Our so-called life, from the Buddhist point of view, is simply experience, and experience is relationship. Put simply, we don’t have independent existence. We cannot exist without depending on others. When I go to the grocery store and buy an apple, I might feel very independent. I walk in, grab an apple, pay with my own money, and go home and eat by myself. But in fact I can only enjoy this apple because it is connected to so many people and conditions: the store owner, the shelf stockers, the truckers, the farmers, all the way back to the seed and the Earth. There's so much connection, all the time.
Of all of the relationships we have in this interdependent experience of ours, the most direct, most emotional, and most apt to bring great joy and suffering is a close, intimate relationship with another human being. We give it great, special prominence in our mind, but it helps to remember that it is the same as the apple. It’s about interconnection, interdependence.
From a Buddhist point of view, relationship is a great mirror. It is the mirror in which we see ourselves, in which we discover ourselves. That mirror can be distorted. I remember the first time I saw myself in a funhouse mirror: “Oh, what happened to me? I’m all stretched out.” [laughter] The mirror can also be very clear. We can see ourselves and what we are up to so directly. That makes relationship a beautiful experience.
When we sit by ourselves, it’s easy to enjoy our mental games, fantasies, ego trips, and so forth. We can go on and on and on without any problem. But try that with your partner! Then here comes the mirror. The mirror will reflect and show you your ugly ego trips. A mirror is very neutral—it just reflects. It doesn't take any sides. It is just a mirror for both of us.
In this mirror, we discover ourselves—our tendencies, our weaknesses, and our strengths. We discover our good qualities as well as our negative qualities. So this mirror becomes a very precious teacher for us, a very precious path. The mirror of relationship becomes a very precious teaching for us to discover who we really are and where we are on the path and in the world altogether.
This is a lot to take in, so our tendency is to see what we want to see in this relationship mirror. The problem with this approach in a close relationship is that two people are seeing two different things. If I want to see something and she wants to see something else, we're both seeing two different things. As a result, we're being thrown off from the balance, the benefit, the preciousness of the relationship, the mirror. We would rather idealize our relationship; we would rather escape. We would rather live in the future than in this very immediate present moment. But if we can practice being in this present moment, relationship can become a path and the mirror can be a great teacher.
In our relationship with another, we often misunderstand how we are connected. We may think we are two made into one, or we may think we are completely independent. My father taught me that a marriage or partnership, an intimate relationship with another human being, is like two rings coming together. You can illustrate it with your fingers. Make a ring with each hand, then join the rings together. There's a common space in the center. There is mutual responsibility, joy, and sharing, yet at the same time, we must understand there are also the two sides. There is not only the middle; individual space is also necessary.
If we try to overlap these two rings totally, we lose balance. There is a common bond, but there are also two individual mind streams. We must respect that and allow the other independence. The common space respects the individual space. We cannot overpower the other or make them just like us. The other not only has needs but also individual, habitual karmic habits that you cannot change. They need to initiate change themselves; you cannot forcibly change them. Buddhism teaches us that you cannot change someone's karma; not even Buddha can do that. He said, “I can only show you the path; to do it is totally up to you.”
That's the basic principle in a relationship—we share. We share our wisdom, our knowledge, we allow ourselves to be a mirror, but it’s up to the individual to make the choice. We must respect that. We must know that the other acts out of habit pattern, just as we do. Just as we cannot be forcibly changed from the outside, so too with them.
Problems begin when we lose the balance that comes from understanding the interplay of connection and separateness. We lose the sense of mindfulness when we lose the basic balance of the selfless, egoless teaching, and become selfish, ego-centered, or even ego-maniacal.
That's where dukkha (suffering) begins and joy ends, where the joy of relationship ends and the dukkha of relationship begins. When a relationship is troubling, that will stimulate our path. We can’t expect it to always be perfect. In the mirror of relationship, we discover all these things. We discover the real nature of relationship and we discover how we go off balance, how we lose the egoless, selfless view, how we lose the sense of love and caring.
