Vows, commitments and modern life: Not replying to others and not accepting invitations

Not replying to others

If someone greets us in a friendly and courteous manner, and without a good reason, we give no reply we incur a secondary downfall.  This also advises us to try make others’ minds happy by giving them answers and advice.

Why do we need to do this?  The answer is obvious.  When we say hi to somebody and they ignore us, how do we feel?  What do we think about the other person?  We don’t want to make others feel this way.  While of course the minimum is to return the basic level of cultural politeness, as Bodhisattvas, we need to go one step further – we need to be genuinely delighted to see the other person.

It suffices to watch 5 year olds on a playground to know and appreciate the difference.  When they see one of their friends, their faces light up with delight.  This then makes the friend likewise light up and everyone is very happy.  How good does it make us feel when we haven’t seen somebody we really like in a long time and when we see them they are really happy to see us – their face lights up like a child on a playground.  It makes us feel warm and loved inside.  This is how we need to make others feel with our own reaction to seeing them.  The sun warms all around, and in the same way the Bodhisattva warms the heart of all around with their delight at seeing people.

Now of course we can’t be over the top with this and act in conventionally strange ways.  We need to calibrate the intensity of our outward expression of delight to not go outside normal cultural conventions or to make the other person feel uncomfortable, but we should be like the sun. 

Not accepting invitations. 

If someone with a good motivation invites us to do something and without a good reason we decline merely out of pride, laziness, or anger, we incur a secondary downfall.  Valid reasons for declining are we are sick, do not have the time, it would make others unhappy, or it would be a danger to our Dharma practice.

To be honest, I have struggled with this one over the years.  I usually want to do my own thing.  I have my own plans and my own projects, and I work so hard both at work and at home that I frankly don’t usually want to go over to friend’s houses, etc.  I would just as soon stay at home and relax.  I also generally am not too fond of the normal banter and chit chat of social gatherings, finding it to be largely meaningless and a waste of time.  There have been many times when I have received invitations and my own selfish instinct is to say I am busy and I can’t go, but then I remember this vow and force myself to go. 

When I go, I am forced to confront all sorts of delusions in my mind.  First, I must overcome the selfishness of not being able to do what I want to do.  Second, I must learn to overcome my tendency to just sit in the corner and not engage with anybody else, but instead to go out and connect with people.  Third, I have to get over my Dharma snobbery thinking everything others have to say is meaningless.  What nonsense!  Everyone is a living being with a story.  Everyone has their troubles and their wisdoms.  Each new person is really like a nicely wrapped Christmas present and you don’t know what you will find inside by asking them about their lives, being interested in who they are, etc.  Everyone has a lifetime worth of acquired wisdom and they are usually happy to share it with me if only I bother to ask and learn.  Fourth, one of the most important skills of a Bodhisattva is the ability to actively listen to others.  Venerable Tharchin is the master at this.  There have been many meetings I have had with him where, in the end, he said almost nothing – but the way he listened itself answered all of my questions for me as I told my story. 

Professionally, I am a diplomat, so a big part of my job is – frankly – making friends with other people.  It is not just making friends for the sake of making friends, but finding out what everyone is doing and seeing if there are opportunities to collaborate on common projects, etc.  Sometimes I will encounter people who are vehemently opposed to something the U.S. government is doing or even people who are spying on me trying to figure things out.  Each person I meet is like a mirror revealing to me some weakness in myself, and by learning to get along with the person I have the opportunity to correct for that weakness.  It is only by breaking out of our safe cocoon and accepting the invitations we receive that we can do so.  You never know who you will meet or where that encounter may lead!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s