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.