Practicing mindfulness and awareness can help us see in the mirror more clearly. Mindfulness can tame the mental wildness that causes us to go so off balance. Mindfulness puts that wild mind in a corral. Once the wild horse of our mind is a little settled, we can train it by tying it to the post of awareness. Then we can train the horse to do all sorts of things, including to exert itself on the path of relationship and take joy and delight in loving.
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a contemporary master in the Kagyu and Nyingma schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He is the president of Nalandabodhi and the author ofMind Beyond Death.
'A strong person and a waterfall always channel their own path' Unknown
The Law of Least Effort:
Nature's intelligence functions with effortless ease, with carefreeness, harmony, and love. And when we harness the forces of harmony, joy, and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease.
I will put the Law of Least Effort into effect by making a commitment to take the following steps:
I will practice acceptance. Today I will accept people, situations, circumstances, and events as they occur. I will know that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be. I will not struggle against the whole universe by struggling against this moment. My acceptance is total and complete. I accept things as they are this moment, not as I wish they were.
Having accepted things as they are, I will take responsibility for my situation and for all those events I see as problems. I know that taking responsibility means not blaming anyone or anything for my situation (and this includes myself.) I also know that every problem is an opportunity in disguise, and this alertness to opportunities allows me to take this moment and transform it into a greater benefit.
Today my awareness will remain established in Defenselessness. I will relinquish the need to defend my point of view. I will feel no need to defend my point of view. I will feel no need to convince or persuade others to accept my point of view. I will remain open to all points of view and not be rigidly attached to any one of them. From The Chopra Center daily inspiration...Picture: Hiking in Gibsons BC, Sunshine Coast
The Law of Karma:
Every action generates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind. What we sow is what we reap. And when we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success.
I will put the Law of Karma into effect by making a commitment to take the following steps: Today I will witness the choices I make in each moment. And in the mere witnessing of these choices, I will bring them to my conscious awareness. I will know that the best way to prepare for any moment in the future is to be fully conscious in the present.
Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: "What are the consequences of this choice that I'm making?" and "Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?"
I will then ask my heart for guidance and be guided by its message of comfort or discomfort. If the choice feels comfortable, I will plunge ahead with abandon. If the choice feels uncomfortable, I will pause and see the consequences of my action with my inner vision. This guidance will enable me to make spontaneously correct choices for myself and for all those around me. From The Chopra Center daily inspiration...Picture by Joy Nalywaiko in Hawaii
The Law of Giving and Receiving:
The universe operates through dynamic exchange – giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.
I will put the Law of Giving into effect by making a commitment to take the following steps:
Wherever I go, and whoever I encounter, I will bring them a gift. The gift may be a compliment, a flower, or a prayer. Today, I will give something to everyone I come into contact with, and so I will begin the process of circulating joy, wealth and affluence in my life and in the lives of others
Today I will gratefully receive all the gifts that life has to offer me. I will receive the gifts of nature: sunlight and the sound of birds singing, or spring showers or the first snow of winter. I will also be open to receiving from others, whether it be in the form of a material gift, money, a compliment or a prayer.
I will make a commitment to keep wealth circulating in my life by giving and receiving life's most precious gifts: the gifts of caring, affection, appreciation and love. Each time I meet someone, I will silently wish them happiness, joy and laughter.From The Chopra Center daily inspiration...
Law of Pure Potentiality:
The source of all creation is pure consciousness. Pure potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest. And when we realize that our true Self is one of pure potentiality, we align with the power that manifests everything in nature.
I will put the Law of Pure Potentiality into effect by making a commitment to take the following steps:
I will get in touch with the field of pure potentiality by taking time each day to be silent, to just Be. I will also sit alone in silent meditation at least twice a day for approximately thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening.
I will take time each day to commune with nature and to silently witness the intelligence within every living thing. I will sit silently and watch a sunset, or listen to the sound of the ocean or a stream, or simply smell the scent of a flower. In the ecstasy of my own silence, and by communing with nature, I will enjoy the life throb of ages, the field of pure potentiality and unbounded creativity.
I will practice non-judgment. I will begin my day with the statement, "Today, I shall judge nothing that occurs
", and throughout the day I will remind myself not to judge. From The Chopra Center daily inspiration...