An ancient set of Buddhist slogans offers us six powerful techniques to transform life’s difficulties into awakening and benefit.
1. Turn all mishaps into the path.
2. Drive all blames into one.
3. Be grateful to everyone.
4. See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness.
5. Do good, avoid evil, appreciate your lunacy and pray for help.
6. Whatever you meet is the path.
1. Turn All Mishaps into the Path
The first slogan, Turn all mishaps into the path, sounds at first blush completely impossible. How would you do that? When things go alright we are cheerful—we feel good and have positive spiritual feelings—but as soon as bad things start happening, we get depressed, we fall apart, or, at the very best, we hang on and cope. We certainly do not transform our mishaps into the path. And why would we want to? We don’t want the mishaps to be there; we want them gone as soon as possible.
We are not talking about miracles. We are talking about training the mind.
Yet, the slogan tells us, we can turn all of this into the path. We do that by practicing patience, my all-time favorite spiritual quality. Patience is the capacity to welcome difficulty when it comes, with a spirit of strength, endurance, forbearance, and dignity rather than fear, anxiety, and avoidance. None of us likes to be oppressed or defeated, yet if we can endure oppression and defeat with strength, without whining, we are ennobled by it. Patience makes this possible. In our culture, we think of patience as passive and un glamorous; other qualities like love or compassion or insight are much more popular. But when tough times cause our love to fray into annoyance, our compassion to be overwhelmed by our fear, and our insight to evaporate, then patience begins to make sense. To me it is the most substantial, most serviceable, and most reliable of all spiritual qualities. Without it, all other qualities are shaky.
2. Drive All Blames Into One
The second slogan on transforming difficult circumstances is famous: Drive all blames into one. It, too, is quite counterintuitive, quite upside down. What it is saying is: whatever happens, don’t ever blame anyone or anything else; always blames only yourself.
This is tricky, because it is not exactly blaming us in the ordinary sense. We know perfectly well how to blame ourselves. We’ve been doing it all of our lives. We don’t need Buddhist slogans to tell us to do this. But clearly this is not what is meant.
Drive all blames into one means that you can’t blame anyone for what happens. Even if it’s actually some- one’s fault, you really can’t blame them. Something happened, and since it did, there is nothing else to be done but to make use of it.
3. Be Grateful to Everyone
Be grateful to everyone: this is very simple but very profound.
You need others every single day, every single moment of your life. It’s thanks to others and their presence and effort that you have the things you need to continue, and that you have friendship and love and meaning in your life. Without others, you have nothing.
So to practice be grateful to everyone is to train in this profound understanding. It is to cultivate every day this sense of gratitude, the happiest of all attitudes. Unhappiness and gratitude simply cannot exist in the same moment. If you feel grateful, you are a happy person. If you feel grateful for what is possible for you in this moment, no matter what your challenges are, if you feel grateful that you are alive at all, that you can think, that you can feel, that you can stand, sit, walk, talk—if you feel grateful, you are happy and you maximize your chances for well-being and for sharing happiness with others.
4. See Confusion as Buddha and Practice Emptiness
The fourth slogan, See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness, requires a bit of explanation. This goes beyond our conventional or relative understanding to a deeper sense of what we are. Though conventionally I am me and you are you, from an absolute perspective, a God’s-eye view, if you will, there is no self and other. There’s only being, and there’s only love, which is being sharing itself with itself without impediment and with warmth. It just happens to look like you and me to us, because this is how our minds and sensory apparatus work. This love without boundary is emptiness practice.
See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness means that we situate ourselves differently with respect to our ordinary human confusion, our resistance, our pain, our fear, our grief, and so on. Rather than hoping these emotions and reactions will eventually go away and we will be free of them, we take them to a deeper level. We look at their underlying reality.
So do attend births and deaths whenever you can and accept these moments as gifts, as opportunities for deep spiritual practice. But even when you aren’t participating in these peak moments, you can repeat and review this slogan, and you can meditate on it. And when your mind is confused and entangled, you can take a breath and try to slip below the level of your desire and confusion. You can notice that in this very moment time is passing, things are transforming, and this impossible fact is profound, beautiful, and joyful, even as you continue with your misery.
5. Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy, Pray for Help
First, do good. Do positive things. Say hello to people, smile at them, tell them happy birthday, I am sorry for your loss, is there something I can do to help? These things are normal social graces, and people say them all the time. But to practice them intentionally is to work a bit harder at actually meaning them. We genuinely try to be helpful and kind and thoughtful in as many small and large ways as we can every day.
Second, avoid evil. This means to pay close attention to our actions of body, speech, and mind, noticing when we do, say, or think things that are harmful or unkind. Having come this far with our mind training, we can’t help but notice our shoddy or mean-spirited moments. And when we notice them, we feel bad. In the past we might have said to ourselves, “I only said that because she really needs straightening out. If she hadn’t done that to me, I wouldn’t have said that to her. It really was her fault.” Now we see that this was a way of protecting ourselves (after all, we have just been practicing Drive all blames into one) and are willing to accept responsibility for what we have done. So we pay attention to what we say, think, and do—not obsessively, not with a perfectionist flair, but just as a matter of course and with generosity and understanding—and finally we purify ourselves of most of our ungenerous thoughts and words.
6. Whatever you meet is the Path
This slogan sums up the other five: whatever happens, good or bad, make it part of your spiritual practice.
In spiritual practice, which is our life, there are no breaks and no mistakes. We human beings are always doing spiritual practice, whether we know it or not. You may think that you have lost the thread of your practice, that you were going along quite well and then life got busy and complicated and you lost track of what you were doing. You may feel bad about this, and that feeling feeds on itself, and it becomes harder and harder to get back on track.
But this is just what you think; it’s not what’s going on. Once you begin practice, you always keep going, because everything is practice, even the days or the weeks or entire lifetimes when you forgot to meditate. Even then you’re still practicing, because it’s impossible to be lost. You are constantly being found, whether you know it or not. To practice this slogan is to know that no matter what is going on—no matter how distracted you think you are, no matter how much you feel like a terribly lazy individual who has completely lost track of her good intentions and is now hopelessly astray—even then you have the responsibility and the ability to take all negativity, bad circumstance, and difficulty and turn it into the path.
by Mind Relaxing