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What will it be?
The Trials Of Life
Are Something Special
Your Wishes to Reality
10. Overcome Your Inner
11. Seek Counsel
The Trials Of Life
Trials in life come, only to go away. While they
stay, they challenge us. In meeting their challenge, we develop our potential – we develop the powers, abilities and
capacities that are hidden within us.
Just as a rough sea develops an excellent captain,
so also difficult times produce great men. Hence, whenever you are in difficulty, accept the challenge. The strength to meet
the situation will emerge from within you.
Keep yourself calm, and the force of the disturbance
will weaken. Look for solutions, and you will find newer and better ways to deal with the difficulty. Persist in applying
the solutions and something will surely work out for you.
2. Lessen The Suffering
When there is no escape from some pain or suffering
use the following to lessen the pain:
Become absorbed in doing something that really interests you: read a book by your favourite author, play a game
that you enjoy, or engage in any activity that gives you joy. It will shift your attention from the pain and lessen it.
Don’t pray to escape from the suffering but for strength to endure it and to come out better from it.
That prayer will certainly be rewarded.
Think that the suffering will enlarge your awareness and enrich your experience in some way. You will come out
better after suffering. Allow this thought to cheer you up.
Think of the pain as cancelling some old debt that you had incurred – due to some wrong thought or action
done in the past. Feel happy to be released from the debt.
Believe that you are much more and other than the suffering that you are experiencing now. The suffering is
in an external part of you, and hence it is not of any great consequence – it will surely disappear in time.
Your feeling of pain arises because of your attachment
and identification with external things. As a soul you can suffer only when you identify with forces from below. As
you lose your dependencies on external things happiness will arise from inside you. Hence, allow the suffering to remind you
to of this. Know that you will not always suffer, and that one day you will become free and happy.
3. Find Guidance
When a difficulty puzzles you, seek guidance:
Seek the advice of a kind and wise person. His sincere and sympathetic advice will give a new light to you.
It will greatly help you in resolving your doubt, difficulty or problem.
If you cannot find such a person, read a book of sayings or writings of some wise person. In a passage here
and there you will find the necessary guidance or clue.
If you are unable to have the assistance of such a person or book, then sit quietly by yourself with eyes closed and
try to get in touch with the guide within you. Don’t keep on thinking about the problem or its solution. Just
point out the problem and ask the invisible intelligence: “Please help me and show me a way”. Later on,
some new idea will arise in your mind and you will know it.
4. Use Understanding
Proper understanding can clear up many of your problems
and difficulties. Consider the following:
The world is under a natural law, which is balanced, and in which every action bears its consequence. However,
things take time to happen. Hence, there is a proper time, place and a sequence for everything. What is happening now bears
the consequence of what has been done in the past. What will happen in future will bear the consequence of what is being done
now. If you want to make a better future, you have to use your time and energy to do the right things now.
Consider your difficulties as tests that are given to prepare you. Use them to develop your capacity and awareness.
Your difficulties will develop in you the power that is necessary to overcome all that is weak within and outside you.
Look upon everything that happens in the world as serving a purpose. After the purpose is served, it goes away. Hence,
your difficulty will also pass away. But while the difficulty is there, recognise why it has come: Have you been unjust?
Are you neglecting something important? Recognise your fault and be quick to correct it. Then your difficulty will pass away
Consider your difficulty as something external to you. Then the difficulty will not unsettle you. When you look
upon your difficulty objectively it will be easier to find a clue to the solution.
You experience the thoughts that you think. Hence, you must be careful about what you think. When you think
sad thoughts, you become sad. When you think happy thoughts, you become cheerful. Hence, seek to dwell on thoughts of courage,
kindness, love and fellowship. Don’t hold on to the dead thoughts from the past.
There is a blessing in every difficulty or change. In hopes frustrated, in aging of the body, in the troubles
and trials of life, in the works that have not yet succeeded there is a blessing. Hence, when you experience difficulty, think
of the good that can come out of it. It will add enthusiasm and joy to your life.
5. You Are Something Special
Your existence as a human being is something special.
A spiritual world is awaiting the opportunity to find expression through you. The consciousness of the Supreme Being dwells
inside you. Hence, never condemn yourself. Listen to the voice of your conscience, and live fearlessly.
As a person you are unique. No two human beings
are exactly alike. Your experience, nature, origin, life situation and purpose in life are all unique. You are connected with
others such that there is something that only you can fulfil. In this world there is something that only you can do. Hence,
do with enthusiasm what you have come to do, and feel supported by the Supreme.
Nature is beautiful, but it cannot smile like you.
