Recently, before a teaching started, I was in the empty hall finding a seat. Two ladies were there and one was trying to joke with the other (they are not friends). One lady (whom I know personally) was busy reserving seats for her friends, and the other lady (whom I know by name and exchange conversations before), was right in front of me, so I also mentioned something and joked about it. She just looked down and totally ignored me, without even making eye contact. Her reaction kind of stumped me. Earlier on, when I saw her and another younger lady, I said hi. Both ignored me, as if I was invisible. We are not strangers. She was extremely friendly and chatty to other 'selective' people around.
It got me thinking. Why the double standards? We are all practitioners, or trying to be practitioners. The least we can do is just smile, even if one does not wish to strike a conversation or be friends with everyone. Of course I am NOT suggesting that one has to be extra friendly or aggressively zealous in making everyone our friend in a superficial way.
From observation, often we can recognise if a student is a true practitioner or not, merely by his/her speech and actions. Most of the older ones (in age) and the more senior students are usually more calm, friendly, and forthcoming in sharing their knowledge and experience on the Path. Their zealous and earnest practice show results through their behaviour and daily conduct. They are mindful of their actions; body, speech and mind, all the time. They are my role model. I know many popular personalities/celebrities who have amazing lives and they are as humble as can be. Generally speaking, most of the younger students, mostly in their 20s or early 30s, are more conscious, cautious and selective with who they wish to be friends with or associated with.
I do not profess to be perfect or very knowledgeable about the Dharma. I am still struggling to grasp the Truth, still trying hard to be a good practitioner. In fact, I am far from what my many wonderful friends have achieved so far. I am still struggling to understand my studies and putting the doctrine into my daily practice. I am still grappling with self discipline, anger, attachment, pride, ego, the whole works. But during my journey (particularly these recent few years), I realise that the Truth is not merely in the books and how you cleverly read and understood the contents. It is not about how intellectual you are (with all your wonderful worldly tools of iPad, iPhone etc..), or how many Dharma books you have read, or how many mantras you are able to recite. It is not about how many retreats or pilgrimage you have been to. It is not about how many gurus you have connection with. It is about how you observe and experience your surroundings and from there, hopefully gain some realisations to improve oneself. Put what you have learned and experienced into practice.
To me, as a rule of thumb, in terms of daily interaction and communication with people, it is basically about EQ. It is not just about religion, it is not about who is more popular/famous, it is not about which guru likes you more, it is not about which guru you are close to, it is not about how many times you have dinner with your guru, it is not just about how much money offerings/donation you have made, it is not about who can help you more. It is about how you can help others. And by helping others, you in turn, help yourself. It is basic courtesy. It is just like in the office, we try to be nice and polite to our colleagues, even those whom we are not close to. Likewise, I feel it is even more crucial we put that into practice in a spiritual environment. If all else fail, just smile.
"To renounce the world means to give up your attachment to the world. It does not mean that you have to separate yourself from it. The very purpose of our doctrine is to serve others. In other words, to serve others, you must remain in the society. You should not isolate yourself from the rest." His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Have you made at least one person happy today?