I used to be so naive. I used to think that I was such a nice person and that I was a poor little helpless victim of life.
When things fell apart, I would lock myself in the room and cry for days. I was crying for me. Poor me, sad me, pitiful me, oh, woe is me!
And it went on like this for years. I'd get into bouts of depression because things failed or I was found to have made a big mistake.
Upon closer inspection, I was more sad because I was found out or that the mistake was actually created by me and I was the cause of the problems.
No, I didn't like that one bit.
I had failed to see where I had gone wrong and how I had created the causes for things to fall apart. I was more than willing to assign the blame and responsibility to someone else. It made me feel better to know it was not me, but someone else or something else.
I know it is twisted.
I wanted to be the captain of the ship, but I did not want to be held accountable. I wanted to chart my own destiny, but I did not want to be blamed when things go wrong. And that is just for starters.
The truth is, I have always wanted the glory, the fame and the recognition. I gave, helped and donated because I wanted people to like me and say that I am a nice person. My motivation to do many things were not altogether, pure. It was always stained with some self-serving desire.
For years, I did not even realise this until one day, I got involved with helping in one of Kechara Soup Kitchen's charitable event back in 2008. The real ugly me made its presence felt and known. Not just to one person, but to many people, including my mentor and Guru.
Slowly, but surely, I had allowed a monster to take over all of me. How did it happen? Simple, really. As long as I remained attached to wanting to be liked, recognised and praised for things that I did not accomplish, I was feeding the monster in me. As long as I allowed myself to think only of me and what I wanted at the cost of others, I was fueling the fire of the monster.
Would I say that the monster was the real me? Yes, it was. But the monster was just part of me. It was NOT all of me. However, I had to sum up all my courage to DEFINE THAT - separating a monster inside me from taking over all of me.
In life, we go through all kinds of situations. Sometimes, we screw up big time and we fall. But we do not have to stay there and stay down.
When I was found out, I still fought to look innocent and refused to bear the part of my responsibilities. This was how stubborn and self-serving I was. I was more intent for the blame to fall on others. This is how our self-cherishing ego works all the time.
Because I was more interested in pitying myself and feeling sad for myself, my depression became the key for the monster to grow even bigger than it was already.
By the time I had the courage to look myself in the mirror, I could no longer see myself. Then, I began to doubt who I was really and what kind of person I was deep inside.
I'd spend days and nights feeling sorry for myself and feeling depressed. Paralyzed in that state. What I didn't realise was that my depression had consumed me. And it was leading me down a spiral staircase into the pit of darkness. Without thinking clearly, I gladly followed the steps down. Before I knew it, I was falling.
When we keep bashing ourselves for the wrongs we have done but not spend any time on thinking how to resolve the situation and learn from them, then we will not grow. We will definitely descend further away from our sanity and our spirituality.
Depression is a double edge sword. It can fool us into thinking we are a victim and we continue in our own self-pity party but never grow. Or, it can delude us into believing that we are the cause of the problems and we stay imprisoned in our sadness. Either way, depression works only to stop us from moving on and progressing.
I learnt that the hard way.
But I can honestly share, that it is well worth it. We can beat ourselves up but how does that make us into a better person and grow from here? What is the most important lesson that we need to learn here? Do we even know it?
It is not easy to rise, I know. I have been there. But if we do not rise, what will become of us? Will we always be defined by our falls and mistakes?
Do not be fooled by our own sadness, or depression. Do not be deluded by our own tears. They do not help us in any way to grow and progress further. Really, they do not. All they do is drain us of our energy which should have been invested for better and more positive use - to turn things around.
"We move ahead a few steps, then we go back a few steps…we find it hard to battle the ‘inner demons’ within ourselves fighting all the time…we find the secret struggles never end…it almost seems futile… we find transformation so difficult. Does it get any easier? It doesn’t get easier. The battle never stops. It gets worse and the struggles will bring us down. THAT IS GOOD. If there was no battle, then we know we are on the wrong path. The battle is actually our own efforts….efforts long overdue and weak at this point. Sometimes we fall because most of the time we were down, and now we are starting to get up, as we get up we fall. The fact that we fall, means we are getting up again and again. Remember Buddha under the Bodhi Tree in the last watch of the night, the maras attacked Him full force…even one so close to Buddhahood was attacked…so imagine for us? Never give up..because there is nothing to give up for." ~ Tsem Rinpoche
When we get up and fight, we are fighting for our right to become a better person and not remain as the monster or selfish person that we have been. Every individual is made up of many characteristics. We possess both the good and bad. But it is only through challenging situations, that we get to see what we are made of and what is the level of our mind.
