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This interesting question was raised by someone who got to know Khun Mae. As this is also the doubt that arise in many people’s mind, I thought about sharing Khun Mae’s advice that she had given to the lady.
Khun Mae mentioned that it is important to clear a person’s mind of doubts before a person can practice or start to do good. With doubts lurking at the back of the mind, it can discrupt the mind from attaining peace and calmness.
I am not sure who is the person in question is, but I hope if you are reading this, you would not mind to have your story published here to be used as a lesson that can help many others who are also having the same doubts and facing similar challenges:
There is a lady who was wanted to know the question that had been burning in her mind- she said that she often did good, perform charity and be kind to others. And yet she suffered one difficulty after another- she had problems with her work, her car for damaged and someone was after her husband.
On the other hand, she saw many other people who behaved in dishonest ways, who cheat in their businesses and behaved very nasty- their business bloomed and they seemed to get richer. Doesn’t the law of attribution applies to them as well?
Why bad things happen to good people but bad people continue leading a better life?
After listening to her share about her plight and issues, Khun Mae explained that sometimes we may not be aware of the deep intricacies of our own heart. We may think we are sincerely good and our heart is kind and pure, but deep down, it is not. On the surface we do good, but that goodness does not come out from the heart. Then Khun Mae gave her a simple advise- be conscious of breathing…. then day in and day out, remember to transfer merits. Just transfer merits wishing beings be well and happy. Initially it is going to be tough but continue to do it anyway.
The lady tried it for one day and the next day, she called Khun Mae- she said it is very tough, she felt her heart is suffering and she cannot continue. It’s difficult to do that- to transfer merits and continue to wish good towards others.
Khun Mae said that the mindfulness that is trained from the breathing brings us closer and more aware of our actual feelings. As we transfer merits (ie really beginning to do good with our heart), it may feel difficult at first. When that happens, we have to turn inwards and ask ourselves, when we do what we thought to be good deeds, are these deeds sincerely originate from the heart. Was there any adversion or ill will involved? Kilesas (defilements) are very sneaky- it is really difficult to see them clearly.
Anyway, back to the story of the lady, she listened and she continued doing. After that, she made no further calls to Khun Mae. Khun Mae had hoped that at last she had understood.
My personal experience:
When I first went to work for my current company, things were very tough. Really tough- the company was going through a major change. Things got so bad that staff who had been in the company for 5, 10 and even 20 years chose to resign without a job. At first, almost everyday I worked I wanted to leave- perhaps take a paycut job or going freelance on my own.
And each time I asked Khun Mae, no matter how I tried to put the request, her advice is always the same: stay with then company. Don’t quit, have compassion, do work mindfully and remember to be mindful of your breath… breath in and breath out and transfer merits.
Each time… her advise is the same. For more than 1 year- stick to the company. Don’t resign- because if I resign, she said I would face similar problems in the next company. Often, it is not our external environment that is giving us the problem- but how we coped with it. “So, remember to watch the breath… your breathing is too shallow, it only reached the top part of your lungs and not your stomach. You know know how to relax… ” she would say, even though I wondered through the phone, how she knew how deep my breathing went (later when I became more aware of my breathing, I did note that it is really shallow).
Khun Mae always advised, never run away from difficulties. It is through difficulties and setbacks that make us successful in our practice. That through it we can experience and comprehend the 3 characteristics of life…. impermanence, suffering and non-self. Reading through books, listening to other people’s sharing, would give us the intellect knowledge. But not the insight that can come through experience.
You may ask why I followed her advised instead of follow what I want. I’ve known Khun Mae for a few years and there were times I went against her advice and hit the wall (meaning go into even more problems). And I’ve seen a number of others who have of course did not take her advice and hit the wall as I did. So I do my best to presevere.
After more than a year of suffering, gradually I am beginning to see her point and appreciate her for patiently giving me the advice and guidance- instead of abruptly dismissing me for not listening to her. To work and give from the heart, it is not easy especially for a person with high in-built ego for me. Something got to give, and to stay back requires us to overcome some negative attributes within us. I used to think that I am a kind person, but when I realised that I could lose my temper when things get tough or get angry when others get away with being irrespossible, I started to question myself exactly how good am I on the inside.
That begins a journey where I am forced to turn inwards and acknowledge the not-so-good things about myself. It’s not pleasant to know and often it is something we want to instinctively turn away from. That is why when we hate a particular person or hate the work environment, we walk out, we leave ….and then we go to the next company and find ourselves being confronted once again with the very things that we hate.
Eventually the ‘trauma’ of work got so bad to an extend that I thought I could not take it anymore. And suddenly, the heart knew it was bad because of the predisposition that we place upon ourselves- and it learned to let go little by little each day. I am not perfect, but I understand what Khun Mae meant by doing things from the heart- I used to see her going without sleep as one challenge after another come and I asked her how she could do it, didn’t she get tired, sick or bored of all this, and she said, once we have mindfulness and compassion, we will not feel tired.
In my workplace, the morale was often low, people get demoralized – and I knew that I could complaint and make myself miserable by being one of them (which to be honest, it was initially what I did).
Or I could give a little kindness from my heart- if I was able to overcome the mental and emotional hurdle within. It was really tough at first, but as time goes by (almost 2 years to be exact!), it gets easier. And it gives life more meaning- that we don’t only live to please ourselves, but to genuinely want to help others. Even if people may not say thank you or appreciate.
Through it all, Khun Mae would offer her guidance and advice during times when I thought I just want to give up. If it had not been for her, I would not be able to go that far- I would have just quit and remain back the same person that I was.
This is a way of how she had helped me personally- and I want to use my own example to illustrate that it takes time for a person to change. She understand this, and she always give us time- always trying to explain things patiently. Even though it is not always what we wanted to hear, but if we are willing to stick with it long enough, we will know for ourselves and appreciate her advice.”