How to maintain a peaceful mind in adverse circumstances

Author Charles Yeung

Translated by Soula Lo

How to maintain peace in body and mind? How to settle down and get on with one’s pursuits? These are the skills we need to learn and study at the present time and also for the next few years.

In regard to adverse circumstances, worries and sufferings: these are inevitable stages that people have to experience. Because adverse circumstances very easily cause worries; if we cannot clear these worries, they will create suffering.

How does Buddhism teach people to deal with adverse circumstances, and to tackle worries?

1. Remove worries and attain Bodhi.

There are two ways to remove worries:

(1) “Leverage the resources you have.” This means do not do anything beyond your abilities.

(2) Take the correct action to solve problems.

Many issues in life come from “going beyond one’s abilities.” And “great ambition with limited resources” may therefore create problems. Thus , when we encounter problems and worries, often going about everywhere aimlessly, “taking medicines without right prescriptions,” this is not helpful in solving problems, but rather only makes problems worse. One of the methods to solve problems and remove worries is to use the brain to think, seeking the root of problems, then finding suitable ways to tackle them.

 Finding methods to tackle the root of problems, we can use the pairs of opposite properties quoted from The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra (六祖壇經) chapter X: “From the self-nature nineteen pairs of opposites arise: length and shortness, deviance and orthodoxy, foolishness and wisdom, stupidity and intelligence, confusion and concentration, kindness and cruelty, morality and immorality, straightness and crookedness, reality and unreality, danger and safety, affliction and Bodhi, permanence and impermanence, compassion and harm, joy and anger, generosity and stinginess, advance and retreat, production and extinction, the Dharma-body and the Form-body, the Transformation-body and the Reward-body.” This way of thinking and application to problem solving is called, Prajñā, which means wisdom.

 

2. There is no worry, only Bodhi.

There is no worry in the world, only because we ask for worry ourselves. Because people like to compare themselves with each other, just as a proverb said, “It is comparison that makes men to be miserable.” Comparing ourselves with others, we always feel inadequate, and thus, easy to create anxiety. Second, mankind’s innate character contains greed, anger, and ignorance. Because of this greed, anger, and ignorance, worry and anxiety naturally arise from our mind, but we must know that this worry and anxiety were all our own doing, all created by ourselves. If we can keep the mind away from comparing with others, overcoming greedy, angry and ignorant thoughts, overcoming selfish, arrogant ideas, and overcoming suspicion and jealousy, our mood will get better, and the mind naturally will have less anxiety, worry, and less adverse circumstances.

 

3. Worry is Bodhi

Worry not only has its downside, it also has its upside and advantages. If we look at it from a good and positive perspective, then we will receive a good answer. Just as the idiom said, “Our appearance depends on our mind; appearance changes according to our minds.” Everything has two sides; it depends on what angle you look at the problems. Thus there is a dichotomy, a philosophical analytic way to look at problems. Besides, there’s a philosophy from an old saying, “Thrive in calamity and perish in soft living.” Which means that adverse circumstances can always inspire our morale, sharpen our abilities to deal with difficulties, and help us to survive. But a soft and easy environment tends to make us become too comfortable and lazy, even causing degeneration and doom.

Therefore, worry can be Bodhi, toxin can be good medicine. It all depends upon how you look at it, and how you make use of it.

 

Conclusion:

1. When we encounter adverse circumstances, we should seek right methods to solve the problems.

2. Most of the time, we are the ones who create adverse circumstances, and we should solve the problems by ourselves.

3. Adverse circumstances also have a positive effect. They can sharpen our abilities, and allow us to gain more powerful survival strength.

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