The city has beautiful buildings, but they have no story to tell like you. The sun rises punctually to do its duty, but it
cannot sympathize with others like you can. It cannot be a little less hot in the summer and a little warmer in the winter.
The flowing water gives a soothing feeling, but it cannot be as comforting as you can. Birds fly freely in the sky, but they
cannot have the fulfilment that comes with human toil.
When you are optimistic you can look for an opportunity
in every difficulty. You can be hopeful, confident and make the best use of the circumstances of your life.
When you are pessimistic you see difficulties in
every opportunity. You believe that people are bad and everything is becoming worse. Thus, you anticipate and invite frustration
and sorrow in your life.
Optimism always softens the blow. The accident is
not as terrible as you had feared. The hill is not as steep as you thought before you started the climb. The difficulty is
not as great as you had anticipated, and things will turn out better than you had expected.
Pessimism always deepens the blow. It exaggerates
the trouble, and makes a difficulty seem harder to overcome.
Hence, optimism is a heavenly quality. You have
not come here on earth to suffer or be wasted. Something great and wonderful is being worked out in you and through you. So,
be optimistic and you will fulfil what you have come to do.
7. Be Wise
There are many “unseen persons” that
act through you. When you are aware of these persons, you can choose which person will decide your behaviour.
The wise person looks for the feedback on
his actions. He quickly becomes aware of his mistake, and quietly corrects it. The intelligent person recognises his
mistake when it shows up. He accepts the mistake and prepares to correct it.
The ordinary person is unable to recognize
his own mistake. If someone points out his mistake he chooses to argue or justify his action. The unwise person becomes
furious if someone points out his fault. He is unwilling to see his contribution to his own problems. Thus, he believes that
others or the circumstances are responsible for his difficulties. For things to improve, he demands that others should change
first, or that the circumstances must first become better. Thus, he does not correct his mistakes or change his ways.
8. Don’t Create Problems For Yourself
The world we live in is relative. In it opposites
and contrary views co-exist. What you like, some others may dislike. What you denounce, some others may admire. What you treasure,
some others may consider as worthless. What others seek and pursue, you may be trying to get rid of. You have a reason for
your view, and others have reasons for their views. So, respect others for what they are, and accommodate their views in your
own. Know that there cannot be just one right view when there are so many different interests in the world.
When you meet people who are rigid like a rock in
their views and ways, don’t try to change them. They aren’t ready for improvement or change. Hence, don’t
argue, discuss or clash with them. Be intelligent and move around these rocks. Do not create unnecessary problems for yourself.
9. Conform Your Wishes to Reality
Always differentiate between what is under your
control and what is outside your control.
Nature is governed by laws that you can’t
change. You must accept this. You would be foolish to wish that your parents or your spouse would live forever. The law of
mortality is completely outside your control. Similarly, it is foolish to wish that your boss, relatives or friends be without
faults. This is wishing to control things that you cannot truly control.
However, it is within your control not to be disappointed
by events, and not to be swept away by your desires. If you allow your expectations to be reasonable and based on facts, then
you will not be frustrated.
If you want to be happy, do not let your personal
happiness depend on external things. If you maintain many dependencies in life, you become a helpless slave of desires.
What is freedom? Freedom is not the right or ability
to do as you please! It arises from understanding the limits of your power and the natural limits set in place by the larger
order in which you function. To experience freedom you must accept life’s limits and inevitabilities, and work within
them, rather than fight them. When you succumb to the passing desires for the things that are not in your control, your freedom
is actually lost!
10. Overcome Your Inner Enemies
The inner and outer aspects of your life are related.
You meet your inner enemies in your outer life. The weakness in your nature shows up as difficulties in your outer life. Hence,
when you experience trouble repeatedly, ask: “Why is this happening to me”. Recognize the inner weakness
that you need to overcome.
Your habits and tendencies are creations of your
past. They arise out of how you have thought and acted in the past. These habits decide your subconscious cravings and inclinations.
To experience freedom, you have to become free from these impulses.
Changing your habits and tendencies means changing
the thoughts and desires that motivate you to act. You have to practice replacing the self-centred personal thoughts and tendencies
with large-hearted and disinterested thoughts and tendencies. If you keep up this practice for a few years it will transform
you. It will totally change how you think, feel and act.
However, the inner changes take time to happen.
While the change is going on, you have to be patient, persistent and wise. Without a battle there can be no hero. You have
to be a spiritual soldier, and give battle to your inner enemies. With every victory, you will experience greater freedom,
and you will have made your life more precious to yourself and to others.
11. Seek Counsel
If you are struggling in some aspect of your life,
or if some difficulty that you experience is repeating, you need counselling. You need the help of someone who can see from
outside of your frame of reference.
