Pages InformationWriter admin Date17 Oct 2006 Read10,022 Comment0
I have news for you young people: something bad will happen to you in your lifetime. It could be anything—a breakup, a loved one dying, a car accident—but for sure, something really awful will come your way, if it hasn’t already. That much is known. What is unknown is how you will handle it: whether you will be someone incapacitated by tragedy who inflicts her suffering on those around you and makes things worse or whether you will come out on the other side a stronger, wiser, better person who helps others grow, too.
I’m 28--I’m still pretty young--but already a few painful things have happened in my life. I watched my younger brother lose his mind right before my eyes and walked with him as he spent the next four years in and out of mental hospitals. Although the love of friends and some good luck helped me through this difficult time, more than anything else Buddhism is what saved me from going to that locked ward myself. I was raised by Zen parents and had been taught the tool of meditation and trained in the spiritual arts from day one. Because of this, whenever bad things happened in my life, I always had something to help me deal with it.
A lot of people find religion or God when a crisis happens. But, trying to figure out the meaning of it all as these crises happen is like trying to pass a final exam without having studied. Therefore, it’s a much better idea to have a framework, something in which you believe that helps you create meaning and purpose, BEFORE the crisis happens. Having this framework—whether it’s religion, or spirituality, or ethical system—in place beforehand is probably the best insurance policy you could ever buy into.
So I’m actually making an argument for religion or some kind of higher path or faith in general. However, I also happen to believe that the Buddhist tradition offers, at least for me, 1. a highly coherent philosophy and psychology that 2. works intelligently with a clear ethical system and 3. gives me the tools to activate those ethics, to become a better person, through its well-developed meditation practices. In my experience, these three work together to create an extremely powerful framework not just for survival but for true transformation.
With dharma teachings, it is possible to turn catastrophes into victories. For example, sometimes people think a catastrophe is license to distribute their misery to everyone around them, making what is already bad even worse. However, with a strong spiritual practice, you may find that you not only transform your own misery but you also become an example of how to be happy, how to be a good person, to other people around you. In that way, you become a leader, you become an inspiration to your family and friends.