Author Topic: Footprints on the Journey: On Failure - Khenpo Sodargye  (Read 1321 times)

Offline UK Bodhi Association

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Footprints on the Journey: On Failure - Khenpo Sodargye
« on: September 11, 2016, 04:11:18 am »
On Failure

People in the world, be they illiterate hillbillies or government luminaries, all eagerly strive to fulfill their own interests. When doing anything, they want nothing but smooth sailing and cannot bear the tiniest setbacks. But in fact, failure is not necessarily without merit. There is this adage:

Misfortune, that is where happiness depends;
Happiness, that is where misfortune underlies.

The contemporary eminent Chinese Buddhist monk Hong Yi was extremely gifted in poetry, ci (verse), painting, calligraphy, seal cutting, music, drama, and literature. He has also mentored a number of celebrated artists such as Feng Zikai and the musician Liu Zhiping. Master Hong Yi had a carefree and elegant bearing and his achievement in arts and letters was unsurpassed in his time. After he chose to be ordained as a monk, he studied unremittingly Buddha’s teachings and abided the sparing fare of no food after midday. He dedicated himself particularly to Vinaya pitaka and is revered as the 11th lineage holder of the Vinaya School. He has left a rich spiritual legacy for future generations; in China, he stood out as a model figure whose life underwent a transformation from utter glory to utmost humbleness.

He wrote in Dreams of 10 Years in Minnan: “I have a rather peculiar mindset these days: I only wish for failure in the things I do. It is because failure and imperfection can make me feel humble and abashed. Only then will I see my own inadequacies and lack of qualities, and strive to correct myself for the better. Whatever I do, I invariably hope I will fail; failure teaches me humility. Should I become successful, I might be puffed up with arrogance, which would be disastrous!” This passage is my favorite to memorize, as the master’s unconventional way of thinking reveals his extraordinary realization and modesty.

One of the most profound teachings of the Omniscient Longchenpa in The Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions is: “One must cut off self-clinging and choose failure always.” Langri Tangpa also left the teaching:

May I take upon myself the defeat
And offer to others the victory.

These teachings are fortunate coincidences with what Master Hong Yi has to say. The prowess of a truly brave man, after all, lies in his capacity to be unafraid of failure and willingly embrace failure.

There are many proverbs in the world on how to face failure squarely. Many are the fruition of valid analyses, such as: “When the old man lost his mare, who could have guessed it was a blessing in disguise? A loss may well turn out to be a gain,” and, “In adversity, we thrive; in comfort, we perish.” Many people also appreciate that a convoluted path is bound to provide some kind of reward. Writer Ruo Lan once said: “In life, every step we take brings the experience of that one step. This has nothing to do with whether the step is right or wrong. The ‘right’ one yields the right reward. The ‘wrong’ one presents lessons from being wrong. Taking the longer route or walking on the wrong path is just like being lost in the deep mountains. While people are worrying and bemoaning your safety, you hit the opportunity to collect rare flowers and berries, and you spot exceptional birds and animals. In addition, having to cover the extra distance, you have cultivated extra courage and tenacity.”

If we face failure bravely, we shall come to enjoy its sweet taste.

20th of February, Year of RenWu
April 2, 2002

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Footprints on the Journey: On Failure - Khenpo Sodargye
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2016, 03:12:13 am »
As a retired teacher, the lesson about failure is paramount. Getting things wrong is a great way to learn. It's really the only way. If you already know something, how can you make progress? Unfortunately the school system doesn't teach this- it only rewards 'correct' answers and makes children afraid of giving wrong ones.

In the context of Buddhism, the task is to sift out what mistakes have been made by others in the past and to learn from them, and to find what mistakes we are making in the present. Mistakes of understanding, or of responding to things in unmindful ways. The Buddha himself described some of his earlier meditation attempts as mistaken, and then took a middle path. We shouldn't be so afraid of making mistakes that we don't try things out, but shouldn't be so arrogant that we think we know everything and just plow on with what we are doing.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka


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