February 1, 2015 § Leave a comment
In her January 2015 talk at Florida Atlantic University Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo said we would only cause ourselves more problems if we try to dissolve the ego while it is hurting. Let us examine this in light of a recent TV broadcast on depression.
In the broadcast a man described his depression in a way that bears some startling similarities to Buddhist experience. He said he could never identify with all the accolades he received from the public. He could never see himself as the star or hero that others said he was. Instead, he was aware that behind these false images lay an emptiness that signified the nothingness of his being. And falling into that nothingness terrified him.
In Buddhism we are told something similar but with an entirely opposite meaning. The ego is an illusion and our true nature is emptiness but that emptiness is a state of Fullness and Light, not nothingness. Additionally, Buddhism asserts that though one’s individuality cannot be defined by concepts this does not mean there is no one there who suffers. To say that would be as nonsensical as saying if we stopped calling it blue, the sky would no longer exist!
It does not take much to imagine the man in the TV broadcast falling into a deep pit of depression were he to attempt to dissolve his ego without first healing himself. Fortunately, he began his healing journey when he finally admitted that something was wrong and that he needed help. It is a curious thing that when hurt we often seek solitude as a means of self-protection. Yet self-healing starts when we find someone with whom we can admit our pain.
It is important to acknowledge one’s suffering and seek help when hurting. This is especially so when seeking instruction in Buddhist thought and practice. Yet many hide their pain instead, thus inhibiting their instructor from providing the help that is appropriate to their situation. And for many who have been traumatized by life’s cruelties that help starts right here and right now by befriending your own self.
To quote* Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, “the Buddha said that we are to begin our practice by radiating loving-kindness to ourselves. We start by thinking, ‘May I be well and happy. May I be peaceful and at my ease.’”
She also wrote, “The point is that when our mind is filled with generosity and thoughts of kindness, compassion, and contentment, the mind feels well.” So, if you are hurting, start expressing these qualities to your self as the Buddha prescribed. Practice loving-kindness toward yourself and know that any thought or experience of self as nothingness is an illusion. Your true nature, “you”, is utterly pure and perfect.
* (Into the Heart of Life. p. 174 then p. 173)