This week Tesshin used his talk to discuss relationships. If you think deeply enough you can easily identify the people who can be considered friends or enemies. There are people who, given any chance, would say something bad about you, while at the same time there are people who will go out of their way to build you up.
Here Tesshin stopped and reminded us that we must not forget the most important relationship we possess, namely the relationship with yourself. You have the potential to be the greatest help or harm to yourself. There is nobody more intimate or knows you better than yourself as you are with yourself 24X7. If you want to do harm to yourself, you will accomplish your goal. Alternatively, if you want to nourish yourself, you will also accomplish your goal.
Tesshin noted that there are people seem so successful and are willing to spend all day telling the world. However, is this success real? Does the person really believe this or are they simply talking to cover over the self-loathing deep in their own heart? Tesshin recounted a person in his community who recently committed suicide. He was physically fit, had a beautiful wife, three healthy children, and an extremely successful business. On all measures society would consider this person successful. However, this person must have had a terrible relationship with himself. What level of self-hate could lead someone to take his own life? We see this over and over again with highly successful celebrities – the very people we admire and wish to become. Tesshin invited us next to consider the example of Anthony Bourdain. Here we have an extremely talented and famous chef admired all around the world. What would cause him to take his life alone in a hotel room?
So, what is our relationship with ourselves? Are we our lover or most bitter enemy? Anger, hate, guilt, and doubt are a major contributor to bad karma and do us so much harm. Ask yourself, why do you do good deeds? Do we do these acts because we doubt our own value and are trying to assuage our guilt? Our practice allows us to deeply explore the relationship we have with ourselves. Are our motivations coming from a place of love or hate? Is the relationship we have with ourselves healthy or sick? Tesshin asked how can one spread compassion if you refuse to give any to yourself. Loving yourself causes love in the world. The Buddha lead a peaceful and serene life because practice taught him the inherent perfection of existence. If you are perfect then destructive thoughts such as shame, guilt, and resentment have no place and cannot cloud the relationship you have with yourself.
Next Tesshin shared a story from the Udana (explanation) Teachings from the Pali canon. Tesshin shared the story of “Rajan Sutta: The King”
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī at Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. And on that occasion King Pasenadi Kosala had gone with Queen Mallikā to the upper palace. Then he said to her, “Mallikā, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?”
“No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?”
“No, Mallikā. There is no one dearer to me than myself.”
Then the king, descending from the palace, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One, “Just now, when I had gone with Queen Mallikā to the upper palace, I said to her, ‘Mallikā, is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?’
“When this was said, she said to me, ‘No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?’
“When this was said, I said to her, ‘No, Mallikā. There is no one dearer to me than myself.'”
Then, on realizing the significance of that, the Blessed One on that occasion exclaimed:
Searching all directions
with your awareness,
you find no one dearer
In the same way, others
are thickly dear to themselves.
So you shouldn’t hurt others
if you love yourself.
The message of this story is quite simple. If everyone has a healthy relationship to themselves and everyone knows this, then it follows that people will treat each other better as well. Basically, it all starts wit you! A world where everyone has a healthy relationship with themselves is a world which will have more peace and serenity. Tesshin wrapped up by reminding us that our practice on the cushion is a great way to nourish this most important relationship.