith as the most important thing in her life even before herself. She has put her faith before her health, her husband, her children etc. This does not mean she doesn’t care about them or herself. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact she is not in denial of death. She understands and accepts that death will come for everyone and therefore she lets go of what is to come.
It reminded me of how far I am from where my heart needs to be. Rabten explained that when we hold on to people or things it is not love but attachment because we think these people or things will give me happiness. Our happiness is based on x, y or z. The dependence on anything or anyone which we know is temporary will also mean our happiness will fluctuate. He went on to explain the difference between love and attachment. Given the romantic comedies and novels we all watch and read we can muddle the whole concept of love and attachment. More about that in my next blog.
Something Rabten enlightened us with, in a day we can notice how often our moods vary. This can indicate how dependent we are on external factors to make us happy. These moods often dictate how we think and how we act. One bad mood could make us make a much more serious decision that goes well beyond the mood. Something to ponder today – what makes you happy? Will it last forever?
“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” — Marcus Aurelius