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Buddhist Advice For Tough Times... via Sakyong Mipham

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Two Tibetan American Buddhist gurus, back in the day. Best-selling Buddhist author and teacher Sakyong Mipham (right) with his father, Chogyam Trungpa (founder of Shambhala, Naropa, author of Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism). Photo via Flickr.

I grew up in an American Buddhist community, now called Shambhala. Instead of playing little league (which I did, too) I grew up practicing kyudo, ikebana, attending Buddhist seminaries at Shambhala Mountain Center and serving as sergeant major at Shambhala Sun Summer Camps (kinda the Buddhist version of Boy and Girl Scouts). Basically, my world was centered around a meditation-happy community whose aim it was to achieve, then export, inner peace. Converting people? Nah, that's for theists. As the Dalai Lama says, stick to your own tradition, begin what you start. Our aim, rather, was simply to work with other similarly-inspired communities in creating enlightened society.

And so, in these days when our news is filled with the karmic results of our Greed is Good ways--AIG, Merril Lynch, Madoff and Ponzi schemes...with climate change, pine beetles and bust mortgages...with wars abroad and obesity, drugs and depression at home...I personally find it helpful to turn back to my Buddhist tradition.

Wondering what Buddhism might have to say about these 'dark ages,' I found this pithy talk by my Buddhist teacher, best-selling author (and marathon-er) Sakyong Miphm. May it be of benefit! ~ Waylon Lewis

Advice for the Dark Ages, a message to the American Buddhist Shambhala community. For the full text, go to the Shambhala site.

~ via Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche.

This is a very difficult time. The upheavals in the financial world are causing widespread distress, as are fears about climate change, intensified political polarization, and rising aggression. It is what the Buddhist teachings call a "dark age." We experience the darkness as confusion, unhappiness, and lack of purpose.

It was for times like these that the Buddha gave the teachings on enlightened society to King Dawa Sango, the first sovereign of Shambhala. At present, the truth of those teachings is clear. For a society to be truly harmonious, it cannot be based on greed and anger. When we understand this, we see that what is happening around us is literally caused by the absence of [enlightened] vision [meditation practice, compassion and aspiring to work toward a peaceful society].

Uplifting our minds and increasing our life-force energy begins with that vision. So I am asking all of you, as citizens of [enlightened society], to rise to this occasion.

First, take these precious teachings [meditation, compassion] to heart and practice them. That includes meditating for a short period every day to stabilize your mind and generate compassion. Contemplate your unshakeable karmic connection to the lineage [of brave, decent peaceful warriors who practice meditation and study peace] and reflect on your nature as the profound, brilliant [fundamentally good king or queen of your own world].

Second, see fear for what it is: a lack of trust in your genuine being, which naturally radiates compassion and kindness. Take the big view of what is most important in this and future lifetimes: to become stronger and more realized in order to help others. Take care of yourselves, but don't hide behind the false security of self-protection. From the ground of basic goodness, open your heart and serve others.

Third, be generous. This is not a time to close down or hold on, but to offer from the natural well-spring of generosity. Be generous with those you love, but also with those you are tempted to blame or dislike. Be generous, too, within your community, which needs your support more than ever.

Practicing, serving, and giving: this is the path of the warrior bodhisattva. It is both transcendent and earthy. When we orient our minds this way, we are creating a sustainable environment. The wealth that it generates is inexhaustible.

I love you and am with you as we tread this golden path together.

The Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche.

Below: The Sakyong with his wife. Photo via Helen A. Vink, check her lovely photos out here.


And now for the video that elephant journal highlighted in a long-ago issue, back when it had something like 2K views (since, with the help of countless inspired video-watchers, it's gone viral):

Bonus bonus: How to Conclude the Day, via Sakyong Mipham:

How to Meditate:

Finally, a fun one chronicling the Sakyong's arrival in his old homeland, in Tibet:

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