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Life Is The Challenge

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha explained that, “Life is Suffering.” He could have very well said, “Life is always going to be challenging.” There is always going to be occasions for conflict and division. However, we are to view these moments not as oppositional to life but rather opportunities to learn, to grow and to sow seeds of compassion which result in healing and renewal. It is never what is happening to us in life that matters, but rather our response. It is what we bring to the moment, conflictual or not, that makes the real difference.

To live a “Spiritual Life” is to bring to every moment of our lives a particular “point of view,” a view in the fact that the world is “interconnected and interdependent”. In resolving any form of conflict within ourselves and in any moment between me and you, we have this “point of reference” to help us resolve any conflictual experience we may be having. Ego tends to view conflict from a place of “me versus you,” a point of view which historically has always lead to more conflict and division, never any real resolution. We understand this point of view to be rooted in what the Buddha identified as the “Cause for Suffering” or “conflict,” which he identified as “Ignorance”. Cessation from suffering in any form follows whenever we are able to rise above ignorance and see the larger picture.

Whenever I speak about “Creating Sustainable and Fulfilling Relationships,” I say that what is essential is that both parties learn how to create a space, a kind of agreement that, “Anything that shows up in the relationship is not viewed as oppositional to the relationship.” Relationships include disagreements and sometimes conflict. If we are willing to view disagreements, different point of views, opinions and needs, as just a matter of being in relationship and not a threat to the relationship, we will always be able to find our way back to each other; Buddhist refer to this as having “Right Understanding,” or “Point of View”. What follows is “Right Thought or Intention,” and “Right Speech,” and “Right Action.”

How we think about the moment informs our speech and our actions. In a world so divided and a nation so polarized, we need to learn “ways to find our way back to each other, toward living together.” We can begin by always coming from the point of view that my thoughts, words, and actions, matter. It’s never just what I say, but also how I say it. Do my words reflect a sincere desire to bring resolution to the conflict or to just “be right?” Am I saying, “I love you” or “I love me?”

In Zen, we view “Relationships” as “The battleground for Enlightenment.” When we understand our interconnectedness to mean, “We are either going to float or sink together,” then we will find a way to talk and act for the benefit of all sentient beings and not just one.

I love you.

Seijaku Roshi is the founder of The Center for Spirituality and Contemplation, and spiritual director of Pine Wind Zen Community at 863 McKendimen Rd., Shamong, N.J. He is a Zen-Buddhist Monk, parent, author, life coach and Abbot. For more information, visit PineWind.org.  

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