Obnoxious Passenger … FAILED Buddhist Teachings

Tuesday evening, my wife and i were traveling on the bus home. When we got on, the only double seats available was at the back of the bus. A man was sitting in the row before the last with his seat reclined. My wife went into the corner, directly behind the man and I sat beside her. I tapped him on his shoulder and asked him to raise his seat a little.

He turned around quite furious with a frown on his face and bellowed “What?!” I repeated in a polite tone “Could you raise your seat a little please?” He ignored me and answered his phone. When he hung up, he raised the seat a little (literally an inch). He asked if that was OK. Before I could say anything, my wife answered, as if to avoid confrontation, “YES”. His seat was still pressing against her legs. I was livid! My protective instinct was compelling me to pound him with my umbrella.

Buddha‘s teachings of nonviolence was the farthest thing from my mind in the moment. We scooched over one seat to the right. With a frown plastered on my face, I told her how I felt. She smiled and said “Babes, some people are just inconsiderate. If we wanted convenience we would buy a car. This is out of our control”.¬† I smiled. As she laid her head on my shoulder, my anger dissipated as quickly as it came.

I thought I was in perfect control of my emotions, but sometimes it takes moments like these for us to realize how weak we really are and they act as a lesson.

The Impermanence of Life

Buddhism teaches that nothing is permanent. The first noble truth of Buddhism is that there exist great pain and suffering or dissatisfaction in life. It is not a pessimistic view, but more a realistic view.

Life is constantly changing. Nothing is permanent. You may be well today and ill tomorrow. Alive today, dead tomorrow. When things doesn’t measure up to our expectations, we become depressed, angry or sad.

If we learn to accept the fact that life is impermanent and subject to change, then we will have some insight into what gives us true happiness and what doesn’t. If we are able to do this, then our suffering or dissatisfaction will diminish.

Traleg Kyabgon explains:

Normally we think our happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon our own inner atti­tude toward things, or toward life in general. The Buddha was saying that dissatisfaction is part of life, even if we are seeking happiness and even if we manage to find temporary happiness. The very fact that it is temporary means that sooner or later the happiness is going to pass. So the Buddha said that unless we understand this and see how pervasive dissatisfaction or duhkha is, it is impossible for us to start looking for real happiness.