I recently alluded to avoiding a decision for fear of displeasing others. It’s an old dilemma, this pleasing behavior, going way back to abusive relationships during childhood and apprenticeship years. Now that the decision is clear and has been communicated, I’m immensely relieved … and amazed how difficult it is to jump the shadows of ancient conditioning.
At issue were my studies in a two-year training program leading to certification as a Buddhist chaplain. I’d found that the program’s content was too far removed from my everyday learning needs at hospice. For a while I tried to overrule my intuitive decision to withdraw for the fears already mentioned. I didn’t want to disappoint the head of the program nor my manager at work. I was similarly attached to the magic power of a piece of paper and a robe upon graduation.
The Four Noble Truths of the Buddha’s fundamental teachings relate to suffering: its nature, origin, and cessation. We/I suffer because of attachment or clinging. In this instance, I clung to old behavior patterns (which caused all manner of discomfort [suffering], including a sense of dishonesty and unkindness towards myself and my elders) as well as the prestige that might come from being “certified” by a famous teacher.
There are several stories in Zen mythology about students receiving their teachers’ grand approval. Here’s one:
The Zen master Mu-Nan sent for his disciple Shoju one day and said, “I am an old man now, Shoju, and it is you who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book that has been handed down for seven generations from master to master. I have myself added some notes to it that you will find valuable. Here, keep it with you as a sign that I have made you my successor.” Shoju burned it immediately!
source: Kornfield, J., & Feldman, C. (1996). Soul food: stories to nourish the spirit and the heart. HarperSanFrancisco, p.233.