by Lodro Rinzler

Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at age 35 he was a confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a spiritual life. He had an overbearing dad, expectations for what he was supposed to do with his life, drinks were flowing, lutes were playing, and the women were all about him. Some called him L.L. Cool S. I imagine close friends just referred to him as Sid. 

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid as a confused guy struggling with his daily life. What would he do as a young person trying to find love, cheap drinks, and fun in a city like New York? How would he combine Buddhism and dating? We all make mistakes on our spiritual journey; here is where they’re discussed.

Each week I’ll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I think Sid, a confused guy working on his spiritual life in a world of major distraction, would do. Because let’s face it, you and I are Sid. 

Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and Lodro will probably get to it!


I was recently engaged to a man that cheated on me. 
Since finding out about his bout with infidelity I left him.  We just
recently had a baby boy, soon to be four months. My love for him is
strong.  I consider myself to be a spiritual woman.  I have no
judgment on him for his actions.  However, he wants for me to give him
another chance.  He wants to be a better person and attempt to rebuild the
family. Most of my friends tell me to stay gone, however I’m not sure
of what to do. What would Sid do? – Shante D.

I am freshly back from a week in Halifax, Nova Scotia where
the fourth Shambhala Congress took place. At the closing ceremonies Sakyong Mipham
empowered the latest acharya, or senior teacher, of Shambhala.
This gentleman, Fleet
, was imprisoned for fourteen years on drug-related charges.

When Fleet’s name was announced as the latest acharya the
room rose in a standing ovation. Fleet is a source of inspiration. He went deep
into his practice while in prison, even at times referring to it as a long
retreat. During that time he established the Prison Dharma Network and
continues to provide support for individuals who society has turned its back
on. Fleet is an outstanding example of how we can all look at the mistakes we
make in our lives as learning opportunities that push us down our paths and
ultimately lead to us being of benefit to others.

In order to become such a profound example though Fleet had
to start with acknowledging his mistake. On a similar note I am reminded of the
story of Angulimal as I
related the other month
. This vicious killer saw the error of his ways and
was transformed by the Buddha.

What do Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and the Buddha have in
common here? Their ability to see when someone has recognized his or her mistakes
and in turn offer forgiveness. They have learned to trust in our basic goodness. Personally speaking I have made any number of
mistakes on my path but have recognized them as such (sometimes with a bit of
prompting) and have generously received forgiveness from the Sakyong. As I open
each week’s post by stating, we all make mistakes on our spiritual journeys;
here is where they’re discussed.

So let’s discuss your fiancé. This is a man you are in love
with, with whom you share a child, but who made a very serious mistake. Since I
don’t know either of you personally I can only ask your opinion of this matter:
do you think he realizes the effects of his actions and do you think he feels regret?

In Vajrayana Buddhism there is a purification practice known
as Vajrasattva. However, I don’t think you need to be a Vajrayana practitioner
to engage the basic steps. I’ll try to adapt them to this situation. They are: 

The power of support – taking support in one another (or in the Vajrasattva practice, in the deity) through
genuine communication.

The power of regret – he has to have a true feeling of remorse
for all negative actions done in the past. That includes confessing what those
are with strong regret.

The power of resolution – remembering the mistakes that have
been made, he has to resolve never to commit them again. Doing so would be
taking steps back on the path and is a sign that the regret was not genuine.

The power of action as antidote – he can offset the negative
actions he has done in the past by producing positive ones now. Treating you
especially well, cultivating a loving relationship with his son, and offering
himself to his community are all potential ways to produce positive change.

You do not need to be a Buddhist to follow these actions.
You just have to be willing to look at your life and be willing to make a
change. Change comes from truly looking at the effects our actions have had on
others. If this cannot be explored in an open and honest way I doubt Sid would
tell you to just leap in.

For your sake I would recommend taking a good look at your
relationship and determining whether it is worth saving. When cheating occurs it is often symptomatic of other issues at play in a relationship. The act of infidelity is a heavy divider between two loving individuals. There is a long road
to returning to trust and before embarking on it you need to insure that both
of you are willing to do it.

I imagine Sid would recommend taking a look inwards at your intention, your connection to one another, and your ability to trust and respect one another. However, based on Sid’s life experience I can’t imagine he would tell you to give up on your fiancé. I can’t imagine he’d say we should ever give up on anyone. Everyone has the ability to change and has the seeds for living a good life. Forgiveness though, that’s a long road to walk down and I wish you lots of luck on that journey.

For more from Lodro on this topic check out this previous post.

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