Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Surviving Campus Politics

Here is something that they do not teach you in grad school. What do you do when you are at a campus that is in turmoil? I have not completely lived up to these verses, but they are certainly a goal and my better days are informed by them.

The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation
By His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Dharamsala, India 1981Published in 2005 in the LYWA publication Teachings From Tibet.
1. Determined to obtain the greatest possible benefit for all sentient beings, who are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel, I shall hold them most dear at all times.
The first thing we need to do is to remember our purpose. Think about why you got involved in education in the first place. There was some moment in your life when you got why all of this is important. Remember that and let it be the center of your day.

2. When in the company of others, I shall always consider myself the lowest of all, and from the depths of my heart hold others dear and supreme.
Graduate school does not teach humility. Remember that you are coming from a position of privilege. St. Luke wrote "and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Teaching is a vocation of service; you are here for others.

3. Vigilant, the moment a delusion appears in my mind, endangering myself and others, I shall confront and avert it without delay.
There are many delusions that arise on a college campus. Some might be: my program is the most important thing going; things will never change; if things do change, all change is bad; this president is the worse one (or the last one and certainly the one after), my feelings, dignity, salary, benefits (insert attachment here) matter more than teaching.

4. Whenever I see beings that are wicked in nature and overwhelmed by violent negative actions and suffering, I shall hold such rare ones dear, as if I had found a precious treasure.
No matter what someone says to you, no matter how personally hateful - they speak from a place of suffering; the same suffering you feel or have known.

5. When, out of envy, others mistreat me with abuse, insults or the like, I shall accept defeat and offer the victory to others.
I am still learning from this one. The turn the other cheek bit is hard and if you ever doubt the existence of your own ego wait for someone else to take credit for your work or to slander you behind your back. You will find out just how attached you are to your ego. I find myself returning to #4 an awful lot.

6. When somebody whom I have benefited and in whom I have great hopes gives me terrible harm, I shall regard that person as my holy guru.
Isn't that wonderful? You didn't know there were so many gurus around did you?

7. In short, both directly and indirectly, I offer every happiness and benefit to all my mothers. I shall secretly take upon myself all their harmful actions and suffering.
So if we are aware of the sufferings of others we can act from compassion and make a difference. It is one thing to be aware and another to act - if you are going to complain, ask yourself "how will complaining make a difference?" Maybe you feel like you need to raise other's awareness of a problem, but how will you ease the sufferings of others? As Ghandi said "be the change you want to see in the world."

8. Undefiled by the stains of the superstitions of the eight worldly concerns, may I, by perceiving all phenomena as illusory, be released from the bondage of attachment.
The important thing here is the "all phenomena as illusory" bit. Kissinger once said that "university politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." Things do change - politics, budgets, and programs, and each day is an opportunity to participate in ways that will make a positive difference in the lives of others. Nothing in the college is more important than teaching and serving the students.

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