Author Topic: Secrets of turning obstacles into opportunities to achieve great feats...  (Read 16282 times)

DSFriend

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I've had "Cave in the Snow, Vicki Mackenzie" for awhile now but just never got round to reading it till now. I'm half way through it and found it hard to put down. Tenzin Palmo, the 1st Western nun ordained by the Karmapa spent twelve years of intense meditation in a remote cave, 13200 feet up in the Himalayas all by herself.

Tibetan Buddhism were not easily accessible to women at that time. I've always thought that the greatest challenge for Tenzin Palmo was during the 12 years of solitary retreat in her remote cave. That was tough but she felt most alone, and discriminated in the Monastery of 100 monks. She wasn't allowed to learn rituals, receive higher empowerments, and teachings other than just listening to some buddhist stories...all because the female form is considered a weaker sex, an inferior born, filthy and not a vessel of the Law.
 
Where did this come about? Did Buddha taught enlightenment cannot be attained thru this form because it is inferior?

Tenzin Palmo's research shows that "The Buddha never denied that women could become Enlightened. In the early sutras the Buddha talked about thirty-two points of the body which were to be meditated on in depth. The meditator had to visualize peeling the skin off to examine what really was there - the guts, the blood, the pus, the waste matter. The Buddha's purpose was twofold: to create detachment from our obsession with our own body and to lessen our attraction to other people's bodies."

Tenzin Palmo made a vow to return again and again to show that Enlightenment can be attained thru this form. Sure does brings to mind how Goddess Tara arose.

In the book, Tenzin Palmo shared that by the 1st century AD during Nagarjuna's time, the object of contemplation had turned into a woman's body. The meditator now has to see the woman's body as impure which works out to arouse disgust in the female form, so as to gain detachment.

We sure are living in a different era, where dharma, rituals, secret teachings, that which are forbidden and kept are now available to women as well. How fortunate!

People of different times face different karmic obstacles. If I was Tenzin Palmo, would I have held on, not give up, and use the obstacles to fuel the motivation of making a vow to return in this form until enlightened or would I have long given up and become a bench warmer in some Church of England?

What is the secret of turning obstacles into opportunities to achieve great feats instead of letting it crush us?
« Last Edit: March 13, 2011, 05:10:46 PM by DSFriend »

Big Uncle

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In Buddhism, the person whom we can easily associate with compassion is our mothers (besides our Gurus). So, when we contemplate on all sentient beings of having been our mothers before at one lifetime before (because our previous lives is as numerous as the sands on the riverbanks of the Ganges), we developed compassion for all beings. All mothers are female.

We, too were female once before in various lifetimes and so in Tantra, deriding women is deriding ourselves and our infinite potential for compassion that leads us to become fully enlightened. Hence, it is one of our sacred Tantric vows to always respect women.

As for turning obstacles into opportunities, it is the stuff of great thinkers, spiritualist to never give up on our spiritual practice. As it gets harder, it is a sure sign that you are advancing along the spiritual path. Hence, never giving up and always stepping back to assess ourselves where we are is important. I say assess and not criticize and when we find ourselves inadequate, we read the stories of great practitioners to inspire ourselves. 

Helena

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What a beautiful story and sharing, DS Friend! Thank you so much.

Now, I am also inspired to read "Cave in the Snows". 12 years is really amazing! I can't even sit still and meditate for more than 25 minutes - without seeing my mind fluttering about into every where else but my main object of concentration.

In any case, I love how Tenzin Palmo's story is so likened to Tara's story. I'd like to see that it is the very "Tara" energy in her that motivated her and inspired her to do what she did. So, she must have a strong affinity with Tara - may be.

I remember a friend telling me that a Guru will only point out and trigger what is already in us. Otherwise, it is not possible at all. If something is not in us, then it cannot be cultivated - it's like the seedlings are already there inside us. Then the Guru comes and does what he needs to do in order to make that seed in us grow and blossom fully. Our Buddha potential.

