The plague

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“In 1989, at one of the first international Buddhist teacher meetings, we Western teachers brought up the enormous problem of unworthiness and self-criticism, shame and self-hatred, and how frequently they arose in Western students’ practice. The Dalai Lama and other Asian teachers were shocked. They could not quite comprehend the word self-hatred. It took the Dalai Lama ten minutes of conferring with Geshe Thupten Jinpa, his translator, even to understand it. Then he turned and asked how many of us experienced this problem in ourselves and our students. He saw us all nod affirmatively. He seemed genuinely surprised. ‘But that’s a mistake,’ he said. ‘Every being is precious!'”

~ From The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield

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Image: From a cabinet of curiosities in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, Australia

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13 thoughts on “The plague

  1. I wonder if part of the world’s violence stems from the problem described in this post. Self-hatred is projected onto the world, becomes the lens through which we see life and others, and eventually becomes other-hatred.

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    • In this context viewing self-hatred as self-indulgent would be seen as more self-hatred. It’s impossible to get outside the paradigm without a major intervention like a Landmark Forum (and possibly other Landmark programs), years of meditation or a shift in consciousness brought about by some other means.

      I don’t know the definition of what the first world is. Similarly, with “the west”. Does it mean the Judeo-Christian world? the inheritors of the Latin language? And what about the other Abrahamic religion, Islam? Where does it fit? In the context of this anecdote, I want to define the west as any person born into the paradigm of dualism, ie, born into the story there is a self and an other, an “in here” and an “out there”.

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      • Okay, I get that and I like your definition of “born into the paradigm of dualism”. When I say “first world”, I’m thinking in economic terms: the more economically advantaged countries, etc. When I think about “first world”/”third world”, Mother Theresa always comes to mind. She characterized the first world as spiritually bereft, in comparison to the impoverished people she cared for, who were spiritually wealthy. I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was the gist of it.

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      • Wow, she said that, did she? “Spiritually bereft” is devastating, no? I get they may be your words. As soon as one has money and possessions, there enters the problem of keeping them and defending them. The shut-down ensues. The shutting down of the heart.

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  2. I love that, to the Dali Lama, the concept of self-hatred was unimaginable. What is it about this culture (Western culture) that encourages us to loathe ourselves and each other? We have so many things bass ackwards!

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