In addition to “others first,” another important resource the mind training tradition offers us is a set of specific practices for empowering both our life and our death (point 5 of the 7 points of mind training, Great Path of Awakening page 25).
In both cases we are applying the same five practices, literally called the five strengths or powers, but in a different order and with somewhat different content depending on whether we have entered the bardo of dying or not. According to the Vajrayana teachings, the bardo — or transitional state — of dying begins as soon as we know what’s going to kill us, e.g, when we get a terminal diagnosis, even if we potentially have years yet to live. However, since we don’t always get a lot of notice, it’s good to be familiar with the five ways to empower our dying process even when we are fit and healthy, and especially if we find ourselves facing a fearsome cause of serious illness and death.
13. To repay injury with acceptance / how to use suffering on the path
Though I’ve not done the slightest thing that’s wrong, / Without a cause someone cuts off my head.
To generate compassion in my heart / And take upon myself all their misdeeds:
This is the way a bodhisattva trains.
verse 13 audio
Contemplation based on Ken McLeod‘s commentary: “Drop any concern for justice and fairness. These are ideals, ideas that your patterns easily twist and shape to their own ends. Practice goes nowhere if you follow this path. You are soon lost in interpretation, conceptual thinking, unacknowledged prejudice and bias.”
What does Ken mean by this, and do you think he is right? Should we ever intervene in situations to combat unfairness or abuse? If so, how can we do it without compromising our practice?
Homework: Be vigilant for the feeling that you are being treated unfairly. Catch it as soon as it arises, analyze the situation according to the verse 13 commentaries, and apply the remedy.
I can think of two situations in life when it’s painfully obvious that ego-clinging is counterproductive. The first is in dealing with very young children. The second is in dealing with dementia. In neither case will you ever win an argument using fact or reason, and when you fail and it feels frustrating, who is it that suffers? It’s not me…it’s my ego-clinging!
The Buddha pointed to ego-clinging as the root source of all our suffering, but do we really know what it is or how to recognize it? Who is this mysterious shadow lurking behind our every thought and action, spoiling every otherwise perfect experience?