When the shit hits the fan is when we will see where we are really at, in terms of our spiritual practice and our state of mind. We will see very clearly how stable or unstable we are, as we get thrown into various circumstances. Having experienced my share of "shit-hitting-the-fan" scenarios, I know better now. Instead of being afraid or sad, I'd focus and observe my mind and see how it is reacting.
Understand that our mind is only reacting to what we are attached to. And if we truly want to conquer the demons within, and kill the enemy within, we will not hesitate to look deeper and keep digging. FIND OUT THE TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES, even if it is scary.
In Vajrayana practice, we are very fortunate because we have a Vajra Master, or the Guru who would create different situations for us to purify our karma and face our demons. Sometimes, the Vajra Master or Guru would even manifest different personas for us to face our enemy within. And this is actually a very good thing.
So, instead of being afraid or sad, no matter how wrathful or painful it can get, welcome this with open arms. Be very grateful that we have such a precious opportunity to purify our bad karma and even assassinate the enemy within.
Yes, it is not easy, I know. NOTHING GOOD IS EVER EASY. ALL BAD THINGS ARE EASY TO DO.
This is where trust and faith in our Guru will be severely tested and demonstrated.
This is where trust and faith in our Guru will be severely tested and demonstrated.
If we calm ourselves and think clearly, we will come to appreciate how kind our Guru is to put himself or herself through such a process in order to help us.
Just imagine that in our bodies lie a very toxic poison that is both lethal to us as much as it is to anyone who even attempts to extract this poison out from us. However, if this poison is not removed from us, we can never heal completely. It gets worse, from one life to the next, if we believe in karma. And even if you don't believe in karma, you will experience its terminal effects in this very life alone. If there is no antidote, we cannot be cured. Simple as that.
Now, imagine that immense kindness and compassion of the Vajra Master and Guru who takes the risk and responsibility upon himself or herself, to extract this venom from us so that our healing can begin. Fully knowing that the poison could kill him or her, in the process. This is how much our Gurus and Vajra Masters care for us all.
So, while we are so engrossed in our own self-pity party or anger or disappointments, we may not even realize how much our Gurus truly care for us. We may find it hard to maintain a pure view of our Gurus because we are more concerned with consoling ourselves. Hence, trust and faith in one's Guru is so crucial in Vajrayana. Especially more so when the Guru is extracting every poison out of our bodies. Bear in mind, our Gurus are not dealing with just one body or one person. Our Gurus have many students and friends who need just as much help. So, imagine how much work our Gurus have before him or her, if you can.
"No one wants to suffer. No one wants to feel pain. No one wishes to die. To make others suffer, feel pain and killing them will invite the same. Karma is blind to race, creed, religion, background, beliefs and understanding. It is universal. Never harm anyone or anything. Karma is ever recording our deeds." ~Tsem Tulku Rinpoche
Suffering is a state of mind. And it is very different from person to person. And it is not easy to see beyond our own suffering, while we are going through it. However, if we did not have any trace of the self-cherishing venom in us, we would not be experiencing any suffering in the first place. Also, if we did not create the causes for certain situations to arise, they can never arise.
At the end of it all, the most important question we should ask ourselves is, do we want the causes of our suffering to end? Not just temporary but permanently.
If we do, then we need to rise after our fall.
We need to rise as quickly as possible, and not waste more time in our suffering.
Yes, we do not need to dedicate more time into our suffering than necessary.
Focus on what truly helps us grow, learn and move on. We will gain a much better and stronger us in the end.
There may be monsters and demons that reside within each of us, but there are also angels, heroes and the Buddha nature that are also within every one of us.
Recognise which is the real enemy and attack the real enemies, not our saviours, friends and Gurus. More importantly, do not just beat up ourselves over and over. Only our enemies within.
May virtue always triumph in each of us.
MAY WE WIN EVERY FIGHT AND NEVER GIVE UP.