Being contented

Birds sing, squirrels chatter, the morning sighs. I’m content. However, in a split second, I could jump right into misery. 

His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, teaches emotional stability. “In the context of secular ethics, perhaps the antidote to destructive emotion with the most urgent and immediate relevance for our everyday lives is what is called soe pa in Tibetan. Though usually translated as patience, it includes tolerance, forbearance, and forgiveness.  It really means the ability to endure suffering. It entails not giving in to instinctive urge to react negatively to difficulties.”

I could not have followed Gandhiji’s way of “fighting” with non-violence. I’m sure I could not have turned the other cheek. Now, His Holiness suggests, “… soe pa has nothing to do with being either passive or impotent. It is not a case of tolerating just because you do not have the ability to hit back. Nor is it enduring injustice grudgingly, through gritted teeth. Genuine patience needs great strength. It is fundamentally restraint based on mental discipline.”

One night recently, two girls visiting our neighborhood during a festival, threw stones at my veranda. At first it was a few pebbles; then the size increased. When I asked them to stop, they ran away. I was infuriated. Within minutes they returned hurling larger stones with surprising force. Meanwhile, I was shaking with rage. I had to calm down before taking action.

Our beloved Lama, says, “Like falling ill, becoming angry is not deliberate. Also, given that the perpetrators of harm are human beings who aspire to happiness and wish to avoid suffering, they too are deserving of concern. Kindness and forgiveness are much more better responses to hostility than anger.”

I stormed out into the dimly lit streets searching for the girls. I found them, spoke to them and their family members, as well. They had wanted to go onto the property behind my house to play ball with some children. They had been denied access and were hurt. They couldn’t get past the security at the complex behind, and decided to throw stones at my house. I understood their frustration, as they wept at being rejected. My energy shifted to compassion.

“There is a saying in Tibetan that ‘at the door of the miserable rich man sleeps the contented beggar.’ The point is not that poverty is a virtue, but that happiness comes from not wealth but setting limits on desires and living within the limits with satisfaction.”

Tonight, I am enjoying my veranda, drinking coffee and listening to a tree frog serenade. I am learning to revel in contentment when it arrives. My heart sends a wish out to the girls: Be happy.

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