Lojong Practice Journal: Don't expect applause
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
Short and sweet, ‘Don’t expect applause’ is quite fitting as the last of the 59 slogans of Atisha. Simply put, if our motivation for practice is accolades or fame, then our intention is shallow and our practice will not flourish. We must remember to be humble in our practice, regardless of where we are on the path or what titles we hold or classes we have taken. We do not set out to be Bodhisattvas for recognition of our deeds, but because we want to alleviate the suffering of all beings.
This slogan feels particularly relevant as a white person engaged in cultivating an anti-racist practice. To be engaged in anti-racism as a white person living in a white supremacist culture requires vigilance. As long as white supremacy continues to function as a system, I will be unlearning the messages of that system and the clever ways they shift to avoid criticism and accountability.
When I succeed in seeing, naming and interrupting systemic racism, it definitely gives me a thrill. I will not deny that it is incredibly validating when a Black, Indigenous or Asian person remarks on my awareness, but that validating feeling cannot be my motivation for cultivating an anti-racist practice.
This applies to anyone who holds an identity with unearned social power. Expecting applause can easily lead us to think we have mastered something and no longer have any work to do, while the systems that benefit some at the expense of most continue to operate un-impinged. It can also put us into an echo-chamber of sorts, whereby we surround ourselves with people who confirm our egos or affirm us in a way where we feel absolved of the need to change something about ourselves.
The other reason to avoid outward validation as the sole motivation for inner work, is that the world is constantly changing and so too should our understanding. I started writing these commentaries in 2016. I could easily write a whole new set of commentaries that would be wildly different to my original take. This doesn’t necessarily mean my first take on any particular slogan isn’t still relevant (although that might be the case), but that how we apply any slogan is contextual and relational. Mastery is not found in having a fixed notion as to how and where one applies each slogan. Mastery is found in our willingness to meet our growing edges and apply a teaching with a fresh perspective. Indeed, the approach I took to writing this set of commentaries shifted significantly over the course of writing them, in response to the social and political climate as well as my constant growing awareness.
We can accept compliments and praise with grace and appreciation, as a way to see and honour our growth, and compliments and praise should not be the reason why we practice.
May these commentaries be of benefit.
May they find those who are seeking to grow their awareness.
May they find those who did not know they might need them.
In love and Liberation,
This concludes a series of posts I wrote in support of my practice.
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