Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lead a worthwhile life using your mind

Below is a extract from the book titled “Dealing with Life’s Issues (A Buddhist Perspective)” written by Venerable Thubten Chodron published by Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

While I lived in Singapore in 1987 and 1988, I met a very nice young man who was dying from cancer.  He was in his late twenties and before falling ill, had a very optimistic life. He had just been accepted to an American university for graduate studies and was excited about going, but after he got sick, all those plans stopped midstream. One day I visited him and he woefully said, “I’m just a useless person.  I can’t even leave my flat.” We were near the window, and I said, “Look out the window.  There are so many people driving around, walking to and from the train station, busily going here and there. Do you think their lives are worthwhile? They might be busy running around with a full schedule, but does that mean their lives are worthwhile?”

I went on to explain that living a worthwhile life does not mean being the busiest of the busy. Living a worthwhile life depends upon what we do with our mind.  Even if our body is incapacitated, if we use our heart and our mind to practise the Dharma, our life becomes very beneficial.  We don’t need to be healthy to practise the Dharma.

It might be easier to practise if we are healthy, but still, if we are sick, we can use whatever time and energy we have to practise.  Even if we cannot sit up straight and are lying on a bed, even if we have to sleep many hours, even if we are weak or cannot see well, we can still think kind thoughts and contemplate the nature of reality.  We can think about karma and take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. There is so much Dharma practice that we can do even when we are sick.  When we take advantage of this situation to practise the Buddha’s teachings, we make our life very meaningful.

Don’t think your life is meaningful just because you are running around making widgets. Don’t think that having money, a full schedule, many possessions and many friends are qualities of a meaningful life.
Sometimes, externally our lives may look wonderful and we may have many awards and possessions to show for our efforts, but in the process of procuring these, we may have created negative karma. That negative karma is not a useful product of our activities. For instance, when we have a lot of greed or self-centred ambition to be famous, we may lie, deceive and cheat others. We may talk behind others’ backs, ruin their reputation, break up friendships and gossip to get what we want.  Although we may fulfil our desires, all these external signs of success will fade and when we die, only our karma will follow us. 

On the other hand, we could be sick and lying in bed, but if we use our mind to create constructive positive karma, we are creating the cause for a good rebirth.  If we meditate on love and compassion and do the taking and giving meditation while we are lying in bed, our mind will become closer to liberation and enlightenment. This makes our life highly meaningful in the long run.

Don’t underestimate the power of the mind. The mind is very powerful. Even if we are sick, just the power of the positive thoughts we generate can influence the people around us quite a bit.  Kind and wise thoughts and feelings also bring about good rebirths and propel us on the path to enlightenment.