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It could be worse

It could be worse

Mala and a sutra on a biege cushion.
I wish I could have a cushion to sit on (I meditate on a rolled up blanket on the floor). (Photo by Julián Ignacio Gomez Lorenzon)

It’s sad when people have so many good things in their lives but are unable to be happy. Sometimes I compare the environment I’m in with that of people on the outside and remind myself that “it could be worse.” That is my mantra.

Sure I wish I was free. My living conditions could be more conducive for practicing the Dharma. I wish I could have a cushion to sit on (I meditate on a rolled up blanket on the floor). I wish that I could meet and share fellowship with other Buddhists—that would really be a blessing.

But “it could be worse.” Monastics in Tibet faced much harsher prison time than me and they fared much better mentally. I could be in an environment that is more dangerous. Being locked up by myself 23 hours a day also means that it is not as easy for me to get beat up. My mom and sometimes friends will send me a little money so I can buy things that I need—and some things that I don’t, i.e. cookies. I get mail regularly. I have shelter and good (well, okay) meals. So many people both here and out there have far less.

I wish I could tell people when they feel down or dissatisfied with life, “It could be worse.” We are really blessed and I feel even more so because I’m privileged to have a connection to all of you who are doing the Vajrasattva retreat.


After receiving this letter, the retreatants put a cushion for B. T. in the meditation hall with his picture on top. They wrote and told him he had the best seat in the hall, and he was delighted!

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.