How to decide what’s best?

Jul 8, 2024

QUESTION

Dear Venerable Robina,

I had the pleasure of watching several of your teachings and have, of course, been watching your discussions and Q&As on YouTube. My family have been listening to you and your straightforward manner has put them at ease that I’m not entering into some sort of cult! Thank you!

I’ve been attending teachings for a couple of years. Discovering FPMT and studying Discovering Buddhism, Exploring Buddhism, and recently Basic Program online through Nalanda, has changed my life. Not just the intellectual side but also the practical and practice side. I’ve always felt there’s been something missing and I am so fortunate to have the blessings to discover Buddhism and in particular the FPMT family.

I have a couple of questions.

I’m in a relationship, although these days they’re in another country, but am not sure that we’re still together for the right reasons and I worry that my partner is missing out on a more fulfilling romantic life with someone else. However, I’m scared to enter into that discussion as I don’t want to hurt them and don’t want them to be alone if they don’t find someone else.

Also, I wonder whether I should live with them, or stay near the center where I am now.

I’m trying to live more fully the pratimoksha vows and renew them each morning. I struggle most with the sexual misconduct precept (where I some days define it as full celibacy and at other times not hurting another person through my actions) and would like any advice you have on curbing excessive desire.

I think about ordination, also. I’ve understood that becoming ordained would mean not being in a relationship, being debt free (hence the location question) and vowing full celibacy (among others). I believe the excessive desire can be overcome through practice but I’m lost when it comes to the relationship and location questions and would love your advice if possible.

Big love and warmest regards,

W

ANSWER

Happy to hear from you, W.

Thank you for explaining things.

You seem to be clear about pursuing your Buddhist path. Clarity helps! If you are clear, then you will go in the right direction; it will be the basis for your decisions.

Given that, then the answer to all your questions is the same. As His Holiness advises, “Always aspire to do what is most beneficial and, if we can, long term better than short term.”

So have that as an aspiration every day: it really does guide you in the right direction, causing you to always make the right decision. Whether you stay with your partner, go to another country, become a monk: same thing: aspire as above, and all will be good.

Basically, keep moving on your path. Do your practice every day, study every day, grow yourself. Let it all unfold, one step at a time.

Having the above aspiration — seriously, as a basis for whatever you dodoesn’t mean you need to know what is most beneficial. What the aspiration does, this thought, is nourish the karma you have created in the past, causing it to ripen as exactly the right thing to do, the right choice to make.

As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says, “Everything exists on the tip of the wish.”

But don’t worry about your partner: they can take care of themselves. Staying with them because you’re afraid they’ll end up alone will just confuse everything.

And a couple of thoughts about excessive attachment:

Your pratimoksha vow is to refrain from sexual misconduct, not sexual conduct — when you’re a monk, yes!

Of course, then we have the mind, which is where the attachment is. Clearly, disciplining our behavior — vows are all about behavior — helps steady our mind.

Attachment is difficult, though, no matter what the object is. It’s the main source of our pain in samsara. The key thing is to watch the mind and its tendency to think all the time about the object — food, a person, whatever it might be. And then we do our best to try to not allow the stories to run rampant.

And another level of practice is to analyze attachment, this conceptual story: how it exaggerates the deliciousness of the object, and exaggerates therefore its power to make us happy. This is the big one.

So, W: one step at a time!

Many blessings,

Robina

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