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Adversity, Path of Awakening

On April 10, 2022, after meditation, we shared a talk on the Tibetan Lojong teaching of: Turning Adversity Into the Path of Awakening” by Fred Eppsteiner.

In his talk, Fred also shared The Three Fierce Mantras — powerful words that can cut through our confusion and anxiety, thereby supporting our practice of equanimity as we act in the face of any situation.

Fred explained how Buddhism gives us a bigger picture of life – a context in which we can deal more wisely with any particular situation. Buddhism teaches that this world is impermanent, unstable, fragile, and unpredictable; it’s endlessly unfolding in accordance to causes and conditions, with us all in that mix; and it contains all types of things and people whether “good” or “bad.” This has always been the case and will always be the case. We are just one part of something larger and more intricate, of which we do not have control. If we truly understand the big picture, then we would not be surprised, afraid, angry, or disappointed, no matter what the situation is – because we understand this is simply the way things are. We would not seek security or to control outcomes amidst situations that are ultimately uncontrollable and unknowable.

This is not to say we do not take actions. We should still do our part, acting wisely for the benefit of all. As Fred said, this is the wonder of our practice: that we act in a noble way not knowing what its effect will be; not being attached to any outcome.

Fred also emphasized that, as practitioners, whatever the situation, including in adversity, we should strive to do the same things that we always do – be compassionate, kind, generous, and patient; and not panic or despair. Keeping our inner mind-state stable, grounded, and thinking of others. Even in the face of adversity, we still show up in exactly the same way as we show up every day. It’s a test of our practice, and of how deep the teachings of impermanence and non-self have permeated our mind.

Therefore, adversities provide a wonderful opportunity for us to observe, to be mindful of our response, of what’s coming up in us. And, as a practice of transformation, we use these opportunities to do something different if we see in ourselves something that’s not supportive of the noble path that we want to follow in this life; thereby transforming adversity into the path of awakening.

After listening to the talk, the group had time for a short discussion. Everyone shared what resonated most with them from the talk, and some of their past experiences that brought validation to the teachings, such as feeling more at peace by letting go of a need to control outcomes and reflecting on how Dharma has truly been essential in guiding their lives.

The video we shared during our session is posted below. Happy learning!

 

The Three Fierce Mantras shared in the talk:

  • “Whatever has to happen, let it happen.”
    • This is the antidote to the ups and downs that we feel with “hope” & “fear.” Not a moral or ethical judgment, this speaks to letting go of our tight need to control our life and the outcome and people in it. As mentioned, this doesn’t mean we don’t act wisely or intelligently for the good of the situation – but we understand we cannot control it. As a mind-state, this is “equanimity.”
  • “Whatever the situation is, it’s fine.”
    • This speaks from the point of practice. It means no matter the situation, even in the face of obstacles and challenges, it’s still a perfect time to practice, to transform, to be compassionate, and to wake up; we do not see any obstacle as reasons for not doing so. Everything is just causes and conditions – there is no time that’s not perfect for practice and transformation.
  • “I really don’t need anything other than Dharma.”
    • This speaks to what truly is “essential” in our life. And this is about the inner Dharma, not about reading a Dharma book or listening to a Dharma podcast. It’s about our capacity to be mindful, to be present, to see the empty and non-self nature of thoughts, to generate love and compassion, and to have enough intelligence to know that everything arises according to causes and conditions. Know that this is essential and that’s all we need, because with it, everything else becomes possible in a good way. But if we don’t have it, then we would get lost in the world of delusion and suffering.

 

From the Teachers: Turning Adversity Into the Path of Awakening

Dharma Video: Turning Adversity Into the Path of Awakening

Turning Adversity Into the Path of Awakening & The Three Fierce Mantras — by Fred Eppsteiner *

* Fred Eppsteiner has been a student of Buddhism and a practitioner of meditation for over fifty years. He has practiced primarily in the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist lineages, but bases his teachings on the full breadth of the Buddhist philosophical, psychological and meditative traditions.

He began his Zen practice with Roshi Philip Kapleau (author of The Three Pillars of Zen) in the late 1960s at the Rochester Zen Center in upstate New York. In the mid-1970s, he established a close relationship with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. In 1994, Fred received Dharma Transmission and permission to teach from the Master.

Fred has also had a long-standing relationship with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (Vajrayana), and is an experienced practitioner within the Nyingma lineage of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) teachings. His teacher was Dzongnar Rinpoche from the Palyul Monastery of Tibet.

Fred is the editor of two books on Buddhism, “The Path of Compassion” and “Interbeing”. In 1986 Fred moved to Naples, FL, where he practiced psychotherapy and founded the Naples Community of Mindfulness in 1998. He is also the founder and the resident Dharma teacher of the Florida Community of Mindfulness in Tampa, FL.