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i thought you buddhists were … (what, perfect?)

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“Are advanced practitioners allowed to have personal problems? As Buddhism is absorbed into western culture, there is growing unease … about the fact that, even after many years of meditative practice, they still experience the whole range of emotions, confusion, suffering, and grief that are associated with the conduct of personal relationships in a world of impermanence.  … My suggestion … is that this arises from misunderstanding what the Buddha actually taught.”

David Brazier. (2001). The feeling Buddha: a Buddhist psychology of character, adversity, and passion. London: Robinson, p. 50. Brazier was for many years a monk in Asia, obtained a PhD in psychology, and now works as teacher, psychotherapist, and author in England.


12 responses »

  1. Peter,

    I think this is true of any person that has a spiritual practice, that others around them are aware of…

  2. “…we still experience the whole range of emotions, confusion, suffering, and grief that are associated with the conduct of personal relationships in a world of impermanence …”

    Yes. And slowly, much as I try to fight it, (and I try a lot!!) the truth slowly dawns on me that the reality of life is that it is riddled with difficulties, and they will not go away! It means the only power I have in facing the suffering I encounter on a daily basis, is in how I respond to it – both in myself and in relation to others.

    This is extremely hard for me. I see injustice, I want to fight it. This is particularly relevant here in Britain right now because of the new government’s ruthless and ill-considered cuts to Welfare, Housing, etc. It is frightening. I am struggling to find a balanced way to respond to it all…
    Loving kindness is not foremost in me when I think about what they are doing!

    Jack Kornfield talks in ‘A Path with Heart’ about ‘stopping the war’ – the war we fight against everything which makes us face the fact that things are not perfect or as we want or expect them to be… I want to stop the war in myself, but I don’t know how to reconcile that with standing against injustice in the world…

    …rather unclear ramblings here, I am struggling and any offers of advice, perspective, clarity would be most welcome!

  3. I’m glad to hear from you again, Fiona.

    (1) Calming the rage and hurt within is an urgent matter deserving your full attention. Let others do the outside work until you feel strong(er).

    (2) Suffering is integral to the human condition, it’s the dark side to happiness — one needs the other.

    (3) Loving kindness can only come from a heart that is loved and cared-for. Please go and stay there as long as it takes before mounting the barricades :-).


  4. dear peter, thankyou for your kind words of advice.

    I was going to contact you personally about this, but decided to be brave and put my response on here instead…

    1) I understand what you are saying here, and agree. However, when one lives alone and there is no-one else to do the outside work, even on the most basic level, it is not easy to just let it all drop to attend to the inner conflict…

    2)yes, this is what is gradually, truly sinking in, not just as a concept or mental understanding, but as an embodied reality…

    3)mount the barricades… hobble up to them very slowly is about all I could manage!! : )

    This is the frightening bit – when one’s very livelihood is seriously threatened – homelessness, not being able to afford food, medication etc – then how can one just sit and tend to one’s heart? I know it probably has been done… did the monks and nuns evicted from Bat Nha monastery manage to do it? But I am finding it very difficult when more urgent outer matters always need to be dealt with.
    A re-ordering of priorities may be needed, but even making the time to do that inner work is a struggle.

    This is reminding me of an old post – March 17th – when you talked about how it seemed that Western Buddhism appealed mostly to white middle-class able-bodied people… the point I made at the time,I seem to remember, is that those who are poor, sick, disabled, homeless etc are so up against it trying to survive that they do not have the luxury of attending meditation groups or retreats…or even doing their own practice.

    Perhaps, instead of writing this post I should be sitting instead… but I felt the need to reach out and ask for help.

    Non-attachment is my challenge I think, if I could just step back and see it all from a distance…

  5. dear fiona
    i’m glad that you replied to the blog so that i could read it // i felt the ‘realness’ in what you were saying … i felt i could relate on some level having been a single parent and having my own struggles along the way…alot rising from limited finances … it can bring alot of despair and worry…
    i just wanted to say that throughout my day, i thought of what you’d written, and each time i said to myself…fiona…may you be well.

  6. dear dawne,
    bless you. thankyou so much for what you have said and for thinking of me and wishing me well, it means so much. today is my birthday, and I couldn’t have wished for a better gift.
    with love,

    • dear Fiona,

      May you bathe in the blessing of your innate goodness, enjoy the moments when pain and discomfort subside, and know that you are loved.


    • dear fiona
      it made me feel good to know that you felt some love and especially on your birthday.
      my small action came from a heart response; as i know how alone i have felt when i’m deeply feeling despair or worry, quite often about finances.
      it sure feels good to know we’re not alone.
      blessings & love to you

  7. Dawne and Peter, thank you both for your loving kindness. To know that someone understands, someone cares enough to reach out with compassion, brings hope to my heart. Yes, awful things are going on around me… AND so are good things. May you both be well and happy, may all be well and happy.

  8. Dear Fiona
    I’m just catching up with this thread.
    May I wish you a belated, and heart-felt, Happy Birthday.
    And may I be allowed to dedicate the merit of my next sit to your well-being and courage.
    We cannot know the far-reaching effects of our presence, real or on-line virtual.
    Nor do we need to, or to put it another way, it is sometimes a blessing that my ego doesn’t know!
    Your quiet courage, and deep wisdom, and your caring humanity in these blog topics – despite, or perhaps because of your own personal challenges – have touched my often, and deeply.
    It is easy for me to view the world with cynicism, and a sense of powerlessness.
    Your presence on these pages inspire me and call me back to face my world as it is.
    Thank you.

  9. malcolm, thankyou so much, what a generous and lovely gift – to dedicate your sit to my well being. I am deeply touched. And thankyou for saying that I have made a difference. This is such a heartening thing to hear for someone whose life is very limited by illness.
    I am unable to get out much and so cannot share much with others. This online ‘sangha’ is a place where I can, and I truly value it. The ill and disabled can often feel invisible and so to be told you have made a difference in someones life is great, not only for their sake, but also for your own, it makes you feel that you matter in the world. I am glad you keep coming back to what is, tough but vital!


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