A wise counsellor can examine your difficulty disinterestedly,
in a new light. He can help you clarify your ideas, evaluate your options and provide you with an insight into the causes
(sometimes distant causes). Good counsel will allow you to deal with the causes of your problems and not merely attend to
the apparent effects. Thus, you can find what is the best thing for you to do – what you need to do and what suits you.
To take counselling you must believe that your problem
is solvable, that you are at least partly responsible for it, and that the outcome of things in future will depend on what
you will do now.
The Buddhist way of obeserving
It's difficult to live your ordinary daily life with its ordinary responsibilities, commitments, social involvements, and
still want to develop this degree of refinement of the Buddhist path. And it's a dilemma because it's difficult to do. If
one's life is very much involved with socialising, very much involved with family, very much involved with commitments, and
responsibilities, then of course one has to compromise one's time, one's energy, one's interests. You can't devote that much
time to the practise of making yourself calm and clearing the mind, and developing a refined sort of introspection. And so
that teaching which is so refined sometimes seems a bit out of a reach for you.
The Buddha's teaching is still very applicable, very useful, very relevant even if one can't meditate every day. Even if
one can't spend hours meditating, one can still appreciate the Buddha's teachings and apply a lot of that teaching. A lot
of the teaching is to do with ordinary daily living, knowing how to make the best use of this life as an ordinary person.
Being born as a human being in Buddhism is considered a great blessing and privilege because human beings can free themselves
from mechanical, habitual existence patterns. A human being can reflect on the results of living and can choose which direction
to go. But one must make that choice, one must take that opportunity to make the choice. That is one must take an interest
in one's life, reflecting on it.
So many people want to escape from themselves and they do all sorts of things to escape from themselves because it's difficult
and there are problems. So when I said that human beings have the opportunity to reflect on their lives, this is what I mean.
Observing our lives. Observing the problems in our lives.
The Buddha reflected on life, he reflected on his own life, he reflected on other people's lives. He observed and he came
to the conclusion that the source of the problem is the ego. The ego gets in the way. Reflect on this. What is the ego? It's
a sense of me. A separation, me separate from you, and when I'm separate I have my own interest. Desire and
aversion only arise from ego, nothing else. Where there's no ego, there's no desire, no aversion. Desire for
what? What do we desire? That which gratifies and flatters the ego. We like that, we want that, it makes the ego feel good.
I see somebody, they say I'm wonderful, so I want to get close to them. What is aversion? That which challenges the ego, threatens
the ego, insults the ego, humiliates the ego. The ego doesn't like that so it reacts with aversion and anger.
When there is this ego present there are bound to be problems arising in relationships. When I say relationships I don't
mean just relationships between you and another person, I mean in every experience in life. Every experience that you're involved
in is a relationship. And where there is ego, there will be problems. That's the situation, that's why life is not ideal.
The Buddha had no ego. The Buddha was at peace and he is a blessing to the world, a blessing to all beings; that's the result
of having no ego.
But of course, we have an ego. You can hear the Buddha's teaching, 'Everything is not self,' There is no self. But you
feel you have a self. So there's an ego. What do we do with it? This is what the Buddha taught when he spoke about skilful
ways of living. Learning to live within this limitation. Learning to live with an ego. Learning to work with this ego. How
can one live with an ego and still create more happiness than misery? What do we do? The Dhamma the Buddha taught is something
which he said is self-evident. Anyone who observes can see it. The Buddha said that if there is a problem, there's a cause.
If you get rid of the cause, the problem is also removed. What is the problem? It is the problem of suffering and of unhappiness
of unsatisfactoriness. The cause of it is the ego. Can you get rid of it? Not yet. So what do you do in the meantime. There
are a few qualities which are absolutely essential and yet they are very much lacking in life. That's why there are so many
The first quality is called 'sacca' in Pali. Sacca is like honesty, truthfulness. It's an openness, frankness,
being able to share. Openness doesn't mean just giving out. Openness means that you can also receive, it's an exchange. Bring
this openness into your relationships, all relationships.
Just think of meditation, you've really got to be honest with yourself, frank with yourself. Why are you meditating? Because
meditation is an opening up, you are sitting there listening to yourself, not trying to distract yourself. So you need this
quality of inner honesty, of being able to look at yourself and seeing what's there.
The second quality which I've observed to be lacking is patience (khanti). Patience means 'space', giving
a lot of 'space', allowing failings, allowing shortcomings, allowing imperfections, allowing differences. Allowing and giving
room is to be patient, it's being kind. You can allow failings within yourself Allowing, giving space, being patient enough
to allow people to be different, to have failings, to have good and bad sides is very important.
