YOUTH IN FOCUS: I will (hopefully) graduate from college in the summer, and I want to join a small CSO/NGO, but my parents are against it. They feel that CSOs and NGOs are unstable and that I might lose my job after a short time. Instead, they want me to get a job that offers more security. From my point of view, I feel that a small CSO would be more rewarding and allow me to use my skills in a more productive way.  What does Lam think about CSOs?

TP, Siliguri

Well, first of all it would be best to try and develop skills and cultivate a flexible and open mind rather than seeking security. In reality, stability is never achievable in the ever changing world, and trying to hold things together just creates mental stress. Basically, we should prepare our minds for change instead of trying to prevent change.

Perhaps it is helpful to think of our environment and circumstances like space in a room. We clean the room and decorate it, but then we have a choice on how we deal with the inevitability of change. We might decide to close the windows and doors and stop people entering. Definitely, this will prolong the cleanliness of the room, but it will also create an atmosphere that it is suffocating and lifeless. Instead, we could accept the inevitability of change and leave the doors and windows open and invite friends and family to enjoy the space. It will get messy quicker, but it is a living environment – vibrant and alive. Basically, we need to keep our minds open and accept that things will change.  In terms of the space, we clean it, let it get messy and clean it again. With life, we have jobs and we have relationships. They change and fall apart.  We rebuild them, but know that they will again change. This is how we should think.

To specifically address your question regarding CSOs, well generally such organisations are founded on altruistic aspirations, and if you share the vision behind those aspirations a CSO can provide a very rewarding work experience. However, you need to ensure that the organisation where you are considering to work remains true to its founding values. If it has become burdened with excessive bureaucracy or the management are wasteful and extravagant with their funds, then your efforts on their behalf will not bring you the sense of achievement and satisfaction you seek. Therefore, before making any long term work commitments you should thoroughly investigate any prospective CSOs.

With regard to your specific question about your future career, you need to consider what is important to you: Do you prefer a challenge or security? Of course, a secure job can also be challenging and exciting, but sometimes there has to be a trade off. Furthermore, you should bear in mind that it is not the job that is important, but how you approach it. Even if you have the most fantastic job in the world, you will feel stressed if you are not mentally prepared for change. Likewise, you will feel unhappy if you are unable to do your work with an open and generous attitude.

Now, if you want to take your endeavours to a higher level, then you can apply these three methods to your work: Before you begin the day, make a wish that your efforts benefit others on a profound level. As you do the work, remind yourself that like all compounded phenomena you, the action and the receiver are no more real than a rainbow or mirage (difficult, I know, but it will make sense if you contemplate the concept of emptiness). Finally, after you complete your day’s work, dedicate the benefits of any positive action to the well-being of others: “I dedicate whatever virtue results from my actions to all sentient beings. May everyone be free of suffering and the causes of suffering”.

Finally, I wish you well in your exams and with your future career.

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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