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Purification Through Patience – part 2

This is my adaptation of a teaching I received in 2006.

We need to be fully accepting of everything, welcoming it wholeheartedly without wanting it to be otherwise. For example, with respect to others, think how we can practice not just an acceptance but an allowance. We need to allow people to think, say and do things a little bit more than we presently allow them to. We should to allow people to have their own way. It’s difficult because we always want to have our way, to do things our own way, so it’s quite a step just once in a day to allow someone else to do what they want, because what we feel is “it’s still not right, there will be some harm here, because I know what’s best. The best results always come if we follow my way.”

So, in the same way I asked the question what does “it’s wrong” mean, now I’ll ask what does “it’s best” mean? Best for what, best for whom, best for when, best for where? We do what we want to do and another person becomes really unhappy. So is it best for them? No. Of course not, because they are unhappy. How can you say it’s best for them, they’re unhappy! “Well the long term result . . . in the long term they’ll be happy.” Ridiculous! What does it matter anyway if it is ‘best’? If we’re going to say something is ‘best’, ‘best’ allow someone to have their own way, to do things that they think are best, unless there is genuinely some harmful result.

If we’re really intent on purifying our mind so that we experience all good results, then just allow someone to do what they want. Allow someone to speak. We don’t even do that, not properly. We can’t because we want to speak. After a short while we’ve had enough of listening. We don’t fully listen anyway, because all these thoughts are coming up about what we want to say, aren’t they? Then there comes a time when we don’t allow that person to speak, we speak ourselves. Sometimes we speak over people: they’re speaking but, because we’re not allowing that, we just speak more loudly, at the same time. Actually in today’s society that’s quite normal, often you hear three or four people all speaking together. Who’s listening? No one, they’re all just talking, they’re not allowing anyone to speak and then listen to what they’re saying.

I would say even if someone’s being horrible to us, they’re saying horrible things, allow them to. Think carefully about the results you would really like to see, even the results for that other person. Just allow them to speak in that way. Perhaps they are criticising you for something, perhaps even for something you haven’t done. Allow them to, and then afterwards, if you are able, then apologise. It hurts, but you are trying. You are allowing that person to say what they want to say — so purifying. It depends what you want. I would say that in that case it is immensely purifying, because if you wanted to, you could do something about it: you could just tell them to shut up. But what good results? You keep telling someone to shut up, such intolerance, not accepting, not allowing that person to say what they want to say, not allowing any bad feelings to remain in our mind, what will happen? There’s no purification taking place whatsoever, because of our habitual negative, deluded response. What do you want? “I want to purify my mind.” OK, this is how you do it.

When we share similar wishes and another person wants just what we want, we should allow them to be “the first to get the best” as Geshe Chekhawa calls it. It’s so far-reaching this advice, allowing others to be the first to get the best. If together we’ve accomplished some great result, what we should want is for other people to receive praise. If someone else comes along and praises us we should say “no, it’s this person, they worked so so hard.” Or perhaps they didn’t, and that person’s praised, and we’re thinking “but . . !” Just allow it to happen, don’t do anything, because we could.

Think about all the things that happen in a day and what actually you just allow to take place without some kind of contribution, changing causes and conditions so that you can get what you want and avoid what you don’t want. If you can start patiently allowing, then you will find that your perception and experience of everything begins to change, through the purification that begins to take place. If you are genuinely taking these steps, the purification is strong, it’s deep and it can take place quickly. Please do not underestimate this practice as a purification practice. You will find that your perception and experience of suffering, of what you would normally consider to be going wrong, it changes. Really. Your perception and experience of people, situations you find yourself in, definitely they begin to change. Why are they changing? Because of the purification that is taking place. Over weeks, months, years. So many changes will take place in your mind, especially with respect to adversity. Our usual fear of adversity, of sufferings, of difficulties will diminish until finally it will cease. We won’t be afraid of what may happen, and when something does happen that most people would think would be terrible we don’t suffer, we don’t suffer anywhere near as much, we don’t feel ourselves to be in as much danger. Many of our fears and sufferings begin to disappear, oddly, because rather than working with the usual causes and conditions, we’ve stopped. Rather than being so concerned, looking outside for causes of things going wrong, for example, causes of our suffering and so forth, we stop. And then whatever happens we accept, we allow to happen, and the fears, sufferings, dangers begin to go.

Of course we need a lot of courage to engage in such a practice. It’s not easy, but if we rely wholeheartedly upon our Spiritual Guide [Al-Hadi], He will give us that courage. We need to rely upon our Spiritual Guide if we are going to engage in this practice, let alone achieve success in it. He will give us everything we need, He will help us to accomplish such great results with this practice, but we need to rely upon Him wholeheartedly. Our Spiritual Guide provides what is best for us. We don’t really know what’s best for us, our Spiritual Guide knows what’s best for us, so He provides just what we need. Our Spiritual Guide provides us with conditions that will bring out the best in us, conditions that will function to draw out the good potentialities that we have in our mind, conditions whereby we are able to purify our mind. In dependence upon our Spiritual Guide’s blessings our mind is transformed. We do not fully understand how our mind is purified and transformed through receiving blessings, but sometimes we feel that purification, that transformation taking place, such is the power of the blessings.

