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Question: “I am starting to practice Buddhism. Someone in my family is very close to me, but they always seem to want to make me jealous of them I some way. I think it’s because they are insecure and in some way jealous of me. Since I realize this I try not to get upset over it, but it’s difficult to stay positive when you’re being attacked all the time. I’ve meditated on this too and I’ve tried to respond positively to these negative feelings but it doesn’t seem to be helping. Do you have any tips?”
I’m glad you’ve started your practice and are practicing controlling negative feelings. A lot of people come to Buddhism “knowing” it’s this positive, peaceful, always happy, tree-hugging religion, and not really understanding the true concepts of Buddhism. Buddhism is not a fix to your problems. It’s not a medicine that’ll solve all our issues overnight. Buddhism is a guide to lead you to a way to solve your problems; it is not the antidote, it is the ingredients for you to create the antidote.
We have to treat everyone who may cause neutral or negative thoughts as children and we are the parents – it doesn’t matter who, what, how old, or what their religion is. Because as children we learn from what we see our parents doing, including the way they say things, do things, handle certain situations or people, their behavior, etc. If we grow up with kind, patient parents, we will (hopefully) also inherit those qualities. But if we grow up with angry, unkind parents, then we will also have those qualities.
Likewise, even though your family members are of course not your children, but continuing to stay and say positive things will only do good. After a while, and it could be a long while, they will start to see the change in you and how you react to things, but will hopefully spark something in them to come to that realization and follow in your path.
We all have positive, negative and neutral seeds in our consciousness – it just takes certain circumstances and conditions for those seeds to grow. Some of us have more growing negative seeds than positive, others with more positive – but all have equal opportunities to grow and flourish, it’s your job to water the seeds you wish to bloom.
So continue what you’re doing. Continue staying and being positive and watering your positive seeds. Their negativity cannot hurt you unless you allow it to, otherwise it is just empty words that make them sound like fools because they see that it doesn’t affect you.
Smile and be well!
Question: “I’m still trying to figure out which type of meditation suits me best. Tried mindfulness, and been practicing Zazen for a while now, but I want to meditate more on the Four Noble Truths and that -meditating on a subject other than breathing- is new to me. Seems a lot harder to me because I can’t really imagine how you actually meditate on a subject. I.e. what do you focus on? I’m used to focusing on my breath and I can’t imagine how you incorporate ‘something’ into it.
Like: meditate on why something is making me suffer etc. For instance, do you contemplate on a sentence or a specific subject? Can’t figure this out…”
All meditation is essentially the same; tame your mind – that is the fundamental “goal” of meditation. But just like there are different schools and traditions of Buddhism to suit different people’s needs, likewise there are different methods of meditation. Meditating on the breath is a universal practice among all that meditate, Buddhist and non-Buddhist, because it’s the easiest and quickest way to focus.
However, when we meditate on “something,” like suffering, etc. You’re basically talking to yourself in your head, but you are doing two things: 1) you’re going over what you know of the topic. In this case, suffering, you review what you know about suffering and how you understand it. 2) you’re debating with yourself. Why does it make sense, why doesn’t it. What is YOUR definition/understanding of suffering, etc.
That’s how we contemplate on things. We go over the subject matter with ourselves and review the lesson. Sure we can do this outside of meditation, but doing it in the quietude of meditation gives us better focus and less distraction from our surroundings.
That’s basically the jist of it
Smile and be well!
Question: “Could you please explain the Buddhist concept of getting rid of Ego (which I understand to be our sense-of-self)? And also, I don’t understand how it would be beneficial for people to get rid of that. It seems that without the ego, anything that makes us unique is dissolved. A well-developed sense of identity is considered a healthy part of development in modern psychology, so how would Buddhism address that position? Thank you! Peace to you, brother”
There’s a difference between ego and personality. Personality is what makes who we are: our likes and dislikes, our humor and boringness, our identity. Our ego is our wants, needs and desires. Neither of the two are the real us. We are not our personality and ego, we think we are because it controls us – it tells us what we want to eat, wear, say, do and go.
The personality is a temporary phenomena that we cling to because it’s what we and others know our identity to be. But once we become more aware of our trueness, of our aliveness, without the mask of our name and body, then we can see what we truly are.
Even modern psychology will say that our personality and ego has been created and dependent on our environment and culture. If we grew up and lived in the fanciest of Beverly Hills or Hollywood with all that we’ve ever wanted without a single moment of suffering, would our personality, ego and mentality be the same if we were to grow up and live in Texas on a farm doing farm work? Of course not!
Our personality and ego are temporary, it can change, but our true selves is the real and moves with us from life to life until it reaches enlightenment.
Smile and be well!
