Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Happy Suffering"

I've been perusing the Buddhoblogosphere, following threads and links, and discovering wonderful new (to me) writers out there. Among the new blogs is one by a spunky, fashion-savvy Tibetan Buddhist named Paris (photo above is of her and her teacher H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche). In a recent post, she says this:

Rinpoche said this today about dedicating your life to working for others: "You don't think of it as work, you think of it as happiness". It was the most perfect expression of what I have been feeling over the last few months and I didn't even realise I've been feeling this way until my father sent me an SMS one day to tell me that I shouldn't work so hard.

I didn't answer the SMS immediately because I didn't know how to answer. It was only after a few days of thinking about it that I realised why the SMS had bothered me so much - the fact that my father had referred to it as "work," which is exactly what I have stopped thinking of it as being.

Since committing to Dharma work full-time and since being given the huge honour to be a Liaison within the Kechara organisation, I have stopped thinking of what I do as work but as something that is living, being, doing. I couldn't imagine doing anything else but this. Rinpoche clarified it so beautifully tonight when he said, "You think of it as happiness" which it truly is. No matter how tired, agitated, frustrated, ill or even angry I get when I'm here, I'd still rather "suffer" it than be anywhere else doing anything else. It is the closest I have been able to get to understand what it means to have "happy suffering."

Having done a lot of volunteer and service "work" over the years, I've certainly had my share of struggles around how to view my various commitments. There are times when I feel great joy in being involved, doing what the situation calls for, and walking with people through the various issues of their lives. Other times, though, it definitely feels like work, heavy, difficult work. But Paris and Rinpoche both are right in point me, and all of us really, back towards the joy of service and walking with others. I prefer the term walking with others, as opposed to "helping," or even "teaching" really, although in my role as an ESL teacher, there's no completely getting around "teacher." However, recently, when I think of the bodhisattva vow to liberate all beings, it points me back to the Four Divine Abodes.

Love or Loving-kindness (metta)
Compassion (karuna)
Sympathetic Joy (mudita)
Equanimity (upekkha)

These are the tools required to live out that vow, as far as I'm concerned. And when it comes to the call to view seeing working with others as "Happiness," the four abodes are the houses from which happiness springs forth. I have to constantly remind myself of this, as I get irritated and overwhelmed at times, and sometimes land in despair over the state of the world. There's a hell of a lot of misery, but that's only part of the story. Thanks to Paris and Rinpoche for the reminder.

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