Not doing wrathful actions when appropriate.
Sometimes it is necessary to act in a wrathful manner to prevent someone from committing negative actions, or to subdue their pride. If we realize clearly that such a time has come, and we know that our wrathful action will greatly benefit them in the future, we incur a secondary downfall if for some incorrect reason we do not carry out that action.
In modern times, wrathful actions almost always backfire. Unless we are in very specific circumstances and we know our action will help, we should probably avoid doing them. What are these conditions? First, the other person’s faith in us has to be greater than the amount of wrath we use. If it is not, then our action will just breed resentment and cause the other person to reject what we have to say. Second, the other person has to know our action is motivated by love, free from any selfish intent. If we have some ulterior motive for our action, the other person will know this and reject our action as us just manipulating them. Third, our mind has to be free from anger when we do it. We often like to call our anger us being “wrathful,” but in reality our mind is still filled with anger. Anger always makes things worse. Anger solves nothing. If our mind is angry, our action will simply function to destroy our relationship with the other person, thus closing the door to us ever being able to help them again. Fourth, it is not enough to be “right” the other person has to have the capacity to realize that we are right. If it is simply beyond their capacity to understand how and why, our action will not work. Fifth, we must be reasonably certain that our wrathful action will actually help change the person’s behavior. If not, then all we do is build up within the other person a resistance to our wrathful actions and then when they are really needed later, they won’t work. Sixth, we need to have previously exhausted all other possibilities. There are four types of actions – pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful. As a general rule, we first try all of the other methods before we try wrathful actions. Assuming these six conditions are met, then it can be appropriate to engage in wrathful actions.
If we do so, it is vitally important that after everyone has calmed down, you share a moment of love with the other person, such as having a good laugh with them about how absurd everyone has been, or simply giving them a big hug and letting them know you love them. When we harm another person, which in the short-run at least wrathful actions often do, if we do not in very short order also have a moment of love the hurt can quickly transform into resentment, even if initially it was understood as you trying to help. We should, at a minimum try to never go to bed with hard feelings between us and anybody else. Set things straight before everyone goes to bed.
Not using miracle powers, threatening actions, and so forth.
When we perform wrathful actions we should use whatever miracle powers we have, otherwise we incur a secondary downfall. Nowadays, however, it is most beneficial for a Bodhisattva to not display their miracle powers.
The reason why we do not display our miracle powers is doing so can invite lots of problems. First, people who have harmful intent or who have committed past negative deeds can feel threatened if they think we can read their minds and we know what they have done. Second, it attracts all the wrong people. We do not want to fill our Dharma centers with people looking to do magic tricks, rather we seek people who humbly wish to become a better person. Third, it distracts from what really matters, namely developing a good heart. Geshe-la explains the true miracle power is the supreme good heart. Being able to fly or see distant places, etc., are of little value if not properly motivated. In fact, such abilities can be harmful with ill intent.
Some people generate doubts when they hear talk of miracle powers. They think it is absurd to say people can gain the ability to fly, see at great distances, read others’ minds’ etc. Nagarjuna said, “for whom emptiness is impossible, nothing is possible.” We only don’t understand how these things are possible because we grasp at all things as somehow existing independently of everything else. But if we understand everything is a dream, it is perfectly possible. If I am dreaming, in my dream I can move objects by simply thinking them in different places. It is the same in the waking world, which is also just another layer of dream.
Understanding emptiness may explain external miracle powers, but what about the ability to read other’s minds. Since ultimately, others’ minds are not separate from our own – in fact, they are merely waves on the ocean of our own mind – if we have removed the veil of ignorance from our mind we can see directly others minds just as we can see our own. Even conventionally, we can understand how this works by considering a parent and their child. I was a student of Gen Lhamo for many years, and she had an ability to see right through me. I often couldn’t understand how she did it until I myself had kids. Parents often see right through their kids by virtue of knowing them well and simply having a maturity that sees a bigger picture than the kid can possibly be aware of. Our kids think they are doing a good job of hiding that candy behind their back, but we know exactly what is going on. It is the same when our teachers look at us. We think we are hiding our delusions and wrong deeds well, but our teachers know the signs and just “see” what is going on in much the same way a parent does. Such powers may seem miraculous to the child, but are just the natural by product of having walked a little further down the path. All miracle powers should be understood in the same way.
