“The impermanence of this floating world
I feel over and over
It is hardest to be the one left behind.”
The ultimate relationship we can have is with someone who is dying. Here we are often brought to grief, whether we know it or not. Grief can seem like an unbearable experience. But for those of us who have entered the broken world of loss and sorrow, we realize that in the fractured landscape of grief we can find the pieces of our life that we ourselves have forgotten.
Change is happening all the time—life changing, small, and mostly unnoticeable. Change is part of being human and living in an ever-changing universe. The very fabric that weaves our lives together is impermanent; everything around us arises and ceases every moment and we are inextricably connected to it all.
The last teaching the Buddha gave was his own death—that even the great spiritual sages of the world are subject to impermanence and death. If we resist or reject this universal truth, unhappiness and sorrow will follow because we will be in direct opposition to how things actually exist. Change in and of itself is not a bad thing. The struggle is our relationship to it. Do we use loss, change, and transitions as opportunities for growth or do we resist, struggle and deny?
Grief is often not addressed in contemporary Buddhism. Perhaps it is looked on as a weakness of character or as a failure of practice. But from the point of view of this practitioner, it is a vital part of our very human life, an experience that can open compassion, and an important phase of maturation, giving our lives and practice depth and humility.
Venerable Thubten Chodron, defines grief as adjusting to a change we did not want or expect. Grief comes to the mind because we mistakenly grasp at things as permanent, not as how they actually exist, which is fleeting and transitory. Because of that misconception, we mistakenly believe that we can control the coming and going of things, events and especially people. But due to their impermanence, there is no way that we can control and determine how things will go.
We grieve many things—the loss of a loved one, a career or job, our health, our economic state, our dreams, our worldly possessions, our pets. Such losses are a major part of our lives, yet, when these things end, leave or break, the common response is disbelief. No matter how tenuous a relationship, old or sick a loved one, or fragile a possession, there is still shock when it ends.
Sometimes we cherish our loved ones so much that we can’t imagine going on without them. When they die the grief is so deep because we have projected a future that now will never come. In reality, however, a fabricated future is a mere fantasy. Underpinning the grief many times is a future that is only a dream.
Grieving is a process and these places of sadness, loss, disbelief and denial are normal. Giving ourselves the time and space to experience these strong emotions with compassion, gentleness, and acceptance is the only way to move into, through, and past this time of sorrow.
Ubbiri, one of the first women Buddhists, was drowning in grief as a result of the death of her daughter. Through the help of the Buddha, she discovered truth from within the experience of her own suffering.
Ubbiri came from a high family in Savatthi. She was beautiful as a child, and when she grew up, was given to the court of King Pasenadi of Kosala. One day she became pregnant by the King and gave birth to a daughter whom she named Jiva, which means “alive.”
Shortly after being born, her daughter Jiva died. Ubbiri, terribly wounded by grief, went every day to the cremation ground and mourned her daughter. One day, when she arrived at the cremation ground, she discovered that a great crowd had gathered. The Buddha was travelling through the region, and he had paused to give teachings to local people. Ubbiri stopped for a little while to listen to the Buddha but soon left to go to the riverside and weep with despair.
The Buddha, hearing her pain-filled keening, sought her out and asked why she was weeping. In agony she cried out that her daughter was dead. He then pointed to one place and another where the dead had been laid, and he said to her:
Mother, you cry out “O Jiva” in the woods.
Come to yourself, Ubbiri.
Eighty-four thousand daughters
All with the name “Jiva”
Have burned in the funeral fire.
For which one do you grieve?
I’d like to read something written by Roshi Joan Halifax
“Later, I was to walk the Himalayas with a friend who had recently lost his mother. The fall rains washed down the mountains and down our wet faces. In Kathmandu, lamas offered a Tibetan Xithro ceremony for her. They instructed me not to cry but to let her be undisturbed by grief. By this time, I was ready to hear their words. The experience was humbling for me. And when I finally got to the bottom of it, I found that my mother had become an ancestor. As I let her go, she became a healthy part of me.”
There is no time schedule for grief. It is different for everyone. Many times grief can last in someone’s mind for a long time, and we may even become impatient with ourselves wanting to move on in our lives. Or others may think YOU need to grieve longer as you work out your feelings around loss. Everyone close to the deceased will have their own ways to grieve. It is important to tend to our own process and at the same time be kind and patient with theirs.