Question: “I want to convert to Buddhism. I want to learn slowly but learn all I can. My pain and suffering doesn’t allow me to move to a happier life. I have tried meditating but I can’t seem to get it right. Sometimes I just feel so angry and it’s because of all the grudges I hold within me. I have thought of getting a tattoo of a Buddha to show that I have now found peace within the Buddha. But I’m not sure if that’s a sign of disrespect towards the Buddha. Please help.”
How can you say you’ve found peace with the Buddha if you’re still angry and carrying grudges? Where’s the peace?
I’m sure you and many, many, many others have this assumption that Buddhism is peace. That converting to Buddhism will somehow magically make their life happier and peaceful. Well guess what? It doesn’t. It actually makes your life much more complicated and harder because Buddhism forces you to confront yourself and your inner issues and problems, which for a while will cause a lot of sadness and anger and suffering.
Buddhism is not peace and happiness. Buddhism is the path that leads to peace and happiness. Buddhism is like a ladder. You need a ladder to reach the ceiling to change the lightbulb, otherwise you can’t reach and you’ll have to live in darkness. So you get a ladder and climb the steps to reach the ceiling. Sometimes you might slip and scrape your leg or knee and you bleed. You get angry because this tool that’s supposed to help you accomplish something is hurting you, but then you realize you need to be more careful and mindful of where and how you’re stepping. Eventually you will reach the ceiling and change the lightbulb.
Buddhism is like that. You have to actively find the tools necessary to achieve your goal. There might be bumps and bruises on the way, but with practice, commitment and diligence, your lightbulb will go off, and then, nirvana.
So when you practice and meditate, you need to confront yourself and ask yourself why you are angry? Why are you holding grudges? What good is that doing for you? What happiness could this suffering possibly give you? Absolutely nothing. Don’t try to fool yourself with superficial excuses like, “they hurt my feelings,” “they went behind my back,” “they lied to me,” etc. Boo effing hoo. It’s called life, shit happens and you take what’s being thrown at you and it’s your job to either dodge them and let it go, or catch them and hang on to its anger.
Life is as peaceful and blissful as you choose to make it. If all you see is anger, your life will always be in suffering. If you choose to see happiness, your life will always be in happiness.
Smile and be well!
Question: “Quang Trí Thank you for your clear and concise answers on here. I practice and this serves as a great grounding whenever I get too heady. I struggle the most with compassion, forgiveness, anger, and trust. (raised in a religious cult by military-type household nearly ended my life) Also tolerance I know I cant go on without it but what are some other ways to cultivate a healthy mindset with these characteristics at the forefront? It is extremely hard for me and I want to be better. namaste”
Sometimes during our practice of compassion, forgiveness, getting over anger, etc., we think we have to cultivate these attitudes for others, but we really need to establish these characteristics for ourselves first.
It’s important to have compassion and forgive others, but we have to have compassion and forgive ourselves first. How can we help others escape their struggles and suffering if we can’t do it for ourselves? There has always been seeds of anger, hate, mistrust, ignorance and greed that’s been planted in our consciousness and it takes the right circumstances for them to grow and flourish. Often times it’s the situations in our own lives growing up; whether it’s family issues or personal issues.
As adults, we should have a content understanding that “shit happens” and if we want things to change, then we must change them with our own efforts and diligence. If you want good grades in school, study harder. If you want a better job, work harder. If you want to spiritually awaken, then you must put in the effort to overcome your ignorance, greed and anger.
Meditate. Contemplate on the things that anger you. Contemplate on why they anger you and why you allow them to anger you. What good is letting someone or something anger you? Is it helping you in your life? In others’ lives? Is your anger helping you enlighten yourself?
Meditate on compassion, love and forgiveness for yourself. Once you’re able to emancipate yourself from your own blocking walls and help yourself, then you can start helping others. Your happiness and peace can help others, and others’ happiness is your own happiness.
Smile and be well!
Question: “Can you briefly describe the difference between the types of buddhism?”
There are two “types” or major schools of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada (or Hinayana).
Theravada is practiced in many Southeast Asian countries and of course around the world. Theravadans only practice the teachings and meditations that came directly from our historical Buddha Sakyamuni. In Theravada, the highest accomplishment is reaching Nirvana or Arahatship, but only for those that live a monastic life.
Mahayana has many schools under its umbrella like Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism), Zen and Pure Land. Unlike Theravada, Mahayana incorporates many other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (saints) into its practice; giving people more ways to practice according to their suits and needs to reach enlightenment. In Mahayana, the highest accomplishment is reaching Buddhahood! In Mahayana, everyone – lay people and monastics, have the capability to become a Buddha.
Most Buddhist temples and centers in the West are either of Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese/Zen, or Thai.
Neither major school is better than the other. Both have the same ultimate aspiration: to eradicate suffering/dissatisfaction. It’s up the practitioner to find the school/tradition that suits their needs and beliefs.
Smile and be well!