We ask our Spiritual Guide to help us in many ways to do many things. In this context we are asking our Spiritual Guide to help us to purify our mind. And then let Him help, allow Him to help, to do what He knows is best. So previously I was saying “our Spiritual Guide knows what’s best”; of course, with His omniscient wisdom He knows what’s best and will do what’s best out of His compassion and supreme skill. We need to give Him that opportunity: “You know what’s best, please help me to purify my mind.” We want opportunities don’t we? The more opportunities the better. If we really do wish to purify our mind and there is an opportunity to do so, surely we’re going to take it, aren’t we? Further, we’re going to look for opportunities aren’t we? “Please give me as many opportunities as possible.” Our Spiritual Guide will always provide us with opportunities. If we want, He will give us one opportunity after another. Recognise them, ask for those opportunities, look for them. He’s providing us with opportunities, so where’s the next one? “Ah ha – here’s another one. My Spiritual Guide has given me another opportunity. It’s just what I want. An opportunity to purify my mind. How wonderful. Thank you.” And we take that opportunity. We wouldn’t want to miss it. We take it. Believing also that He will help us to take that opportunity. He will help us during that time to purify our mind, as long as we are turning to Him, we must keep turning to Him for help. “Please help me, I want to purify my mind. Help me. Keep helping me. There’s this great opportunity. It’s a hard one this one. Help me.” And He always will, of course.

He knows what potentialities we have, He knows the obstructions in our mind, He knows those potentialities that are obstructing the ripening of our soul, He knows what’s getting in the way. If we ask, He will help us to remove those obstructions so that there is no longer anything obstructing our progress towards complete purity. If we believe that He knows what’s best, then we can appreciate whatever comes our way as an opportunity to purify our mind of such obstructions, especially when things are difficult, especially when we experience some discomfort or pain, physical or mental. Actually there are so many opportunities, if we check carefully. There are so many opportunities in just one day to purify our mind. Imagine taking every one of those opportunities! If we really take every opportunity, believing that we are being given those opportunities, how long would it take to purify our mind? Not long.

Many saints in the past have purified their mind swiftly especially in dependence upon a profound reliance on their Spiritual Guide. At the end of their life? No way. The end of their impure life took place within just a few years through purifying their mind completely. There are many, many examples, hundreds, thousands of examples of saints who purified their mind so quickly. They purified their mind completely by taking one opportunity after another that they felt in their heart was given to them by their Spiritual Guide, in one day, again and again and again. We can do that. We can be purifying our mind so much right now every day. Getting closer, and closer, and closer. The saints have done it in the past. Different circumstances, different times, different conditions and so forth, but essentially that purification can take place and in dependence upon that deep reliance on the Spiritual Guide, we can transform into pure beings.

The Burden of Purity

Here is a thought experiment:

Stage 1: Imagine that you are the leader of a small religious denomination. Let’s call the religion ‘Prayerism’ and your denomination is called the ‘Traditional Prayer Church’. Imagine that Prayerism is a major world religion, which is thousands of years old with hundreds of millions of followers. The Traditional Prayer Church is only a small denomination, numbering perhaps ten thousand followers.

Stage 2: As the leader of the Traditional Prayer Church you sincerely believe that the whole religion of Prayerism is under threat. You believe that over the centuries the religion has degenerated, and that it is now in its final decline. You believe that the vast majority of people practicing Prayerism are either practicing an inferior version of the religion, which is missing some of the essential truths, or they are practicing a degenerate form of the religion in which important truths have been distorted or mixed with outside elements (which means it is no longer ‘pure’ Prayerism). You believe that now only the Traditional Prayer Church is teaching a pure and complete version of Prayerism.

Stage 3: As leader of the Traditional Prayer Church you are living in a country which has not traditionally been Prayerist, and where Prayerism is not part of the indigenous culture. Your students are mainly first generation Prayerists who are relatively inexperienced and who rely very heavily on your interpretation and authority.

Stage 4: As the leader of the denomination one of your main aims is to train people as full-time teachers and practitioners of Prayerism, who will embody the very highest ideals of the religion. You therefore face a dilemma — should you share your belief about the degeneration of the rest of the religion with your students? Clearly this is a dilemma, because believing that you are one of the few remaining upholders of a major religion is an incredible psychological burden. As leader you strongly feel the weight of this burden.

Stage 5: In contemplating this dilemma do you focus mainly on the truth of what you believe, or do you mainly consider the impact that burdening your students with this belief will have on them? Will it be productive for their spiritual development if your students believe that they are the only guardians of a major religion? Or will the enormous pressure cause them to self-destruct?

Stage 6: Alternatively, what will happen if you never share your pessimistic belief with your students. Instead of thinking that they are in the only pure denomination and that all the other denominations are either degenerate, inferior or impure, your students will grow up thinking that they are just one group of Prayerists among many. In this scenario they are likely to have more respect for members of other Prayerist denominations. Do you want this, or as leader would you prefer that they looked down on other Prayerists? Do you want them to feel superior, to feel ‘purer than thou’? Or do you worry that if you do not share your pessimistic beliefs that your students will not feel enough pressure to perform? Are the traditional religious motivations alone insufficient to bring your students to a state of purity?

Stage 7: Another option is for you to give different teachings to different students. In your public teachings you can sometimes teach respect for other denominations, but in your private briefings you can criticize them. If you adopt this approach you may be accused of being disingenuous, and your close disciples who have received the private briefings will still be burdened with an enormous sense of responsibility.

What should the leader of the Traditional Prayer Church do? Please suggest answers in the comments section below.