The Wisdom of Buddhist Teachings and the Gift of Sangha

During this Covid pandemic period, I have found Pema Chodron’s book Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change comes to mind frequently. I used to misremember the title as being Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and FEAR as I was well aware of my experience of uncertainty frequently being accompanied by fear.

In the book, Pema shares what are known in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as the three vows or commitments. These are three methods for embracing the chaotic, unstable, dynamic and challenging nature of our situation as human beings in wise ways that will benefit us and others:

  • The first commitment is to do our best to not cause harm to ourselves and others with particular attention to our actions and words. It is a commitment to try to live in an ethical way.
  • The second is a commitment to live in a way that is helpful and compassionate toward ourselves and others.
  • The third commitment is to use every circumstance we encounter, the ups and downs in life, as opportunities to grow and develop in positive ways.

It is the latter part of this third commitment that I can find particularly difficult. The downs in life are not events toward which I have a welcoming attitude. This pandemic period, however, has given us all an abundance of opportunities to get practice in trying to navigate unwanted challenges in life in ways that ultimately lead to positive learning and growth.

In my adult life I have become increasingly aware of how sharing authentically with others in groups which are safe facilitates positive evolution. During times of high stress, we need high support. Connecting with others in Sangha — where there is respectful, deep listening and authentic sharing — is invaluable. Our ability to live the teachings — these humanistic values — is enhanced by sharing our struggles, obstacles, and successes with like-intentioned individuals. We come to realize that we are all in the same boat, that we will never ultimately get it all together but that we can support one another in our endeavors to embody the teachings for our own health, happiness and wellbeing and the health, happiness and wellbeing of others.

I feel grateful to have discovered the teachings which help me see reality more clearly, to see the laws of nature and the laws of cause and effect. I am grateful for Sangha — the many people with whom I come together to work on putting these understandings into practice.

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