When we finally know in our hearts the truth of the fleeting nature of life, then grief becomes a process to help us adjust to the change. It is also an opportunity to look at our own lives, prioritize the important things to hold, and to let go of the rest.
Some of the ways in which we can relate to our grief and work with its strong emotional content is to let go of any blame around our relationship to our loved one—
all the “should haves” —and to learn to accept the situation and ourselves in the here and now.
Thinking in a new way can support our healing. We can rejoice at having had that person in our life. Of all the living beings in the world, we had the good fortune to be close to them and to be part of their world.
We can also pass on their love and goodness to others. Having been the beneficiary of their good hearts, now we can offer that gift to everyone we meet.
We can give their belongings to the needy or a religious organization with a sense of richness and dedicate the merit to their peace and joy and for all their deepest wishes to be realized. Kindly work on any feelings of regret and harmful feelings we may have about them or their death so we don’t die with regrets.
As time goes on memories can show up at any time — anniversaries of the death, birthdays, and holidays. These are precious opportunities to propel us to live our lives with love, compassion, and joy.
Loss is a reality of life. We can do our best to use it as a gift that teaches us to hold our lives lightly and openly. When we remember the impermanence of people and things, we live with greater purpose. And loss can help us have greater compassion towards everyone who, without exception, will experience loss as well.
The river of grief might pulse deep inside us, hidden from our view, but its presence informs our lives at every turn. It can drive us into the numbing habits of escape from suffering or bring us face to face with our own humanity. This is the very heart of Buddhism.
The reading references:
“The Heart of Buddhist Meditation “ “A handbook of mental training based on the Buddha’s way of mindfulness “
Author: Nyanaponika Thera
The readings started in last week’s practise included part of the introduction then started on “the greater discourse on the foundations of mindfulness, Mahā-Satipatthāna-Sutta” section 1 The contemplation of the body, part 1 Mindfulness of breathing, part 2 The postures of the body.
Finally part 3 Mindfulness with clear comprehension, part 4 The reflection on the repulsiveness of the body, part 5 The reflection on the material elements, part 6 The nine cemetery contemplations. That completed section 1.
Equanimity – A beautiful object has no intrinsic quality that is good for the mind, nor an ugly object any intrinsic power to harm it. Beautiful and ugly are just projections of the mind. The ability to cause happiness or suffering is not a property of the outer object itself. For example, the sight of a particular individual can cause happiness to one person and suffering to another. It is the mind that attributes such qualities to the perceived object.
The Heart of Compassion, Shambhala, 2007
We are delighted to be participating in the Kettering Virtual Health & Wellbeing Festival, 14th – 20th June 2021.
We invite anyone who is interested in discovering and participating in Tibetan meditation practise, to join us via the free Zoom application on Monday 14th June 2021. The session will start prompt at 7.30pm and will last 40 mins. Participation is free and you can join with or without video and sound.
This weeks timetable:
7:30 Introduction and prayers
7:35 Reading: The Buddhist Path to Happiness
7:50 Guided Meditation: The Golden Light of Universal Compassion
8:05 Dedication of Merit; Conclusion
A recording of this completed event will be posted.
If you need any help setting up Zoom or would like more information about our meetings, please use the contact form on our homepage.
The Buddhist Path to Happiness
As humans we long for happiness.
We search for ways to achieve happiness.
We are in the constant state of wanting to be happy.
And thus the constant search for what would make us happy causes us to suffer and be miserable.
A lot of times things that seem to make us happy actually end up causing us to feel sad.
Things that once held value become old and we find them burdensome because we want to replace them.
We go through life wanting and looking for things while thinking of the “I” or the “Me”. We always utter the words “my
happiness”. But this constant selfish longing to fulfil the wants of the “SELF” and the “ego” causes us more strife.
Buddha however taught us that there is a simple path to happiness.
It is COMPASSION.
Compassion lets us forget the selfishness and the constant wants of the EGO and thinks of the happiness of others.
Why Do We Need To BE Happy?
Why do we need to be happy? Happiness gives us the smile on our faces when
we wake up in the morning to face a hard day. Happiness is like a boost to our system that allows us to do anything
without any complaint and to face any pain head on.
But happiness is not just that giddy, excited feeling.
It is also the serenity and contentment in our hearts when we lie down at night. It is the feeling of calm despite all
the troubles. And this is the very reason why we need to be happy.
