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The Buddha at Work – “Turn and Face the Strange… Changes.”

posted by Jon Rubinstein

Look out, you rock and rollers. Pretty soon now, you’re gonna get older!

I heard somewhere that Bowie did some time in a monastery before he wrote this song. Can’t say if that’s true but I’d like to believe it’s so. In any case, I thought it was a good intro to our topic of the day – the Sixth Paramita, prajña or wisdom.

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posted December 3, 2009 at 3:39 am

wow, dynamite post. I’ve had that crackberry moment. good work.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted December 3, 2009 at 9:50 pm

thank you eaon!

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Anan E. Maus

posted December 4, 2009 at 12:05 am

Who cares whether companies succeed or not??? The entire Western notion of service to companies is just spin. It is just rhetoric used by powerful greedy people to get folks to sacrifice themselves for their greed.
The ethic is in devotion to spirituality, not to companies.
I remember the owner of a business saying to his employees (who were all paid as little as possible), that we were “all in it together.” Nice speech. Meant nothing. Just a lie so that we would think he cared about us…which he clearly did not. He was even willing to literally risk the safety of his employees in order to make more money.
An institution which exists to make as much money as possible must necessarily be at war with spirituality.
We can play the game, in order to be respect to society…do our outer duties…that is all fine.
But we should never, ever, give a company our heart. That belongs only to the path.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted December 4, 2009 at 12:20 am

I respect your point of view, and I’m sure a lot of companies do what you say. Since many of us spend 40+ hours each week at some kind of job, I’m offering the paramitas as a path to enjoying that work, to creating Right Livelihood, to contribute to others through that work, and to positively impact the world. It’s possible. I own a small company and I strive every day to accomplish that. And I am certain that there are many people in business who strive to make a difference in the world. I encounter them all the time.
But this posting, and all the Buddha at Work postings, are primarily for those of us who don’t own companies. Since most of us have to have a job, why not do something with passion that contributes to others? Mindfully, with compassion, with generosity, with ethics. And maybe some wisdom. What’s wrong with that? I for one need to have an income, and the playing field I practice the path on is my life. My life includes my work. It’s not a separate thing I suffer through in order to get back to the cushion. It’s an integral part of the whole.
One might work at a large company that is primarily interested in profit, and while working there, one can make a difference in the lives of others. Thich Nhat Hanh talks about this a lot – check out this post from Adventures in Compassion.
Thanks for your comment. I agree that there are greedy people out there. They’re suffering, and they’re causing others to suffer. I hope that if enough people bring mindfulness and compassion to their work, we can cause that to change.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted December 4, 2009 at 12:22 am

here’s another TNH quote from another post I did:
“…everything we do contributes to our effort to practice Right Livelihood. It is more than just the way we earn our paycheck. We cannot succeed at Right Livelihood one hundred percent, but we can resolve to go in the direction of compassion and reducing suffering. And we can resolve to help create a society in which there is more Right Livelihood and less wrong livelihood.”

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posted December 7, 2009 at 1:50 am

What a wonderful post! I struggle with bringing practice into work. I have had those situations where I found someone impossible, but realized I was sharing in the impossibility. However, recently have had a struggle with a group of co-workers who talk behind my back or to my face about my dress. My dress is apparently “granola.” I find it incredibly difficult not to wall off when approached by them now for work related needs, but do try to always remain pleasant. This only perpetuates a tense work relationship. Would love insight on how to work with this as after three months it hasn’t shifted.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted December 7, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Hard for me to say not being there in the situation. I would definitely take a look at your communication with them. Please excuse this advice knowing so little about the situation, but when you say you “try to always remain pleasant,” it’s possible that instead of being open and compassionate and receptive, and genuinely wanting to help them, you may be resisting. This can be received as aloofness or awkwardness. So, coming back to mindfulness, really genuinely look at the conversations you’re having and the nonverbal communication. Are you resisting? Are you already convinced when you start a conversation that they’re wrong and you’re expecting a bad result? I know it’s hard to shake this feeling but it’s pervasive. I know that from time to time, i find myself going into conversations already knowing what the other person will say and therefore leaving them no room to actually say anything. Then when I don’t hear them i further exacerbate the situation. So the key is mindfulness, to truly be aware of what’s going on, and that can lead to compassion. And if compassion is truly present, it’s hard to imagine that not shifting. Again, forgive my presumption not knowing the exact situation, but I’m extrapolating from my own experience. I have found from time to time that meditating on lovingkindness and compassion helps in these situations; why are they less deserving of happiness than I am? Thanks for you comment, and I hope this is in some way helpful.

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posted December 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Thanks Jon. Your comment is insightful as I am often told I am aloof. My pleasantness is forced and superficial – I admit. ;-) Yes, I think there is a lot of resistance not that I think they are wrong or there is going to be bad outcome, but more about being hurt by their words and wanting to wall that off. I have been paying attention to my body and I can feel myself bracing when I am around these individuals. I also resist owning my hurt feelings. I have a hard time accepting as a grown woman that it really is hurtful to be talked about something as superficial as dress. That inner child voice surfaces, “why don’t they like me.” So it is balancing that acceptance yes, it is hurtful – but opening to that and to them. All so interesting really. I keep working with it. I assume it is in my life for just that reason – work with it. Where I am retreating back into my cocoon.

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posted December 14, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Samye Ling, the first Buddhist monastery in Europe, was the place Bowie often went to. It’s in Scotland. Akong Rinpoche was in charge. Later Chogyam Trungpa as well. Bowie also visited Trungpa in the U.S. numerous times.

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