June 15, 2009

Discovering Your True Nature.

Several years ago, I read in a book that at one of the Mind/Life Conferences with the Dalai Lama and various scientists and doctors, the topic of self-hatred came up. The scientists asked His Holiness how a person deals with self-hatred. The Dalai Lama had no idea what the term meant and the scientists tried to find ways to explain it to him. Still he had no idea what it meant.

Then they tried to translate it into Tibetan in the hopes that it would make it clearer and it still didn’t. The Dalai Lama was shocked that there was such a thing as self-hatred and the scientists and doctors were shocked that the Dalai Lama could not understand. His Holiness was amazed that a person could hate themselves since everyone has a Buddha or Divine nature inside of them.

When I first read that passage, I admit that I laughed at the idea of how confusing it must have been for all involved. It seemed like a scene out of funny movie but the sad part was that it spoke a lot about how many people feel about themselves.

Ever since that time, I have wondered about why self-hatred is so prevalent in the West. My friends who live in India, Pakistan and other Eastern countries find it strange that we, in the West, take things so seriously and dwell upon them so much. As one of my friends often says: “in America you invest in things while in the East, we invest in people”. I never quite understood that until I lived in India.

The one thing that was really fascinating to me, while living in India, was that what we consider basic living conditions, are not taken for granted in other parts of the world. One morning in India, I went to take a shower and no water came out of the faucet. I initially cried because I never had to deal with such a thing but then I laughed because it was just so surreal. Having no water come out of a faucet would never happen here and if it did, people would be really mad. In India, it is not a big deal. The water will come eventually, so no worries. By the way, electricity in many parts of India goes out three or four times a day. Internet connection is not a guarantee either.

Actually, in India, no one really worried about anything. I remember ordering a book from a bookstore in Bangalore and being told it would be delivered to me in two days. The fascinating part was that I was living in a little village two hours north and the roads were nothing like what we have here. Yet the bookstore seemed to have no problem delivering it to me. As for the book being delivered, it actually ended up taking a month. Each time I called to check what was going on with my order, they were amazed that I was so concerned. The book would get to me when it was meant to. No worries. Living in India made me learn the value of having no worries and how it makes life so much easier.

When I returned to America, I experienced a culture shock even though America is my home. The first time I went into an American supermarket after living in India, I cried. I walked into a Whole Foods where there were sixteen aisles of abundance. The joy was so much, I couldn’t help but cry. Yet the amazing thing is that everyone in the store seemed so unaware of that abundance. To be fair, I never really valued the abundance either, until I lived in a third world country for six months. This made me realize that maybe because we have so much here, we expect more from life and that is why we are more inclined to feelings of self-hatred.

I don’t know about you, but I have had my phases of not loving myself as I should. I spent hours in agony over how messed up my life was and how I wanted whatever was lacking in my life. I never once pondered that I had a Buddha or Divine nature within me. The concept seemed so far-fetched.

However, as I studied and read more, the more I came to see that there is a life force that exists in each one of us. We are each built with the same kind of organs and the force/energy that handles all of that is within each one of us.

That life force is one way, albeit a very simple way, to describe our Buddha nature. Within each one of us, there is a core that is pure and blissful. The only problem is that we have covered it up with anger, denial, rage, insecurity, pain, ego, arrogance and a whole bunch of other things that we so lovingly refer to as “our issues”.

No one is immune from having issues. However, some of us define who we are according to those issues. I will be the first to admit that I have been guilty of doing that for a very good portion of my life. My perception of myself was based on all my perceived failures and successes. Eventually, I came to realize that there was no such thing as failure if I learned a lesson from my experiences. Once I recognized that a failure was only a failure if I did not gain any wisdom from it, my whole perception of life changed.

As someone who believes in karma and reincarnation, I am well aware of the fact that since I am here, it means I am not perfect. However, I have the opportunity to be the best version of myself if I give my all to everything that I do. The Buddha nature that is in people such as the Dalai Lama is also within us.

The issues that prevent us from seeing our true nature are all an illusion even though they seem so real. No one can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow it to effect you. People can throw all kinds of insults at you but if you simply choose not to believe them, they lose their power. Granted, this is all easier said than done but it is not impossible.

Once you look within and peel off all the layers you have put on yourself through your life, you will come to see that, at your core, you are a pretty amazing being who deserves all the love that you can give it.

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