Vows, commitments and modern life:  Don’t ruin the party

Fighting or arguing during a tsog offering ceremony.

If we lose pure view of ourself and others, develop anger, and start arguing or fighting we incur a gross downfall.

During a tsog offering ceremony, we imagine that all of the participants are actually heroes and heroines and the ceremony itself takes place in the pure land.  All of the offerings we make are completely pure and they are offered up to the holy beings.  When we are in the presence of influential or well-respected individuals, we are naturally careful to act in respectful ways.  Surely, when we are in the presence of all the Buddhas, we should show the same courtesy.

It is said that one moment of anger directed at a bodhisattva creates incalculable negative karma which will result in many rebirths in hell.  During a tsog offering ceremony, all of the Buddhas of the ten directions enter into the bodies and minds of the practitioners assembled, and so if we generate anger towards one of the participants, it is karmically as if we are generating anger towards the deities within them.

On the surface, it seems highly unlikely that this will happen.  But the reality is different, at least on the inside.  While it is true we are unlikely to enter into open argument with others during a tsog ceremony, internally we may still harbor resentment towards somebody else in the Sangha participating and find ourselves spending our time during the ceremony generating minds of anger towards the person, going over again and again all the different ways in which the person is wrong and faulty.  Sometimes people who do not live in Dharma communities mistakenly think that those who do must all live in such wonderful harmony, after all everybody there is trying to cherish others, practice patience and so forth.  But this confusion belies a failure to understand the cause of disharmony.  Disharmony does not arise because the people around us are do disagreeable, rather it arises because our mind is still infected with anger.  Whether we are with the nicest people on earth or the worst people on earth, if our mind is filled with peace and love, we will feel only peace and love; and if our mind is filled with anger and critical thoughts, we will feel only anger and hostility.

The example is given in the lamrim of the person who thinks they need to get away from everybody to avoid their delusions, but then they find themselves meditating in the cave developing attachment for certain bird songs and aversion to others.  If the mind engages with the world with a deluded outlook, it will project deluded problems onto any appearance, even those one perceives while living within in a Dharma center.  The mind has an uncanny ability to recreate the same problems in any number of circumstances, which shows the problems we experience have nothing to do with the objects we are encountering, but rather have everything to do with our mind.

When problems arise between any two people, whether they live in a Dharma center or outside of one, people have a choice:  either they allow these problems to drive them apart, or they use the problems to draw themselves even closer.  If you spend time with older people who have been together for a very long time and you ask them what is the secret of the longevity of their relationship, they all say the same thing:  “conflicts arise, as they do in every relationship, but we view them as an opportunity to draw closer to one another by working through them.”  Ultimately, any distance we feel with anybody comes from delusion, because at the core we are all inseparably one.  It is only our tight grasping at self and others, and our cherishing of ourselves over others that gives rise to conflicts.  Conflicts, in and of themselves, are not a problem.  Rather, they are an opportunity to train our mind in patient acceptance, love, consideration for others and so forth.  If we view the foibles of whoever we are with through this light, there is great hope that we can build enduring relationships with everyone.

In the context of a Dharma center, we can view all of the problems that arise between its members as emanated by Dorje Shugden to give the people of the center an opportunity to train their mind and gain the realizations that the people of their community need.  Quite often, the problems that arise in a Sangha community are a microcosm of the sorts of problems that tend to arise within the broader community of the city or town where the center is located.  This is not surprising because there are many karmic reasons we find ourselves in a given city and we also tend to get socialized into the delusions of our local culture.  Venerable Tharchin says that the ability of a center to grow depends almost entirely upon the collective realizations of the members of the Sangha and the harmony that exists between them.  If a Sangha community accepts the tensions that invariably arise among the members of the community as an opportunity to gain the realizations that the community needs, then by working through these difficulties they will gain such realizations.  These realizations then act like a spiritual magnet drawing towards the center those who need such wisdom.

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