Chögyam Trungpa on working with people

When I first started trying to “get spiritual” I didn’t always treat people well or respect their boundaries.  Many times I thought I knew better than them, and felt it was my job to work them over, manipulate them, until they did what I wanted, what I thought was right.  Over time, after causing enormous pain for others and myself, I began to question my approach.  I had good intentions, so what could I possibly be doing wrong???

Chögyam Trungpa

Chögyam Trungpa (photographer unknown)

Here’s a quote about this you might enjoy.

The idea of helping each other is more subtle than we might think.  Generally, when we try to help other people, we make a nuisance of ourselves, make demands upon them.  The reason we make a nuisance of ourselves to other people is that we cannot stand ourselves.  We want to burst out into something, to make it known that we are desperate.  So we extend ourselves and step out into someone else’s territory without permission.  We want to make a big deal of ourselves, no matter if the other person wants to accept us or not.

We do not really want to expose our basic character, but we want to dominate the situation around us.  We march straight through another person’s territory, disregarding the proper conditions for entering it.  There might be signs saying “Keep off the grass, no trespassing”.  But each time we see these signs, they make us more aggressive, more revolutionary.  We just push ourselves into the other person’s territory, like a tank going through a wall.  We are not only committing vandalism to someone else’s territory, but we are disrupting our own territory as well — it is inward vandalism too.  It is being a nuisance to ourselves as well as to others.

On the other hand, one does not have to adopt a cool facade and a genteel manner and do everything correctly and be polite and considerate.  True consideration is not diplomacy, putting on a facade of smiles or polite conversation.  It is something more than that.  It requires opening up our territory rather than marching into someone else’s.  It requires not playing magnetizing or repelling games, not surrounding our territory with electric wire or magnets.  Then there is the faint possibility that we could be of some use to someone else.  But we still should be tentative about helping others.  We have glimpsed the first step in genuinely helping others, but it takes a lot of time to pick up the thing, put it in our mouth, chew it, taste it and swallow it.  It takes a long time to take our fences down….

If we can make friends with ourselves, if we are willing to be what we are, without hating parts of ourselves and trying to hide them, then we can begin to open to others.  And if we can begin to open without always having to protect ourselves, then perhaps we can begin to really help others. 1

Questions we might ask:

  • Have you ever tried to help someone by forcing something on them without their permission?  How did it go?
  • In this quote, Chögyam Trungpa speaks of opening up one’s own territory.  Do you think people who do this become weak and ineffective?  Or is it a kind of strength?
  • My own teacher once said “Mine is the first submission.”  When you want to help someone, do you first make a submission of your own, or do you expect the other person to do all the submitting?

Warm regards,
BoT Student

  1. Excerpted from The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation, by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.  Edited by John Baker and Marvin Casper.  (Boston:  Shambhala Publications, 1976.)  As listed on The Basket of Tolerance by Bhagavan Adi Da.
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  1. Julie   Thumb up +3

    I really like Trungpa’s observation about opening up our own territory rather than marching into someone else’s.

    There is something very rugged and courageous about Trungpa’s expression, something that can be felt tacitly in the body. This way feels strong and sensitive at the same time. Both vital and vulnerable. Firm and flexible. Perhaps we feel the beauty and grace and wonder and self-evident rightness of what Trungpa is pointing to because of this paradoxical combining of seeming opposites.

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