December 10, 2011

Buddhism in the Barnyard II. ~ Hollie Hirst

Kaptain Kobold

September 28th, 2010

 You can lead a horse to water…

This summer I had the good fortune of going to Washington D.C., to attend some teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While there, I also did some volunteer work such as crowd control and working at the sangha entrance. One morning, I was outside giving out flyers inviting people to join the Dalai Lama for a free speech on the capital lawn. The topic of the speech was world peace.

I was very surprised to find that many passers-by had absolutely no interest in attending the speech.

In light of this disinterest I found myself thinking: Seriously? Even if I weren’t a Buddhist, I would totally go to a free speech on the topic of world peace by a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, a chance like this doesn’t come along every day.

Erik Törner

As I was out handing out flyers for many hours, I had the chance to chew on this thought for a while longer.

For example, it always hurts my feelings and makes me sad when I know I can be of service to someone and yet, they don’t take me up on my offers, or when I know I have a great idea and those I go to for support don’t listen to or value my suggestions.

But after seeing that even though the Dalai Lama has been acknowledged as a valued teacher, not only within his own culture and religion, but also by a global institution, there are some who still don’t value his input. This realization helped me put some perspective on my own experiences.

Not that I am comparing myself to His Holiness, not by any means. But it was a comfort to see that even though he is acknowledged and recognized by many, there are still others that don’t recognize or value his input. In fact, there are many, even whole governments, as in the case of China, who are adamantly opposed to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Of course with someone as well respected as him, it is easy to recognize that the perspectives of those who don’t value him are more a reflection of their minds, rather than a reflection of his skills, knowledge or worth.

This devaluing is a reflection of the confusion within the mind of those who are doing the devaluing.

Contemplating this made me realize that sometimes, no matter how skilled you are, no matter how valuable your insights and ideas are, there are some that won’t recognize or value of your input, and they may even attack or slander you.

Or put in the words of the Barnyard Buddhist:

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

I hope you find this helpful next time someone is devaluing you. Of course, we must check the feedback with friends we know and trust and be open to personal growth when necessary.

I used to point this out to my kids when they were younger and dealing with a verbal bully.

“When someone insults you this is no reflection of you and who you are, but is a reflection of him/her and where his/her mind goes.”

So I will sit patiently and continue to offer my services until I encounter individuals who are willing and able to recognize my strengths and what I have to offer.

On many occasions I have had to remind myself of this:

 “Heed your own words, Hollie! What would you tell your kids if they were in this situation?”

It was interesting to me to witness that even someone with as much stature as His Holiness still experiences being devalued by some.

Recently I gained a bit more perspective on this topic.

Through my studies I had begun to wonder, is it possible to dedicate enough merit for a hell being to pass directly into Nirvana?

So I asked my teachers (Arjia Rimpoche and Geshe Kunga of the Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center) and both of them had pretty much the same answers. Geshe Kunga said that only if their karma was ripe could they go from the hell realm directly into Nirvana, and that would be rare. In other words, according to my understanding, they would first have to burn off their own karma and have to come to some realizations on their own.

Rimpoche said something along the lines of only if they had realized the need for help and recognized that the teachings could help. He used the metaphor of a ring and a hook. If the hell being has recognized that the teachings are valid then recognition acts as a ring that the Buddhas can hook onto and assist the being.


August 22, 2011

This past weekend I had the good fortune of attending a workshop on Tibetan debate offered at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Ind. Professor Daniel Perdue and his teaching assistant, Majid Razyi, lead the class and did an amazing job assisting all of us in beginning to wrap our minds around such a difficult subject matter.

I am not going into the debate stuff here, as I would not do it justice, but instead, I am going to share a Buddhist saying that Dr. Purdue shared with us:

Sergio Bertolini

“When it comes to ethics, be like a cow swatting at flies.”

Even though I have spent plenty of time in cow pastures and around various farm animals, I still needed to hear an explanation. The good professor observed my confusion and continued, stating something along the lines of… cows only swat at their own flies, whereas horses will line up next to each other, face to booty, and swat at each other’s flies.

 I found this to be a lovely and gentle barnyard Buddhist reminder to be nonjudgmental of others and to worry only about maintaining my own integrity!


 August 1, 2011

Scott Robinson

I delivered a truckload of nearly composted horse poop to a friend today. On my way over I was thinking about how my time at the barn helps me deepen my practice and offers up so many metaphors.

For instance, when someone is ‘giving you crap’, all you have to do is put it in a pile and let it sit there.

Or climb upon a cushion and sit with it, as the case may be. Occasionally, you might want to turn it over in your mind a few times, adding rains of compassion by attempting to understand what causes and conditions in their life have led them to behave this way.

Eventually though, with enough time and a little compassion, it will turn to compost, which you can then use to fertilize your garden.

With a little more time, what was poop will become vegetables or flowers that you can share with others. How lovely is that?

So be grateful for your ‘enemies.’ If we use their crap in the right way we can turn it into something that will nurture many.

An hour or so later, I was reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s (commentary on Kamalashila’s) Stages of Meditation and this is what he had to say on the matter:

 “On a mundane conventional level, enemies are those who cause us harm, and we are hostile to them for doing so. But viewed in another light… It is in relation to enemies that we can practice patience and tolerance and thus reduce the burden of anger and hatred. We should take maximum advantage of this opportunity to enrich and enhance our practice of patience…”

His Holiness then Quotes Kamalashila, stating:

 “After the mind has developed equanimity toward all sentient beings, meditate on loving-kindness. Moisten the mental continuum with the water of loving kindness and prepare it as you would a piece of fertile ground. When the seed of compassion is planted in such a mind, germination will be swift, proper and complete.” 

Now, let me add just one more thing, because I just know someone out there is thinking something along the lines of:

“See religion is the opiate of the masses. There are things that people should be angry about! There are bad people out there who will hurt the innocent and this just encourages them to stay around and be a whipping post!”

James Halstead

His Holiness often acknowledges that ‘if there is a crazed dog, one does not stay around, one must run away and be safe!’

So, as I understand it, practicing compassion for our enemies does not mean we stay around and let them rip us to shreds. But we must not become like them in their anger and violence. If we get beyond the anger, we can actually be more proactive, rather than reactive.

In my experience, well thought out action is always a more effective agent of change, as opposed to reaction based on anger, rooted in violence and a desire for revenge.


Hollie Hirst has earned a BGS with a concentration in Human and Behavioral Sciences from Indiana University and a graduate level certificate in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University. She is also a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance at the 200 level and has recently completed an extra 40 hours in Trauma Sensitive Yoga via ‘The Trauma Center’ which was founded by Bessel van der Kolk. In addition to teaching private and small group yoga classes, Hollie has also been a volunteer rape crisis hotline counselor for MESA. She currently resides in Bloomington, Ind. Please see www.bloominglotayoga.com for more info.






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