Practically speaking, we are a long ways off from having miracle powers ourself. But this doesn’t prevent us from having access to them right now. The Buddhas already have perfected their miracle powers. They know all moments, past, present and future. They know where all paths lead. If somebody approaches us with some problem and we don’t know how to help or what they should do, we should bring our guru into our heart and pray that they reveal to us what to say. If our intention is pure and our faith strong, a vision or understanding will emerge within our mind. We will come to see how things are going to unfold, what pitfalls lie ahead for the person, and what they should do. We then share our vision and understanding and let the other person decide what to do. Of course we don’t say “I am prophet, and this is your message from the holy beings,” but in reality a prophet is simply somebody who has a good heart and a mind of faith. It is through such people that the holy beings speak and act in this world. If we improve our motivation and faith, they can begin to act through us as well.
One thought on “Vows, commitments and modern life: Not doing wrathful actions or using miracle powers”
What does it mean to me to be wrathful?
What do I think and how do i feel when i receive ‘feedback’ from others
both wanted and unwanted? – or their interventions for my own benefit? this will determine ones own conception. Some
people like being brutally honest so it follows to them that this is
acceptable to others also. Obviously, we are all different and so
adjustments need to be made.
A few other points if note:
1. We must have a good relationship with them – but we must know more than
that. In a way, their wishes can be the same as our wishes. Meaning, that we are in mutual agreement. So, we can come to a previous arranged agreement and mutual understanding way beforehand that we will ‘intervene’ or ‘tell it like it is’ because the other person has agreed for us to do so. This is like a karmic contract.
This is paramount in Psychotherapy whereby the client/patient agrees that
it is a joint intention of moving forward for the person.
2. If possible, an understanding of the personal construct of the person is beneficial. how does that person view reality, what is their subjective
view. What are their underlying assumptions and core beliefs, especially
about being challenged, helped and given advice. Since our ‘intervention’
will appear a certain way to their mind, it follows that it will arise from
their subtle minds in a particular way and take shape in a certain karmic
3. Our ‘intervention’ may come to define everything about that person. A
black seed can be destructive, a pure white seed of virtue can grow
abundantly within the consciousness. So we should remind ourself that our
actions are on a continuum that in karmic terms is infinite. Out of this
humility for the effect of our wrathful action could potentially have it’s
almost unforeseeable so I for one would not engage in wrathful actions
until i have a tremendous amount of insight and skilfull means. It could
release them from past torment or could disrupt their whole future.
4. Our blind faith in our ordinary self must be completely diminished: our
believing faith & reliance in our real self must be present.
5. Right time. It’s hard enough to control ones own mind let alone navigate
the unknown darkness of someone else’s mind by providing a wrathful
solution. How do we know what is going on going on for them?
6. What benefits them is not what you think. Really important point. What
we think is beneficial is clouded by ignorance, even as Dharma
practitioners. Behind the scenes, are countless Buddhas playing out drama
and such in the lives of all degenerates and we storm in creating wrathful
actions making a big further mess of things. Essentially, we are all crazed drug addicts, high on samsara. It’s easy to judge our actions as more pure or virtuous, or what we believe is best for others. But we have to conclude, we know almost nothing at all. Even as I write, the Buddhas cry with compassion of how deluded I still am.
Let’s consider an extreme example of our wrathful intervention:
we see a man chase after a woman in the street. He knocks her down and we intervene and we grab him to the floor. Oh how bodhisattva. The woman gets up, runs off. Little do we realise she has a bomb attached to her. We hear an explosion and many people die.
We could look at this example as my intention was pure etc but our wrathful action was based on the immediate appearance. It’s simply difficult to know.
I for one, have a great respect for peaceful solutions.
If you have to be wrathful, at least engage in solid purification before