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In the print edition of Mandala October-December 2013, we spoke with Alan Carter, who served as resident teacher at Chandrakirti Centre in New Zealand and now works as a life coach, about how self-acceptance is key to a successful Dharma practice. We continue our interview with Alan here, talking about his background, a few more thoughts on self-acceptance, and how to bring Dharma into the community.
Mandala: You talked about how self-acceptance is the foundation of Dharma practice. And how accepting one’s self and accepting others are related. How can we work with this in our Dharma centers?
Alan: I think within centers it is important to have open discussions. I think it is important to get together and take the risk of people scrambling for words and saying, “Oh, I’m not quite sure, but this is how I feel,” and having that sense of acceptance by others as to where we are at. And that acceptance of others helps with accepting ourselves.
This is very much Carl Rogers’ person-centered therapy with the client: you accept that person. You don’t dislike or like any aspect of them, you just accept that individual, and through accepting that person for exactly where they are at, then that person learns to accept himself or herself. Within Dharma centers, this is an ideal opportunity for us to get together and talk about these issues in a very open way in an accepting environment. I think that process for acceptance would help within Buddhist centers.
… Mandala: Talk a bit more about your work bringing Dharma into the community. I know we all think about doing that. What does it look like for you in your work?
Alan: Since my retreat last year, I actually do more volunteer work within the community. At centers sometimes it seems that volunteer work is very much focused on doing work at the center. It is like, “OK, if you do things at the center, there is an enormous amount of merit because you are working for the guru and supporting part of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s mandala,” which is very wonderful. But sometimes that feels like it creates distance from actually being out in the community and just being a nobody helping out, whereas at a center, we are more of a somebody than a nobody. As an example, I work in a hospice on a fortnightly basis for a couple of hours. I find the greatest experience is going in there and just doing whatever people need, which could be just talking to the patients. I switch off who I am in a way, and I find that really quite special. …
From Mandala October-December 2013
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Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
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