Suffering, Self-Esteem, and Humility

One of the criteria of the Truth of Suffering, is impermanence. The second criteria [of the First Noble Truth] is suffering [itself]. It is absolutely true, whether you like it or not. Our life has tremendous suffering. Who can deny? No matter whoever you are, higher, lower, politicians, rich, poor, wherever and whoever you look, how much suffering do they have! It is tremendous. Sometimes they have much more than us. It is not very long time ago, just a year or two, remember what happened to Michael Jackson, to Whitney Houston and all of those. Not just one or two, but many of them. To us it looks as if they are great. They made it in life, became the most popular and some people may even have them as objects of achievement. Some may say, “I can’t become like them, but maybe half way like them or maybe a quarter of the way,” but it is totally suffering.

So life really is suffering, unfortunately. It is not joy. Number one: death itself is somehow on everybody. Talking about death, I remember that somebody was telling me: “Buddhism is making you so afraid, it looks like they are making a chopper over your head, ready to come down. That is death.” I don’t think Buddhism cuts your head off. It doesn’t. Some people say that, and maybe they think it’s true. But the thing is this: Whether you think or not, when death comes, it comes. It doesn’t depend on age or even on health, unfortunately. Didn’t we recently have one or two sport persons who passed away? One was a guy with a snowmobile. He was 25 years old, very strong and healthy, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to manage to jump with that snowmobile. But when the accident took place, he was gone within a day or two. So it doesn’t depend on health, wealth or status or anything. It is just there. It is the truth.

It is so funny. George Bush’s dog died and that made headlines yesterday. But even George Bush’s dog dies. So that is the true reality. That is one of the strongest sufferings. Then think about the misery that we go through with life. Most of them are man-made, self-made. Then you have aging, death, illnesses and then you have so many mental sufferings. Again, it is the same thing. No matter whoever you are, you may be famous, but still, it will get you. You may be a known politician, but it will get you. We have so many examples. What happened to Jesse Jackson Jr. last year? What happened to Charlie Sheen? The name and fame, money and wealth can’t prevent it. There are wonderful solid people, just ordinary everyday Americans. They are totally stable and reliable. Most of you are. Honestly. So it doesn’t depend on wealth, name, fame or anything. It is a matter of how one individual thinks. So the number one, most important thing is self-esteem. Number two, make sure that self-esteem is not going beyond. We have a funny saying in Tibetan. ‘You wear the sky as your hat, and use the clouds to tie your hat on your head.’ If you do that, you are going beyond.

So we need great self-esteem, and at the same time be humble. And we know this. When I am watching television, all the politicians who win elections will say, “I am humbled.” That’s part of their political speech, whether they are really humbled or not. But their political advisors tell them that. It is all quality. You have great self-esteem, yet you are not going beyond. You are within. So they say, “I am humbled.”

That shows us that we have to have self-esteem, yet keep very humble and have humility. Balancing these two, mentally, physically and emotionally, who else can do that besides you? No one. You can do it. These are the positive and negative consequences of talking about the Four Noble Truths. We maintain self-esteem and humility together. Is that possible? Yes. So one can do these two things together. Not only that, but one should always do that, and always remember that in the morning, afternoon and evening. That itself will make you a good person. That itself will make you get along better with your companions. That itself will make it so that, even your kids will respect you. That itself makes you get along better, even with your mother in-law.

–Gelek Rimpoche


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