At the beginning, we the students may not realise any of this, because we do not see any of it in ourselves. Probably drowned by too much bad karma and lifetimes of bad habituations. Hence, the Guru is so essential.

So, the 16th Karmapa can only encourage and cultivate what Tenzin Palmo is already capable of.

Now, how does all this answer your question about turning obstacles into opportunities to achieve great feats?

1) Trust the Guru
2) Commit and go all the way like what Tenzin Palmo did
3) Trust in yourself because your Guru cannot give you something that you cannot achieve

We are all capable of greatness, because we all have the Buddha nature in us.

If we give up, we will have lost.

If we continue, we will definitely achieve something.

Helena

hope rainbow

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A person that can turn problems into opportunities has a powerful tool at hand!
A problem is nothing more, nothing less than our karma at play, it is the demonstration of The First Noble Truth -the truth of suffering.
For some of us, we have a vague notion of what suffering is through sipping on a coca-cola while watching CNN, not exactly compelling. CNN does not come across as a "problem".
For some of us, we see decades of hard work and commitment disappearing with a tsunami wave, we see our relative all die within seconds, house gone, car gone, job lost, everything was going as we had planned a few seconds earlier and then everything is gone, gone with the wave... Now, that is a problem, the only opportunity in it is that one gets very, very clear on the concept of The First Noble Truth, propelling one to learn more about the other three Noble Truths.
Then, most of us are in between.
So are we waiting for a tsunami wave to be clear on the concept of suffering?
Or are we in denial, and turn our relatively small problems into "self-pity parties" instead?
A small problem that is not turned into an opportunity is a cause for another problem, be it depression, resentment or what...

Big Uncle

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Cave in the snow is a namthar! Namthars means liberation stories. These are life stories of great masters and practitioners that brave through tremendous obstacles personal and those of others to come out triumphant and benefiting others. They are meant to inspire us to go through ours and to keep spirituality as our main priority in life because thats what they did to benefit others. I love all these stories and especially of modern Lamas like Kyabje Pabongka Rinpoche, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche and Kyabje Zong Rinpoche.

DSFriend

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A small problem that is not turned into an opportunity is a cause for another problem, be it depression, resentment or what...

I do agree. Due to ignorance, we play "ostrich" with the problems we face. We either pretend it's not there or just wallow in self pity over it. Either way, the problem is still there and we have not cultivated any compassion towards ourselves or others nor acquired any new skills to work through it. Before we know it, we are hit with waves and waves of problems and eventually finds ourselves drowning in it.

High beings do the opposite. Every single challenge is an opportunity to cultivate compassion and wisdom. Thus, they rise higher and higher in the face of each and every challenge.

hope rainbow

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Due to ignorance, we play "ostrich" with the problems we face. We either pretend it's not there or just wallow in self pity over it. Either way, the problem is still there and we have not cultivated any compassion towards ourselves or others nor acquired any new skills to work through it. Before we know it, we are hit with waves and waves of problems and eventually finds ourselves drowning in it.
High beings do the opposite. Every single challenge is an opportunity to cultivate compassion and wisdom. Thus, they rise higher and higher in the face of each and every challenge.

It resonates with my personal experience so accurately what you have said here DSfriend, I had to quote it, so it appears again on this topic line, and maybe more can read.

From personal experience, I should say, there is a part of me which is attached to "problems", attached to "obstacles", because it appears so much more comfortable to be "incapable" of doing something than "having to do it".

It's a bit like a husband pretending that he couldn't possibly learn how to iron and when he tries, does it really wrong (same goes for dish-washing...), so that the wife takes that over and does not even bother asking for help anymore. That is being sneaky, not only with others but with ONE SELF!

But when it comes to spirituality, to act like this is to lack compassion towards ONE SELF, I really like that highlight on DSfriend's post!

pgdharma

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Due to ignorance, we play "ostrich" with the problems we face. We either pretend it's not there or just wallow in self pity over it. Either way, the problem is still there and we have not cultivated any compassion towards ourselves or others nor acquired any new skills to work through it. Before we know it, we are hit with waves and waves of problems and eventually finds ourselves drowning in it.
High beings do the opposite. Every single challenge is an opportunity to cultivate compassion and wisdom. Thus, they rise higher and higher in the face of each and every challenge.

