The best advice in the World


Bhante Samita with my youngest Daughter

Good advice is something a man gives when he is too old to set a bad example

I know that your situation is unique, and very personal to you. Probably you feel like no one can truly understand your feelings about this because they are not living in your shoes. That anger, sadness, anxiety is so powerful and intimate, yet you feel strongly that you need comfort and guidance from someone.

Most of us will usually turn to a friend for counsel and solace. And while most of our friends may love and care for us, they are not usually the ones with a profound wisdom. In fact, often they have so many of their own difficulties and simply enjoy the distraction of listening to your problems. A sense of empowerment arises, and while listening to your troubles, your friend does not have to face the realities of their own personal inner turmoil. With the only outcome of these conversations being unskillful advice offered to you in addition to a potential new difficulty with your friend.

Going to a higher level, any of us may reach out to a Priest, Nun, Monk or professional counselor for advice. And in my humble opinion, this is more skillful than laying it on your friends or Family members. But the same root problem exists when we speak to these individuals as well. We are looking for the advice, the magic words, that will console us and ease our suffering. But the bad news is that these people can only show you compassion and perhaps make you feel that you are not facing these difficulties alone. And while they do have compassion I’m sure, you still bear these things alone. They are yours because you have made them yours.

We all have a tendency to personalize each and every situation. And quite often these disturbing emotions truly have nothing to do with us personally at all. Its someone else’s words or actions that we have attached to and created our own story to help feed and support these negative thoughts. But let’s say that it is not about another person, but something more directly connected to you. How often can each of us see that even at those times, it is still based on the actions or inactions of another person that is causing us so much distress? But we often justify this in our mind by viewing it as a personal attack on us. Thinking about how this person, who is so very close to us, is harming us or themselves and we feel powerfully compelled to make that our own. I recall once again the lesson I learned from dear Bhante Samita when he taught me that no on can hurt your feelings, you can only hurt yourself. While it was a very tough pill to swallow at the time, it has had lasting benefits because it is exactly true.

A couple of years ago, the Blue Lotus Temple was graced with a visit from the Buddhist nun Venerable Madika. I remember her ending her talk about disturbing emotions by summing it up in a few words. She ended with “shut up and get over it”.
To some, I’m sure this seemed hard and lacking compassion. But in fact it was wonderful advice if we could understand her true meaning and intention. This lesson was about dropping the stories, and letting go. Having the awareness, wisdom and gentle detachment so that we may accept things simply as they are. These things include all those around us, and even our own weaknesses. Hence, the best advice in the World would seem to be to those words of Bhante Sujatha,¬†who suggests that we accept, be mindful, and cultivate loving-friendliness. There is no need to fill any void with stories or drama. Cultivating our own wholesome qualities is the most loving thing that we can do for ourselves. The benefits and the peace you acquire will quickly become self-evident and self-effacing.