Student’s Question: How do we engage with the problems of the world without losing sight of the teachings on Emptiness?

A student writes:

How do we engage with the huge problems of the world without losing sight of the teachings on Emptiness and primordial purity? How do we ensure that we deepen our compassion for all the suffering and continue to act and try to help, while practising seeing the illusory nature of appearance?

Lama Shenpen:

If we let the problems of the world loom too large we will find our thinking time completely taken over by all there is to do in the world – and in fact always has been.  That is why some lamas when they discover they have healing powers decide to not display them because otherwise they would be dealing with physical sickness day and night and never have time to teach Dharma.

That is just one small example of how each of us has to make our choice and then do our best to follow that through with integrity. We cannot do everything and we cannot fix samsara  – so it is important to remember that ultimately it’s all like a dream and an illusion that we are grasping on to and keeping samsara going. The only way we will ultimately be able to help the world and all beings is to cease to grasp ourselves and free ourselves from samsara.

It is not that we cease to care, we seek Enlightenment because we care so much not just for this world but for all worlds and all beings wherever they are trapped in samsara.

Emptiness is not somehow an escape route from this world of caring into another world where we don’t need to care.  It is how to look at this world as it truly is so that by not being deceived by it we can help all beings.

As long as we do not realise emptiness we feel helpless to help all beings because they seem to be so separate from us and inaccessible. When we realise emptiness we will realise we are never going to be separated from any being any where ever – we are all integral to the whole of reality and we all meet in our hearts and can help each other simply by our intention – to the extent that help is possible at that moment.

So if you really want to help all beings foster Bodhichitta in your heart and keep as relaxed and as positive as you can!

Lama Shenpen Hookham