When you read “vicissitudes
of life” what do you
think of? Do you think of the
vicissitudes you’ve experienced
in your life? Reflect on some
these. Do you think of the
vicissitudes all beings experience
by their very nature? Reflect
on some of these. Which come
to mind foremost for you?
Reflect on the
truth of this statement in
your life. Recall how your
life “circumstances” have
changed over the past months.
How about today? Reflect on
the variety of experiences
you’ve had, how your
feelings and thoughts have
fluctuated throughout the day.
When we look at our own lives, we see extraordinary
patterns of flow and movement.
Think for a moment
about what series of circumstances
brought you to be sitting in
the particular place where
you are now, taking this course.
So many different changing
events and experiences have
led to this moment and this
action. At the time they happened,
some of those experiences may
have seemed very unfortunate,
and yet in some way they had
a role in this pattern that
brought you here to this distinct
time and place
We see that life is not really a series
of unanchored, chaotic events. Rather, it
is like a mosaic; it has a pattern. Each
experience has some part in creating the
whole. We can see harmony in the bigger picture.
Our challenge is how our hearts—my
heart or your heart— can absorb the
continual, unremitting contrasts of this
life without feeling shattered. Battered
by changes, the heart-mind can become brittle,
rigid. It can wither and shrink.
The Buddha said
that our hearts can wilt as
a flower does when it has been
out in the sun too long. Have
you ever encountered this feeling?
Can we actually experience
freedom in the midst of all of these immense
changes, as they roll through our lives over
and over again? Can we actually be happy
in this continuous arising and passing away?
Pain and pleasure,
praise and blame…
What the ancient Taoists called "the
ten thousand joys and the ten thousand sorrows" come
and go over and over again. As the Buddha
said, pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise
and blame, fame and disrepute constantly
arise and pass away, beyond our control.
When you meet
pleasure, gain, praise or fame,
do these make you happy?
some part of you really believe
that one — that is, you — you
can have praise without blame,
gain without loss, pleasure
without pain, fame without
Do you become
disheartened, sorrowful, bitter … when
faced with the these inevitable
is always blame in this world. If you
say too much, some people will blame
you. If you say a little bit, some
people will blame you. If you say nothing
at all, some people will blame you
Life's ebb and flow challenge us accept
and embrace the very nature of a life in
which no one in this world experiences only
pleasure and no pain, and no one experiences
only gain and no loss. When we open to this
truth, we discover that there is no need
to hold on or to push away. Rather than trying
to control what can never be controlled,
we can find a sense of security in being
able to meet what is actually happening.
When we feel unhappiness or pain, it is
not a sign that things have gone terribly
wrong or that we have done something wrong
by not being able to control the circumstances.
Pain and pleasure are constantly coming and
going, and yet we can be happy. When we allow
for the mystery, sometimes we discover that
right in the heart of a very difficult time,
right in the midst of a painful situation,
there is freedom. In those moments when we
realize how much we cannot control, we can
leam to let go.