To be fully enlightened is to
have the broadest heart and mind possible,
without losing sensitivity to the narrowest hearts and minds.
Just as the Dalai Lama was about to continue, he suddenly had a brief coughing fit… Reaching into my pocket, I offered him a lozenge. “Thank you,” he said, and as he put the lozenge into his mouth, he suddenly started to laugh: “Oh! So here you can see a very small example [of how one might look at problems in terms of potential benefits or outcomes] – right now I have this scratchy, sore throat, a small problem. That is negative. But if you investigate, you see, you can always find other angles. So, looking at another angle, a positive angle, this coughing just brought something good – a sweet from a friend! A moment of sharing. It isn’t all bad. It is a matter of reminding yourself that despite this problem, there are still positive things in life.
“So, we have been talking about how a narrow perspective can increase feelings of hopelessness and other negative emotions, and cause us greater suffering. If we have too much self-involvement, a kind of very narrow self-concern, this can limit us and cause problems, exaggerating our suffering. So, in the case of this sore throat, this is not really much of a problem – but if I focus too much on myself and keep thinking, ‘Oh, what a problem this sore throat is, this cough is so annoying, why am I afflicted with this?’ Then this just serves to exaggerate the situation, and then it becomes a problem. If your vision narrows so you focus your attention only on a problem or tragedy, you can even become completely overwhelmed by it, when in fact it is a surmountable problem.
“However, we can prevent this. Broadening our perspective acts as an antidote to that kind of narrow perspective, and there are various ways to do this. One way is by comparison, comparing of your own situation with those who are less fortunate than yourself. This can often make a difference, at least in helping cope with one’s personal problems. It puts things in a more realistic proportion. For example, if I am troubled by a sore throat and lots of annoying coughing, I can remember that at this moment there are so many people in the world experiencing problems that are so much more serious, so many people suffering, in real pain – and compared with that, this small problem is nothing. Another way is to take a more long-term view, realizing that yes, this may be a little annoying or inconvenient, but this is just temporary and will soon pass. And then… by remembering that problems and suffering are naturally bound to arise, looking from a different angle you’ll realize that, after all, as long as I have this body.” he said, slapping one arm with the opposite hand, “It is bound to have a certain number of sore throats. That’s the reality…”