It resonates with my personal experience so accurately what you have said here DSfriend, I had to quote it, so it appears again on this topic line, and maybe more can read.

From personal experience, I should say, there is a part of me which is attached to "problems", attached to "obstacles", because it appears so much more comfortable to be "incapable" of doing something than "having to do it".

It's a bit like a husband pretending that he couldn't possibly learn how to iron and when he tries, does it really wrong (same goes for dish-washing...), so that the wife takes that over and does not even bother asking for help anymore. That is being sneaky, not only with others but with ONE SELF!

But when it comes to spirituality, to act like this is to lack compassion towards ONE SELF, I really like that highlight on DSfriend's post!

Only losers and cowards do not like challenges. If we persevere and never give up, we will achieve something!!!!

hope rainbow

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Only losers and cowards do not like challenges. If we persevere and never give up, we will achieve something!!!!

Perhaps those that "like" a challenge, do so because:
1. they can foresee the positive results from stepping to it,
2. they are not afraid to succeed,
3. they are not afraid to fail neither.
The thing is this: from stepping to a challenge, positive results arise regardless of failing or success, thus there is only failure in not stepping up to the challenge.
(easily said though)

heartjewel

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I do agree that losers and cowards do not like challenges.  This is also the character of a lazy person. It is easier to say you cannot because there is no effort used and you don't suffer physically or mentally. But then you will not progress. Even if you fail when you can do it or not. Then only you can say you have failed. As for the part of the husband trying to help the wife in ironing clothes. Off course he will not be able to do a proper job without being taught.  So the wife should practice compassion and patience and teach the husband the correct way.     

kurava

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In Buddhism, the person whom we can easily associate with compassion is our mothers (besides our Gurus). So, when we contemplate on all sentient beings of having been our mothers before at one lifetime before (because our previous lives is as numerous as the sands on the riverbanks of the Ganges), we developed compassion for all beings. All mothers are female.

We, too were female once before in various lifetimes and so in Tantra, deriding women is deriding ourselves and our infinite potential for compassion that leads us to become fully enlightened. Hence, it is one of our sacred Tantric vows to always respect women.


Yes, during Nagarjuna's time practitioners were taught to meditate on the impurity of a woman's body  so as to  overcome desirous attachment ; especially so  in the Theravaden tradition.The  Theravaden school is likened to the roots of a tree, Mahayana the trunk and Vajrayana the branches and leaves. All three schools are to be learned and  practiced as we progress.

With young children, parents teach them not to play with fire or electricity. When the children become older, parents will teach them the functions of fire and electricity, how to use them without getting hurt.

Similarly, as the practitioner progresses from the small scope to the medium and great scopes; to generate the Bodhi mind , he/she will contemplate the love of  a mother which is the closest we can relate to in order to understand and develop in ourselves the unconditional love a buddha has for all sentient beings.

Just as it is said in the Lamrim, there is no contradiction in all of Buddha's 84,000 teachings if we know when to use each one according to our situations and needs.

If we understand this point, then being a woman is not an obstacle to our spiritual practice. I would see it as an aid because only mothers can relate easily in the contemplation of the sevenfold cause and effects  to generate the mind of bodhichitta  :D

WoselTenzin

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A person that can turn problems into opportunities has a powerful tool at hand!
A problem is nothing more, nothing less than our karma at play, it is the demonstration of The First Noble Truth -the truth of suffering.
For some of us, we have a vague notion of what suffering is through sipping on a coca-cola while watching CNN, not exactly compelling. CNN does not come across as a "problem".
For some of us, we see decades of hard work and commitment disappearing with a tsunami wave, we see our relative all die within seconds, house gone, car gone, job lost, everything was going as we had planned a few seconds earlier and then everything is gone, gone with the wave... Now, that is a problem, the only opportunity in it is that one gets very, very clear on the concept of The First Noble Truth, propelling one to learn more about the other three Noble Truths.
Then, most of us are in between.
So are we waiting for a tsunami wave to be clear on the concept of suffering?
Or are we in denial, and turn our relatively small problems into "self-pity parties" instead?
A small problem that is not turned into an opportunity is a cause for another problem, be it depression, resentment or what...