Happiness has many benefits. Aside from the obvious fact that all humans
seek it, happiness also helps us go through the suffering in life much more easily.
But true happiness does not come from things.
It comes from being able to share moments of compassion with other beings.
It comes from kindness and charity to those who need it.
Happiness also comes from peace when we do not anger those around us.
The path of real happiness comes from compassion.
The Path of Compassion
Buddha has taught many about being compassionate. In his teachings, Buddha taught us about two things that we need to achieve enlightenment. These are
He taught that one is related to other. In order for one to be wise, one must be compassionate; and to be compassionate, one must be wise.
Wisdom and Compassion
Compassion stems from the understanding that there is no such thing as a boundary between ourselves and others; that we are all one.
Suffering stems from many things but it mostly comes from selfishness.
It comes from thinking about the “I” and the “MY”.
Hence when we become wise and understand that there is no such thing as them and me, we become more loving and compassionate.
The teachings of the Buddha give rise to wisdom. They teach us the Right Way through the Eightfold Path. These teachings also teach us that all beings suffer through the lessons of the Four Noble Truths. But once
we understand these teachings, we begin to learn that we need to be more compassionate and help others relieve themselves of suffering.
What is True Compassion?
Compassion is the inner call of the universe and all its beings to our hearts to be one with those who need us.
It is understanding that all beings suffer, and that being a part of this whole, it is our duty to help those who need
us. It is also not causing pain to others.
Compassion chooses the path of peace and caring for all instead of putting others in strife or misery.
True compassion is not helping others and then seeking fame, glory or praise. It is not the form of help where we ask others to repay our kindness or even thank us. True compassion stems from the wisdom that all beings
and oneself are but one. Anatta: no self. There is no I, there is only WE.
True compassion for others on the other hand is not just helping others. It is also living a day to day life that is helpful to all.
Simple acts such as conserving water helps others.
Being on time helps others.
Doing your work dutifully helps others.
Helping those who are despised by others.
These are acts of compassion.
How Does Compassion Lead to Happiness?
Compassion leads to happiness because it gives you no room for anger.
Compassion erases feelings of selfishness and self doubt. It allows you to rejoice in simple things and to truly celebrate
1. We truly feel happy when we help others
Scientific studies show that humans experience an increase in dopamine and serotonin when they help others. Different religions talk about helping others as the way to reach paradise.
The truth of the matter is that we feel genuinely happy when we see others happy as a result of our helping them achieve
2. Compassion makes life easier
Many complicated things arise from selfishness. When we think too much about our self worth and our own selfish desires, we become hateful and resentful of others. These negative emotions pollute our beings. On the
other hand, when we are compassionate, we do not demand from others. We do not hate or become selfish. This allows us to live a life which is much more simple and free from negative emotions.
3. Compassion for oneself leads to self care
At lot of times we forget to take care of ourselves.
We try to take care of others too much neglecting our own needs. This leads to feelings of low self esteem and also makes
us feel undervalued. However, once we truly learn the balance of helping others and caring for ourselves, we begin to
be more kind-hearted and humane.
Buddha himself tried to deny himself for six years as an ascetic.
But when he meditated and discovered the Middle Way, he learned that he needed to balance his love for others as well
as his love for himself.
4. Compassion allows us to enjoy life more – Life is full of suffering. This is the first teaching of the Four Noble Truths.
And since life is already full of suffering, we need wisdom and compassion in order to bear living life.
When we are compassionate to ourselves and to others, we do not become easily angered; rather, we try to understand things before reacting.
When we are compassionate to ourselves, we do not overwork ourselves to earn money, but rather live a life of balance.
Compassion helps us gain wisdom and wisdom allows us to understand life.
Gaining this understanding gives us meaning in our lives.
This meaning allows us to enjoy life.
Compassion in Everyday Life
Living the path of Wisdom and Compassion is an everyday task.
This is done by following the Eightfold Path. We begin to learn that each of these eight teachings of the Buddha is not
separate from the others, but they are but one. And in order to be truly compassionate every day, we must live a life
in accordance with the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is the way of kindness, wisdom and gentleness.
It allows us to grow not only in mind and body but also enables others to grow as well.
If we choose compassion, we must choose to live by it every day.
Once we realize that the path to true happiness is compassion, we are on our way to Enlightenment.