In meditation you must be patient, you must allow the mind space, give it room. Give the mind time to settle down, to calm
down. Concentration is not a forced thing, concentration is an agreement, the mind agrees to calm down, agrees to come to
rest here. You can't force it. Brute force is not necessary, you have to give it this space.
In a relationship give yourselves space. Allow differences. Allow imperfections. This giving of space requires a lot of
humility. To accept failings in yourself, to accept failings in others requires humility, doesn't it? The ego can't tolerate
failure, so you've got to be very humble to accept the nature of the body, to accept that this body is imperfect. To accept
the failings and limitations of your own mind.
So if you can just begin to implement some of these qualities, you will see how many problems would very, very quickly
be resolved in our lives. Problems in our meditation, problems in our relationships. We would be able to cope with life a
lot better. We would be at peace with life for a greater portion of the day.
(Newsletter, January-March 1994, Buddhist
Society of Western Australia
||Transcending Life's Problems through Spirituality
Adapted From: Spirituality
Look at the trials of your life with a spiritual approach: Until your heart has been broken to the things
of this materialistic world, you can't open your heart into the higher world.
Now, you shouldn't feel compelled to go out and try to get your heart broken or seek after trials and
disasters so you can grow from them. Don't worry; the world is very good at creating just the right challenges for you!
Yet, isn't it amazing how even the most intensely difficult things in your life somehow fall just within
the threshold of bearable? You may sometimes think your troubles are unbearable, but most likely, you come to a time when
things get better. Everyone goes through these ups and downs of life, although the outward details and intensities change
from person to person.
For one person, small inconveniences can cause more distress than major disasters do for another. Some
people get more upset about a bad hair-tinting job than do people who are dealing with devastating tragedies. Pain and suffering
are relative. How life's challenges affect you depends on your understanding, state of mind, and previous experience; it also
depends on the arms of divine beneficence that come to carry you above the hottest sands.
Seeing troubles with a positive eye
You most likely enjoy a pleasant life as much as anyone else. Moreover, even knowing the value of life's
challenges, you still don't go around looking for trouble. You might say that you choose your challenges, or that God chooses
them carefully for you so that your mind and limited self-concepts are shaken just enough — but not too much —
and with rests in between.
The following efforts can help you find a comfortable mix of trials and transcendence:
- Make efforts to create the kind of life that's pleasant and fulfilling for you.
- Be open and receptive to whatever comes — good or bad, pleasurable or difficult.
- When challenges come up, use them as opportunities to springboard off your limited worldview of temporary earthly existence.
Leap into a greater vision of what is going on beneath, behind, beyond, and above this strange pilgrimage called life.
Looking with a positive eye at your trials and tribulations isn't meant to deny you happiness. On the
contrary! You can think of trials as tools that pry you loose from a smaller worldview, and push you — even running
and screaming — into more precious realms that you may not have known existed.
Look at these ways that suffering can help uplift you:
- Suffering teaches you compassion.
- Suffering inspires you to contemplate and reconsider your thoughts and actions.
- Suffering brings renunciation, and renunciation is an important quality for spiritual growth.
Times of suffering and difficulty can actually lead you into a greater experience of the world. Dark
nights of the soul can bring greater meaning and depth of spirit to your life and give you more appreciation and gratitude
for all you have. Many people have awakened to religion, spirituality, and the presence of the Supreme Being for the first
time after going through traumatic events. For this reason, suffering can be one of the most potent forces for spiritual transformation
This doesn't mean that you should court difficulties or become a martyr — looking for more suffering
so you can grow from it. Nor is it a call for you to just suffer and suffer without making efforts to heal the problems in
your life. In fact, with spiritual awareness, you can change uncomfortable outer circumstances — not only on a materialistic
level but also by combining the power of your mind with spiritual practices, good actions, and higher intentions.
The key to transforming trials into transcendence is to realize that everything that comes to you is:
- An opportunity to tap into a greater awareness
Rising above suffering
Life always brings challenges to deal with. Struggle and strife have come as standard accessories with
the package deal of this cruise. When those inevitable difficult moments come, you have a choice: Instead of being swept away
into an emotional flurry or numb depression, you can see such times with some objectivity.
Then, even if part of you goes into some agitation or sadness here or there, you can still be aware
of the part of you that's witnessing all the play of your life — the still point of the turning world that exists inside
of you. From that place, you can remind yourself that after every storm, there is a chance to awaken into a new golden sky
and find colorful new rainbows to delight your heart, nourish your soul, and rouse your spirit.
