Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Eight Verses and Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara is the Buddha of Compassion. After viewing the suffering of beings, vows to save all beings again by transforming herself. "Avalokiteshvara" means the Bodhisattva who listens the voices of the world.

The Eight Verses is from the Mahayana Lojong (mind training) Tradition of Buddhism. These instructions help us awaken the mind compassion, wisdom and love. These teaching help to train the mind to embrace reality in a completely wholesome, wise and compassionate way. They help us purify negativity and awaken the heart by giving us a way to transform hardship into an opportunity for spiritual growth. In this way, rather than perceiving difficult people or adverse circumstances in our lives as an obstacle, tragedy, or punishment, we now meet these experiences with deep compassion, wisdom and skill, using them as the actual path to enlightenment.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama refers to this work as one of the main sources of his own inspiration and includes it in his daily meditations. I have an excellent book on tape by Pema Chondron called Don't Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom Anger, Resentment, and Other Destructive Emotions. Chondron says "Life has a way of provoking us with traffic jams and computer malfunctions, with emotionally distant partners and crying children—and before we know it, we're upset. We feel terrible, and then we end up saying and doing things that only make matters worse. But it doesn't have to be that way."

I hope these selective verses bring you some peace like they have brought me.

Verse 4:
Whenever I meet a person of bad nature
Who is overwhelmed by negative energy and intense suffering,
I will hold such a rare one dear,
As if I had found a precious treasure.

 It is not very difficult to have positive feelings towards people who are kind and good-natured, but our love is really put to the test when we meet people with much negative energy. Because they give us the chance to see how strong our patience and compassion are - and thus bring us down to earth as far as our spiritual development is concerned - we should regard them as rare and precious.
The nectar (the light of the Buddha of compassion, Avalokiteshvara) purifies the self-cherishing thought that prevents me from regarding harmful beings as precious and dear, and brings the realization of bodhicitta, which holds even harmful beings dear.

Verse 5:
When others, out of jealousy,
Mistreat me with abuse, slander and scorn,
I will practice accepting defeat
And offering the victory to them.

 When someone criticizes us, to our face of behind our back, we should not angrily try to defend ourselves or hurl abuse in return. Instead we should remember that any bad experience is the natural outcome of our own past actions- we can probably think of many instances when we criticized others.
We can try to talk with the person who is complaining - not with anger but compassion - to get them to calm down and think more positively, but if they refuse to be reasonable we should just let go and accept the situation. Anyway, it is good to listen with an open mind to criticism - it is often correct and it can always teach us something about ourselves.

 The nectar purifies the self-cherishing thought that prevents me from accepting defeat and giving the victory to others, and brings the realizations that enable me to do this.

Verse 6:
When someone I have benefited
and in whom I have placed great trust
Hurts me very badly,
I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.

 Every good or bad experience that occurs in our life is the result of our past actions, so there is really no such thing as undeserved harm. This idea may be difficult to accept, especially when the harm comes from someone whom we have helped and from whom we expect at least gratitude. But it is a question of becoming familiar with the law of cause and effect - we must necessarily have created the cause to be harmed. Also, if we have good understanding of the importance of developing patience, we will be able to see that someone who harms us is giving us a valuable teaching on the spiritual path.

 The nectar purifies the self-cherishing thought that prevents me from regarding harmful beings as my spiritual teachers, and brings the attainment of the bodhisattva's perfection of patience, which enables me to do this.

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