Problems at a Dharma Center

Problems at a Dharma Center

Date Posted:
October 2005

There were problems at a Dharma center between the director and his assistant. Sometimes the problems were heavy, sometimes light. The director was contemplating asking the assistant to leave. Rinpoche wrote the following to him.

Dear George,
One way you can look at the situation is to think that the center just cannot exist without these difficulties. There is collective karma, and without these difficulties, it would not be able to offer extensive benefits to so many sentient beings every year, giving Dharma education in sutra and tantra, and planting the seed of the four kayas, liberation, and enlightenment, and leading sentient beings to a good rebirth in their next life.

The center offers unbelievable benefits. The geshe, translator, director, assistant, secretary, bookkeeper, cook, and cleaner’s main function is to bring the teachings to others, making the center available for sentient beings to come there to practice, collect merit, and plant the seed of enlightenment. All the members of the center are offering this benefit to sentient beings. This cannot happen without collective karma. Problems occur because collective negative karma ripens and individual karma ripens, so we experience these things while we are offering extensive benefit to others.

You can make an analogy with the body and ornaments on the body. These difficulties are the ornaments. This means you can use these difficulties to overcome your own delusions, ego, and self-cherishing thought. These difficulties destroy one’s delusions and ego, like in chöd practice. In chöd, you invoke spirits to create violence, a disturbing violent environment, and that makes the thought of self-cherishing stronger, the feeling that something is going to happen to me, to the “I.” The main thing is to see the emotional “I,” the false “I,” the object to be refuted, the “I” which is a hallucination, the “I” which doesn’t exist, as the object of the root of samsara—the concept of inherent existence. The minute you recognize it is the minute to realize emptiness. Why this is so important, such a big deal, and is talked about so much in the teachings of Buddha is that without this realization of emptiness, you have no way to escape the ocean of suffering. Humans, asura, sura, hell beings, animals, and pretas have all been reincarnating in these realms up to now, from beginningless time, because of delusion and karma. We are still wandering in the six realms, and suffer without end. That means we can’t liberate other sentient beings from the suffering of samsara, the suffering of contaminated aggregates.

All the problems of the center are the same as in chöd practice. Here, without your putting effort into it, it just happens, the disturbed violent environment arises. So, it is a very good opportunity to realize emptiness and destroy the ego, the self-cherishing thought.

It is the same as in the text the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, when you use difficulties to cut the demon of your self-cherishing thought. It is also mentioned in A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life that when people have scars from having fought in a war, they see those scars not as something ugly, but as an ornament, a special sign that they have been brave. They are proud of those scars. So, like that, you can use the problems in the center as a challenge to vanquish the self-cherishing thought and ignorance, the concept of true existence, the unknowing mind.

These ornaments, your problems, can be used as weapons that you always keep with you to destroy the real enemies, those which prevent all good things from happening to you, including enlightenment. The real enemies are the ones that stop you from benefiting all sentient beings, giving them happiness in their day-to-day life, up to liberation and enlightenment. They harm you and make you harm all living beings.

Use the problems as an ornament, seeing them as extremely precious, because they make you achieve enlightenment quickly, by getting you to achieve bodhicitta. Experience these problems on behalf of all sentient beings, giving all happiness to sentient beings. This is the ornament.

Just accepting the problems, as I said in the beginning, makes the mind calm down. And without problems and obstacles at the center, the center cannot exist. For example, a rose bush can’t have roses without thorns. Look at it like that.

Also, we should purify karma that brings problems, and stop creating a similar cause again. Practice the ten virtuous actions. For those who have taken pratimoksha, bodhicitta, and tantric vows, these are the guidelines to follow so you don’t create similar karma again. The foundation is living in the ten virtues. This is the solution. The second solution so as not to have problems is to purify karma, as I often say. The real solution to any problem—never to have AIDS, cancer, sicknesses, relationship problems, and failure in business—comes if these two things are done—purifying negative karma and never committing it again, and living in vows helps with this.

So, now you can see, without Dharma, you can’t solve the problems in your life, no matter how much medicine, food, exercise, organizations, and meetings you have. That is why, even though people have an operation and cut away a cancer, if the karma is not purified, the cancer keeps coming back until the person dies. That is a good example.

Performing pujas and practices is one way to try to purify the cause so that you do not create it again. Then, try to prevent difficult external conditions as best you can. If you have tried to remedy the situation, you will not feel much regret. If you don’t try, then you will feel regret. Since you have met the Buddhadharma, sutra, and especially tantra, you know there are so many ways, so many deep solutions. This helps the mind to not get freaked out, whether you are living in a meditation center, with your family, or with others.

In this way, the mind can enjoy life. There is peace and happiness. There is so much space in your mind, space for love and compassion for others, so you can benefit others continuously.