Tuesday, March 03, 2009

raising the world

listening this morning again to teachings that were given by his holiness the karmapa in bodhgaya... this series of teachings was given specifically for western students this past january while i was in bodhgaya, and i was swept up in a rather strange confluence of conditions - not least of which was the presence of 60 poles hungry for dharma teachings but quite a few lacking enough english language to follow the teachings. anyway somehow i ended up co-translating the teachings into polish with my friend and dharma sister beata stepień. although i had been quite fluent when living in poland in the mid-80s, polish is not exactly a language i use daily. after a year of living with spanish as a daily language, sharing as home as i do with two mexicans, attempting to translate simultaneously from tibetan - a language i am struggling to become fluent in, into a language that was struggling to arise from the murky depths of my linguistic memory made for a very disorienting cognitive experience. as i translated the words seemed to be skipping over the english part of my brain - the part where most actual thought takes place, and much of the meaning also seemed to have leapt over with the words. so there was much new to be heard when listening now a second time.

one bit of advice that his holiness offered for parents with a commitment to a spiritual practice struck me as potentially useful to … well, to people with children. in a style that i am coming to recognizing as vintage hh karmapa, the advice he gave is deeply buddhist in one sense, but potentially relevant to virtually any spiritual practitioner.

in short, his advice is to raise your children in a loving way, with the thought that you are doing so in order that they come to be of benefit to the world.

simple, right? in fact, it may sound so simple that one fails to see how much effort it will take to really live by - or how transformative it might really be if one is able to do so.

actually, his holiness cautioned, to do so as a spiritual practice, one will have to make a deliberate point of bringing this wider purpose to mind, again and again. the objective has to be made clear, as if one were setting a policy for oneself. otherwise one can end up being vague and inconsistent about what exactly one is doing in one's child-rearing. so when parents are engaged in any activity to care for and raise their children, they can intentionally cultivate the thought that they are seeking to give their child a good upbringing with the aim of making a contribution to the well-being of the larger society, and ultimately of all the world.

although he did not say so, it seems to me that this attitude shifts the emphasis from simply one's own offspring (or one's nieces and nephews, in my own experience), whom we can often end up treating as extensions of our own egos, to a vast and inclusive wish to contribute to well-being and goodness in the world at large. for most parents, it may not materially change their external behavior, but internally, it seems to me cultivating this vast intention could shift something subtle but important.

not having children, it is hard to say how this might work, and i would be extremely interested to hear from anyone who experiments with this practice. but i will say, i have found his holiness' advice to be devastatingly powerful, if put into practice.

anyway, for those parents inclined to read advice on child-rearing posted on a nun's blog, there you go!

...photo is taken during those teachings. beata is the one looking happy to my right, i'm the one beside her straining to hold her brain's language centers together.

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