Self-Discovery through Maitri practice     

                                           Jenkir Shih




There was a sense of  incapacity when I sat in the classroom among a group of native speakers.

It was like an endless chasing process.

The harder I tried to catch up, the more behind and exhausted I felt.


After my first year of study in the U.S., I went to attend a one-month advanced intensive Buddhist studies program. I felt frustrated, disconnected and dejected most of the time during the program, although most of the other people there might not have been able to discern my true feelings, which were hidden behind a calm and quiet facade. However, when I began a Maitri practice to learn how to see this journey in a respectful, open-minded and curious manner, all the difficulties were transformed into an interesting and meaningful self-discovery process.

The first challenge for me was the intellectual learning, which I often perceived as if I were living in a fuzzy, cloudy world. The students in the program came from different countries and different states of the U.S. They had very different accents and speeds of speaking in English. An especially challenging class was the Mind-Only class taught by a knowledgeable German scholar. The materials of this class originated from the debates of different Tibetan Buddhist schools, and the English terms we were taught were very strange to me. Whenever students asked questions, the instructor always had answers ready. Sometimes he had a long dialogue or debate with the student who asked the question. I got lost most of the time when I was trying to understand the questions and answers. Since I couldn't determine if those dialogues were on important topics or not, the anxiety of missing something was being generated all the time. Sometimes I was sapped of my optimism, and I slumped into a hopeless feeling, thinking, ¡§Oh! I will never learn English and Mind ¡VOnly philosophy well at all.¡¨ Sometimes I tended to ascribe the blame to the instructor's or some students'verbal expression, holding on to a cold resentment while I was in a continual state of uncertainty and confusion.

There was a sense of uptightness because I was fixated on a particular logic: I felt I couldn't learn if I couldn't understand it all clearly. This was combined with a need to be right and perfect. In trying too hard to figure all out, the mind became fuzzy and tied itself into knots.  I spent more time confronting the¡§solid unknown¡¨than dividing the whole into small parts to improve my understanding.  Therefore, there was no room for relaxing and learning step by step.

There was a sense of incapacity when I sat in the classroom among a group of native speakers. It was like an endless chasing process. The harder I tried to catch up, the more behind and exhausted I felt. People¡¦s rapid speaking became the justification for the reason that I couldn¡¦t learn well. When people discussed quickly, I felt it as if there was an external threat to my understanding, when actually the threat came from my inner fear and insecurity. From this fear, the distorted energy of anger is fabricated to blame someone else or to be hard on myself. By denying instead of accepting my weakness, I built a wall between other people and myself, locking myself in a closed and isolated room.

The strong feeling of inadequacy described above actually comes from a sense of self-importance. When I was in my country, it seemed to be easy to get what I wanted. Unconsciously, there was an illusory superior sense which was based on instinctive comparison I made between myself and others: I believed that my speed in understanding and responding to situation was not supposed to be slower than someone else's. The symptoms of this proud mind are experienced at opposite extremes¡Xbeing superior or being inferior. Being in another country, the fear and insecurity are thus generated from losing the ground to achieve excellence in learning,  or more precisely speaking, to maintain a¡§superior self ¡¨.

 Then, what is the superior self? I have learned Buddha¡¦s non-self doctrine used for a long time and have thought that I understood it. However, this experience woke me up and showed me how I was fooled and trapped by grasping onto an illusory self, which made things more complicated than necessary.  When I started to relax myself and simply connect with my fundamental being, I also compassionately embraced the sensation of anger, weakness and fear. A deep feeling of contentment and appreciation arose. Many different difficulties might pop up in my life again. But no harm will be done, as long as I composedly connect with the intrinsic limitless space within.













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