2013-12 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Listening, are You?
- What’s Wrong With Everybody Else?
- Learning to Listen in a Different Way
- Adjusting Your Vision of the World
- Looks Like a Duck, But Does It Walk, Talk and Act Like One?
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(Based upon guidance in Resonance, Issue 7, 12/2013)
For buddhist practitioners, and arguably everyone in general, the actions and words of others are our best reflection of who we are, and what we represent to others. Going through life thinking, “Wow, everyone I know is so negative. Why can’t they be more positive?” Or when service at an establishment is particularly poor or excellent, it isn’t so much a random factor of what solely someone else chose to do. We, as the other 50% of that interaction, are bringing ourselves, and our own actions, speech and thoughts to the very same connection with another person.
We observe that each of those opportunities to connect with another person come with messages, spoken and unspoken. Each of us may hear these voices in every encounter, and find in them lessons for reflection and action. Listen to the words of your mother and father. Listen to your husband or wife. Listen to what everyone around you has to say. Listen to all manner of counsel, and to the groans of the sick and suffering. You will find the voices of the buddhas hidden within them. Listen with sincerity and awaken. This most basic practice is the first step toward a direct experience of the timeless essence of buddhahood.
Think about what you feel when you hear or receive the communications from others. What goes through your mind if someone is uttering a robotic, “Thanks, have a happy holidays…” over and over, versus someone who seems to have genuine appreciation or caring, and simply smiles and says, “Thank you.” You can sense whether someone is genuinely conveying gratitude, or repeating a rehearsed autonomic script designed by a marketing writer. And did the way you approached the situation, invite the kind of response you received?
When you start to really figure out what it’s like to be in another person’s position, perhaps a fast-food service clerk who meets an endless stream of people who just want to get through an order, and perhaps really would prefer an iPad menu to a human interaction, becoming increasingly numb towards the never-ending line of people waiting for their turn to hear, “Welcome to… may I take your order?” Do you ever start that interaction with gratitude that they’re ready to help? Or do you respond equally automatically, “Yes, I want…” Listen to yourself, and think about if that’s the kind of words you want to receive. Listen to others and discover why they respond that way to you.
Of course, listening without resulting action is equally non-productive and does not lead to actual practice. So, in performing your own personal fitness listening training, you will also develop your skills in conveying compassionate truth. People who ask for opinions and comments are easier to deal with than those refusing to listen, but even then the words chosen must not only be heartfelt and kind, but also be appropriate to the recipient.
Realize first that a person who is taking the time and energy to refute what you’re saying, and arguing, has already demonstrated a basic caring of your opinion, otherwise why not just shrug and walk away? How do you know when the wrong words are in-use? Ever witnessed a conversation that goes, “Oh, you’re so stubborn.” And the reply is, “No, I’m not!” — wrong words, with a defensive response. That person doesn’t want to hear that they’re stubborn. There’s a different path to get through what you’re trying to say. But to know that path, you need to be open and understanding what the person wants. For that person, being stubborn is a negative trait, with which they consider being labeled as unacceptable But their passion, commitment, and perseverance are all alternate ways they express their steadfast determination. So it’s those traits that are yours to learn to appreciate..
Achieving the bodhisattva path is not about simply shaving your head like a monk – at that point, you now have a shaved head. That would be akin to holding a paint brush and palette of enamel paints, and saying you’re a painter. The Shinnyo Path is a lay Buddhist practice based upon what you do, not what you try to appear like, or say you’re going to do.
So, what is a bodhisattva life? …doing what is basically right, such as being honest and making efforts to be in harmony with others, all the while thinking what it means to be an example to others. It’s about trying to become someone that others can count on, be it at home as a good family member, or in the community and society at large. This is what it means to accomplish what bodhisattvas do, and walk the path to becoming a buddha oneself (also known as… enlightenment.)
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