This approach to life doesn't mean that you never suffer. Rather, even in the midst of suffering, you can simultaneously
break through into an awareness that's free from suffering — existing beyond the level of your body and the physical
world. This is the realm of spirituality.
Looking for the positive
Looking for something positive, even in the worst events, automatically helps to heal any situation
at hand. Remember that you're not just a passive observer of life but an active participant. Your belief system actually molds
and affects reality. Therefore, planting the seeds of a positive outlook creates a more positive experience down the line,
regardless of how bad things may look in the midst of your suffering and challenges. Your thoughts are so powerful that adding
a positive viewpoint into the mix can rock the vote of this universe as it manifests through and around you!
Tragedy brings out the best in people
Have you noticed how people get together and help one another so much more easily when they're in the
midst of a disaster? Floods, tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes all bring, along with their images of devastation, equally
powerful portrayals of human beings helping one another, even heroically saving neighbors whom they may have never even bothered
to say hello to before.
In times of crisis, a sense of temporal existence and an awareness of the shared flame of humanity become
more tangible to those involved. Tragedies and disasters have a way of sloughing off many layers of illusion-based thinking
and materialistic absorption. Vulnerability also comes during times of crisis — bringing its friends humility, gratitude,
On many occasions, Buddha himself said that your mind creates, shapes, and experiences everything that
happens to you, without a single exception. That's why, from the Buddhist point of view, what goes on inside you (in your
mind) is much more important in determining whether you're happy or miserable than any of the outer circumstances of your
Hold it right there. Does what you just read sound reasonable? Do the inner workings of your mind really
have a greater effect on you than, say, your possessions or your surroundings? After all, big companies and advertising agencies
spend billions of dollars every year trying to convince you that the opposite is true! In their eyes, your best shot at achieving
happiness is to buy whatever they're selling. They appeal to the "if only" mentality: If only you drove a fancier car, lived
in a bigger house, gargled with a stronger mouthwash, and used a softer toilet paper — then you'd be truly happy. Even
if you don't believe everything advertisers tell you, don't you believe that the external conditions of your life determine
how well off you are?
You should get into the habit of asking yourself these types of questions when you come across new information. Investigating
points brought up in a book that you're reading or in teachings you receive isn't an intellectual game or idle pastime. If
done properly, such questioning becomes a vital part of your spiritual development. As Buddha himself indicated, merely accepting
certain statements as true while rejecting others as false without examining them closely doesn't accomplish very much.
In this case, examination is particularly important because the questions concern the best way to live
your life. Should your pursuit of happiness focus mainly on the accumulation of possessions and other "externals"? Or is primarily
devoting yourself to putting your inner house in order the better way to go?
To get a feel for how you might go about examining this issue, consider the following situation. Two
friends of yours, call them Jennifer and Karen, take a vacation together to Tahiti. They stay in the same luxurious guesthouse,
eat the same food prepared by the same master chef, lounge on the same pristine beaches, and engage in the same recreational
activities. But, when they get home and tell you about their trip, their stories sound like they vacationed in two completely
different worlds! For Jennifer, Tahiti was heaven on Earth, but for Karen, it was pure hell. For every wonderful experience
Jennifer brings up, Karen tells you about two awful ones. This situation is hypothetical, of course, but doesn't it sound
familiar? Hasn't something like this happened to you or your friends?
Consider one more scenario. During wartime, two friends get thrown into a prison camp. As in the previous
example, both soldiers end up in identical situations, but this time, the outward conditions are miserable. One soldier experiences
extreme mental torment due to the horrible physical conditions and ends up bitter and broken in spirit; the other manages
to rise above his surroundings, even becoming a source of strength for the other prisoners. True stories like this scenario
aren't rare, so how can you account for them?
These examples (and relevant ones from your own experience) demonstrate that the outer circumstances
of your life aren't the only factors — or even the most important ones — in determining whether you're content
or not. If external conditions were more important than the condition of your mind, both Jennifer and Karen would've loved
Tahiti, both prisoners would have been equally miserable, and no rich and famous person would ever contemplate suicide.
The more closely you look, the more clearly you'll see (if the Buddhist teachings are correct on this point) that your
mental attitude is what mainly determines the quality of your life. This is not to say, however, that your outer circumstances
count for nothing, any more than a person has to give away all of his or her possessions to be a sincere spiritual seeker.
But, without developing your inner resources of peace and mental stability, no amount of worldly success — whether
measured in terms of wealth, fame, power, or relationships — can ever bring real satisfaction. Or, as someone once said,
"Money can't buy happiness; it can only allow you to select your particular form of misery."