Tag Archives: Buddhism

Attitude

I was reading about some thing called ‘Lojong’ in Tibetan Buddhism (which involves refining and purifying one’s intent and way of thinking through a set of proverbs) when I came across this short story about a teacher called Atisha, the originator of this concept. This happened when Atisha was planning to move to Tibet to teach there; the story is reproduced below from Wikipedia:

 A story is told of Atisha that when he heard that the inhabitants of Tibet were very pleasant and easy to get along with, instead of being delighted, he was concerned that he would not have enough negative emotion to work with in his Lojong practice. So he brought along his ill-tempered Bengali servant-boy, who would criticize him incessantly and was awful to spend time with. Tibetan teachers then like to joke that when Atisha arrived in Tibet, he realized that there was no need after all.

 Though the story brought out an instant smile, the depth was touching. How many people really think of the possibility of negativity around for his/own self development?

 This reminded me of an article I read long ago. This was written by a person called Siddique (a film director from our state) about a person called Father Abel, the founder of an institution called Cochin Kalabhavan  (this is group of performing artists with lots of emphasis on humor). Siddique recalled this incident about Father Abel, when the latter passed away .

 When Siddique was a small boy, he along with his friends used to play football in a ground adjacent to the church. Father Abel used to walk  to the church from his residence and back, along the road next to the ground. The children used to make fun of him, call him names and tease him, whenever he walked past. But he would never respond and would walk away walk away calmly as if nothing happened. Many years later, Siddique joined Cochin  Kalabhavan as  an artist and during a conversation asked Father Abel why he refused to react when the children made fun of him. Father replied with a smile: “ When we were in Rome for the priesthood training, people are employed to stand on roadside to insult us. This was done to increase patience and tolerance. When you boys were giving me that training free of cost, why should I get angry at all?”

In the corporate world, I have heard the ‘whether the glass is half empty or  half full’ stuff more than a dozen times, and whenever people use that to talk of attitude, you could tell how empty the statements were. But to practice it to the  extend where everything is simply a means to help you on the path, needs something more profound.

May be that’s why god need to exist…

Expectation Joy and Misery

Twenty five centuries back, Buddha told us that “expectation is the cause of all miseries”. We have heard this time and again from different masters in different forms. What does it really mean to us?

Obviously one problem with the above statement is that it looks direct. When I tried to understand this first, this is basically how my mind interpreted it : if you expect something out of people or situations, you are likely to be disappointed.

The obvious way then to apply this in to life was to drop ‘expectations’.

How does that work. When I have attended an exam, don’t expect a good result? Don’t expect a promotion that’s due ? Don’t expect an appreciation for a good work?

No. That was hard. It wasn’t working. Even when I tried to force myself in to ‘being neutral’ about something, I was not being true to myself. At the bottom of my heart, I was actually expecting and I was happy / sad depending on the way it went.

In some cases where I could actually be really neutral about something, there was neither joy / disappointment at the end. Is this what I wanted ? No chance.

So what does this really mean? If I want to apply this in my life, how do I do that? – It took me a long time to go one level deeper in to these questions.

I realized that my small little mind was constantly caught up in the expectation-joy / expectation-misery cycle. These were so minute that I almost missed them. It is as simple as:

  • Someone passes by, I want him to acknowledge me, but he walks off without giving me face
  • I am driving, want to overtake a vehicle, the moment I begin, he switches the lane and I can’t do it
  • In a team meeting, the manager is talking about an achievement we had, I am expecting him to take my name, but he doesn’t. He just gives credit to the whole team.

One day I tried to make note of these; but believe me, they are pretty many. It looks like, these small cycles actually reinforce the patterns of expectation – reaction in our mind, which we apply to the bigger activities in life too.

When I had tried to apply this the first time, I looked at the bigger activities in life, but now I realize that if I can first address the small cycles, the bigger ones will automatically correct themselves.

How can we do that?

Awareness. Be in the present moment. Slow down in life.

There is a profound technique called Mindfulness. Start practicing it. Look at how your mind being swayed from being at ease & joy. Just notice and I think the tendencies just drop.

It also makes sense to choose those activities prone to such oscillations. For me driving is one such. I get annoyed when some one tries to speed, overtake on the wrong side, honk…..Nowadays I take a decision in the morning that I will be completely aware while driving and will drive slow.

Seems to be working. I am still getting to it. Will come back later with more experiences