How to Handle Difficult Times
The world is filled with uncertainty,
But there is no means of stopping it,
Nor place of hope,
Other than you,
Undeceiving Three Jewels and Three Roots.
A Prayer to Avert Nuclear War
Today the world seems to have gone crazy. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, floods, tornados, hurricanes and other natural disasters seem to be much worse than before. Every day seems to bring news of another revolution in the Middle East. Civil war threatens in the Ivory Coast, Sudan and other countries. In the United States, the shrillness of the political debates seems to constantly increase, and radical, divisive agendas infiltrate the laws of the land. In Japan, the horrible news of the earthquake and tsunami is replaced by even worse news of radioactive contamination of the environment from the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
Meanwhile any improvement in the dire economic situation is difficult to detect. Gas prices are once again going through the roof. Everywhere we turn we are confronted by unsettling news. We start to feel trapped with no place to turn. We feel helpless and alone.
As Chatral Rinpoche, one of the senior lamas in the Nyingma school and the regent of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, suggests in his Prayer to Avert Nuclear War, there really is only place of refuge that we can turn to in times like these, and that is the Buddhadharma. As practitioners of Vajrayana Buddhism, we understand that our Tsawa’i Lama, our root teacher, is the very embodiment of Dharma in our lives. We need look no further. No matter how bad things get, we always have our root teacher to turn to, and it is there and only there that we will find what we are looking for. Even death cannot separate us from this refuge.
We are taught that phenomena like those in the world today arise from the collective negativity in the minds of sentient beings. When our minds are unbalanced, the result is that the elements in the world also become unbalanced, and disasters like we are now seeing ensue. And when disasters occur, countless sentient beings suffer and die. The karmic consequences are magnified when those involved in dealing with the serious incidents occurring around the world engage in secrecy in an attempt (usually in vain) to cover up the seriousness of the situation, TEPCO in Japan, for example, downplaying the seriousness of the radioactive contamination spewing from their damaged reactors. Such secrecy does not allow people to take the proper measures to protect themselves and their families, increasing the suffering caused by the incident.
Since the root of the problem is in our minds, what then is the answer to the deteriorating situation of the world? The only thing that most of us can do is to clean up our own mind as we do not have control over the minds of others. Identifying our poisons, learning how to antidote them and purifying the negative karma we have created in the past has an effect beyond just ourselves.
Bodhisattvas, however, have the ability to take on the negativity of a given situation, such as the Japanese earthquake and its consequences, and purify the karma to ameliorate the effects. Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo of Kunzang Palyul Chöling has been involved in the tragedy in Japan from the beginning, attempting to put forth some peace and calm into the situation there, and her efforts have seemed to bring some result. This writer personally takes great comfort in knowing that she is out there for us. As long as she is there for us, there is nothing to fear in reality.
Seeing a bodhisattva like Jetsunma in action with no regard for her own safety or comfort inspires her students to increase their devotion and redouble their efforts to attain the very same state so that they also may be of benefit to sentient beings. This is the purpose of our life, the goal we all strive for, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Only by achieving the happiness that does not end can we truly be a refuge to those who yearn for refuge from the storm.