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book cover: Approaching the Buddhist Path

Maintaining a Positive Attitude


Approaching the Buddhist Path

Volume 1 of The Library of Wisdom and Compassion

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and
Ven. Thubten Chodron

Wisdom Publications

From a Buddhist viewpoint, cyclic existence has been faulty since beginningless time. Because all sentient beings are under the influence of afflictions and karma, trying to create a perfect world by rearranging external conditions is impossible.

Because of this worldview, Tibetans do not expect so much from external situations. They accept difficulties more readily and are more easily satisfied.

If we cultivate a view that does not expect fantastic happiness and magnificence in cyclic existence, we will be more content with what we have. Rather than leading to apathy or complacency, having modest expectations makes our minds more stable and prevents discouragement.

How can you bear it?

People ask me how I can bear the suffering in Tibet. When I compare the suffering in Tibet with the suffering of cyclic existence, the latter is much worse.

We can’t close our eyes to suffering of any kind. Looking at our own suffering, we generate the determination to be free—this is compassion for ourselves. When seeing the suffering of others, we generate great compassion and bodhicitta and engage in practices that directly or indirectly contribute to their well-being.

Can we help?

Sometimes we may want to help, but the situation may not allow it.

People who do humanitarian work in war zones speak of the danger they face in places where human beings have many disturbing emotions and cannot think clearly. These aid workers have one foot there and one foot ready to run, because there is no value in their getting killed.

Even if the Buddha were to go to some of these places, he could not do much to help.

Under these circumstances, we may have to leave the situation physically but can continue to send our compassion and pray for the well-being of those trapped there. We can actively work to educate people in danger of being drawn into the conflict.

Although we may not be able to extinguish the fire, we can at least prevent it from spreading. Do not ignore the value of this.

Developing courage

Well-meaning individuals ask me how to develop the courage to keep trying to make a difference in a world that seems so chaotic. No matter how numerous the difficulties and no matter how large the obstacles, if our aim is reasonable and beneficial, we must keep our determination and maintain constant effort.

If something is good for the larger community, it doesn’t matter whether that goal materializes during our lifetime; we must keep working toward it.

The next generation can build upon the good work we have done, and with time things will change.