Question: “Hi, What are your thoughts on the Law of Attraction? I’ve done some research and noticed that it primarily focuses on Positive thinking and attracting the things you want in your life, instead of negative things. It seems as if it’s a change in attitude and how you see things. Its tricky because it also states that you must Ask(Fully know what you want), Believe(Have faith that you will get it) and Receive(Act as if you already have it and be thankful) What would you say about this?”
I would say that it sounds a lot like a Buddhist teaching! Buddhism is a mind-centered practice, right? So our objective in life is to seek and find happiness from within instead of external circumstances. We all know that one person who is always happy, energetic, positive and just loves everything about life – what’s the difference between them and most people? They see the beauty in life even when they are surrounded by chaos disappointment.
For example, if you allowed someone to verbally hurt you (they called you names or talked behind your back) or if you didn’t get your dream job that you for sure thought you had, does sobbing around, hating and being angry help you or anyone around you? No! If someone called you an ugly horse, does thatactually make you an ugly horse? Last time I checked, horses can’t get on Tumblr and ask questions! It’s all about your attitude and the way youchoose to look at and react to things.
I’m not saying that positively thinking on winning the lottery is going to make you win the lottery, but it will help you cope with the inevitable loss. We all have this intrinsic value, this Buddha Nature, though we can’t see it yet, we have to believe that it’s there, because we’re all bound to become Buddhas eventually. We practice Buddhism because we want to become a Buddha, we have that faith in ourselves that if we practice this moral and good life, our good actions will bring us good results.
Instead of the “law of attraction,” Buddhism would be the “law of the state of the mind.” With a positive mind, a positive outlook on life is seen and when bad things happen, it isn’t seen as bad, but simply life walking its course.
Smile and be well!
Question: “Why do some people possess a personality with a higher sense of consciousness while others don’t? Why do some people seem to be born all good and know the right thing to do?”
The actions of our past lives determine our present life, and the actions of our present life determine the causes for our next life. People who are wealthy in this life must of given many donations in their last life, so this life they were born in a very fortunate life. Others that are born in poverty, were probably greedy and selfish in their last life, so they are reaping the consequences.
It is an endless circle of cause and effect. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. No one or thing is controlling your karma. Only you control your karma. So it’s important to live a compassionate and generous life now so you can gain the positive consequences.
The effect of any positive or negative karma could happen in one of three ways: in this life, the very next life, or in one of the future lives after the next life. Because of that, some people might think, “Hell, if I’m not going to reap the benefits of or consequences now, I might as well do whatever I want!” Sure you can do that, but any negative thought, speech or action will further the “finish line” of enlightenment.
Even if you don’t get to benefit of any of the good you do in this life, your next life will be so much better! It’s a sad feeling that you “won’t know” your future life, but when the time comes for your enlightenment, you will be able to look back to all your future lives and see this life that you committed to devote your life to compassion, love and generosity. You will be thankful you didn’t choose a path that will lead you to an unfortunate rebirth and be set back farther.
Smile and be well!
Question: “Hi, I’ve been thinking a lot about the focus on attachment being negative in Buddhism. (Recently began trying to enlighten myself/others) I’ve hit a bit of a rump trying to find out where this attachment being detrimental sits in my life, because of my love toward family members i.e mother, or boyfriend. Are these feelings of extreme love wrong? Are they detrimental in my path? I feel as if I may be misinterpreting my strong love for unhealthy attachment, but I needed clarification. Thank you!”
Love and attachment are two very different things. Love is necessary for our and others’ happiness. Attachment is the greediness we have that assumes weneed what we want/love.
It’s absolutely fine to love, especially our loved ones. However, what makes this love “dangerous” or prone to attachment is our ignorance and lack of understanding of impermanence. We always make assumptions and hopes that our family will out-live anyone else, or that when we think we’ve found our soul mate that they’ll be around forever and never leave you. But in reality, our parents will grow old, get sick and die. Our soul mate might be our soul mate for 10, 20 or 30 years, but feelings and love changes, and the relationship might end. What happens at the end of all these examples? Hurt. Sadness. Depression. Anger. Hate.
As Buddhists, our main goal is to lessen and eradicate our attachments. It doesn’t have to be by getting rid of stuff/people. You don’t have to give away all your clothes, belongings, money, or stop seeing and talking to family and friends. No, no. It’s much simpler than that. We simply have to meditate on these things and reflect on them; visualize your things burning, getting lost, stop working, etc. and visualize on death, of your friends and family. After much practice, we’ll come to a powerful realization that everything is impermanent – everything will come to an end. It’s inevitable.
Why do we practice meditation on death and the end of things? Because when it does happen, our understanding of its end will be so much easier to live with. If we don’t want to hurt so much, have anger and maybe even hate when a loved one dies, then it’s important to meditate on death, so when the time comes, it’s an easier process for you and those around you.
Smile and be well!