I totally agree with Hoperainbow on how amidst all the hopelessness we see in our suffering, the only silver lining in the cloud is that it gives us a clearer picture of the truth of suffering. 

It makes us realize at a deeper level the senselessness of samsaric existence and impermanence.  It makes us want to delve deeper into Dharma and find a solution within our own mind.  There is very little we can do to change our external environment.  However, we can learn from this sufferings and cushion ourselves from it's effects by protecting our minds with the understanding and eventually the realisation of the Dharma. 

Suffering after all does have its good qualities.  It makes us more humble, teaches us patience and make us realize the senselessness of our samsaric existence and our attachments.  We most probably would not realize it if we do not experience any suffering.

Helena

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In Buddhism, the person whom we can easily associate with compassion is our mothers (besides our Gurus). So, when we contemplate on all sentient beings of having been our mothers before at one lifetime before (because our previous lives is as numerous as the sands on the riverbanks of the Ganges), we developed compassion for all beings. All mothers are female.

We, too were female once before in various lifetimes and so in Tantra, deriding women is deriding ourselves and our infinite potential for compassion that leads us to become fully enlightened. Hence, it is one of our sacred Tantric vows to always respect women.


Yes, during Nagarjuna's time practitioners were taught to meditate on the impurity of a woman's body  so as to  overcome desirous attachment ; especially so  in the Theravaden tradition.The  Theravaden school is likened to the roots of a tree, Mahayana the trunk and Vajrayana the branches and leaves. All three schools are to be learned and  practiced as we progress.

With young children, parents teach them not to play with fire or electricity. When the children become older, parents will teach them the functions of fire and electricity, how to use them without getting hurt.

Similarly, as the practitioner progresses from the small scope to the medium and great scopes; to generate the Bodhi mind , he/she will contemplate the love of  a mother which is the closest we can relate to in order to understand and develop in ourselves the unconditional love a buddha has for all sentient beings.

Just as it is said in the Lamrim, there is no contradiction in all of Buddha's 84,000 teachings if we know when to use each one according to our situations and needs.

If we understand this point, then being a woman is not an obstacle to our spiritual practice. I would see it as an aid because only mothers can relate easily in the contemplation of the sevenfold cause and effects  to generate the mind of bodhichitta  :D


I love what both of you wrote, Big Uncle and Kurava.

Some Buddhists do tend to forget that we have had many different lifetimes as both men and women. And perhaps, even as animals or other beings. We become too fixated with our current form and fall prey to our attachment due to our current form. Hence, we do need to learn and understand the Dharma, step by step. Or scope by scope.

When the monks contemplate on the impurities of women, it is that women are impure or bad. It is the monks' ideas, desires or perception of women in general that may be impure. Hence, the monks need to contemplate and work on the very things that they are distracted by or are attached to.

Similarly, for all of us, if we are not ready or mature enough, or even stable enough to handle higher teachings, how can we expect to see results from it? Hence, we start from beginner's level and move on to the next. If we have not fully grasped the basic teachings and show some consistent results in practising these fundamentals, then it would be foolish to think that we can handle anything higher.

As children, we did not understand the dangers of some things - be it fire or electricity. Hence, as a result, we may get hurt. But once we learn and understand, we know how to best use these things such as fire and electricity to benefit us or people around us. It is no longer harmful or dangerous per say, but useful even.

Everything is not rigid and does not stay the same.

With higher understanding, we learn how to best utilize or even maximize something to bring about the greatest benefit to us and all around us.

It is when we do not understand something well or have wrong views of it, that's when something becomes dangerous or even fatal. And this is applicable to everything in our lives. Whether it is in our professional, personal or spiritual life.

The old saying, don't run before we can walk does have some wisdom in it.





Helena