Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  There is no one who can live happily with anger

(6.5) Anger causes friends and relatives to grow weary of me
And, even if I try to attract them with generosity, they will not trust me.
In short, there is no one
Who can live happily with anger.

If we are honest, the primary emotion we show towards others is frustration.  When we communicate to others that they frustrate us it makes them think they are a bad person, and so they start to identify with that and it brings out that very behavior.  It also just makes them feel very bad.  When somebody gets angry with us, we dwell with it for a very long time and we feel really bad about it.  For the most part, people need to feel like they are loved and supported for them to have confidence to go out and grow.  When we get angry with somebody, we betray that love.  It is like emotionally raping them.  Sometimes when our parents or someone we deeply respect becomes angry with us, it can scar us for life.  Our trust and confidence are violated and it takes an enormous amount to earn it back.  The same is true of others who are the victims of our anger.

When we are young, we have a certain ability to absorb and bounce back relatively easy, but over time we store up so much anger that our tank fills up and then we become an angry and bitter person or depressed.  We don’t know where the tipping point is for somebody, but it could very well be that our next bout of anger is the one that fills it up and pushes them over the brink.  This is why it is so important to apologize often every time we get angry because this helps those we got angry with let go of their hurt and their own anger.  We really need to take this seriously, it is so important.

Nobody wants to be with angry people.  We just don’t want to be around them, and so it is no surprise that over time angry people find themselves all alone.  It is inevitable that this will happen as long as we are angry.  Sometimes people feel trapped with angry people and they don’t know how to get out.  This causes them to generate a lot of resentment towards the other person and they sit internally with their anger, day by day creating countless causes to fall into the lower realms.  Usually what happens is once the power balance shifts in the relationship, such as the angry person becomes the weaker one in some way, then all this anger and resentment comes out creating incredible misery for the angry person and terrible causes for the person who lets it all out.

As bodhisattvas, we need strive to maintain good and harmonious relationships with everybody.  It is through our relationships that we can help people.  Somebody can be a Buddha, and have incredibly precious advice to give, but if they don’t have the karma of having good relationships they can’t do anything to help.  We need to try to get on good terms with everybody.  It doesn’t take much effort to do so, we just need to try and be willing to apologize for our mistakes.  We need to start viewing others as our future spiritual responsibility, and start to cultivate our relationship in that direction right now.  The most important thing we need to do is overcome our anger with them.

Especially for people who are teachers or Sangha, there is nothing more devastating to our fellow practitioners than them thinking we are angry with them or do not accept them or that they bother us.  This destroys everything about their spiritual life, and prevents them from being able to trust us.  If they do not trust us, there is nothing we can do help them.  Even if we’re controlled enough not to say or do anything out of anger, our students or the other people in the Sangha may sense the impatience, irritation or anger we have in our mind towards them.  When they become aware of it they will not trust us and sometimes not trust the Dharma as a result.  They will judge the Dharma as being faulty when in reality it is us who is faulty.  How can we expect our students and fellow Sangha to develop open hearts towards us, to rely upon us, to draw close to us, if we become angry with them?

What will happen is they will keep some distance from us, and their mind will be closed. They will not be open to receiving whatever good things we have to offer, even during teachings.  If their mind is closed as a result of experiencing our anger towards them, they will not fully take the teachings  to heart, just a memory of a time we became angry or impatient with them.  We know, if we’re honest, we know that we have become impatient with our students or fellow Sangha, we have become angry with our students and fellow Sangha. We have to stop, because what is most important is our improving our relationships with our students and spiritual friends.  When we become impatient or angry with them our relationship is damaged. To that extent we are responsible for hindering spiritual progress and creating divisions within the Sangha.

Sometimes we feel we’re being wrathful: something needs to be said in a strong way. We think, “I need to be wrathful with this person.”  But we need to check very, very closely in our mind, to see if there’s this enemy, poison of anger, still influencing our thoughts.  Even if our mind is at peace, those we are wrathful with may still perceive us as getting angry. Our relationship needs to be a particularly good one.  Will the other person perceive an angry action instead of a wrathful one? We do need to be careful.

 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Anger harms ourselves first and foremost

While anger can also be nothing more than a mild frustration, wishing things were different than they are; usually anger is the wish to inflict harm on others because they hurt us in some way.  Anger always feels like it is “justified.”  The other person is wrong, they have treated us unfairly, they have hurt us deeply and when we think of them we feel nothing but rage.  We want to say things to them which we know will hurt them so that they realize the hurt they have caused us.  But the truth of the matter is anger hurts the person who is angry far more than it hurts the person we are angry with.  We are harming ourselves.

(6.3) If I harbour painful thoughts of anger,
I shall not experience mental peace,
I shall find no joy or happiness,
And I shall be unsettled and unable to sleep.

Usually we justify our anger in our mind by thinking at least by getting angry we will get what we want.  But even if we get what we want, we are not able to enjoy it because our mind is not at peace, and inner peace is the essential condition for mental happiness.  Mental unhappiness leads to anger, and since there is no inner peace we will be increasingly unhappy and we will look for something to blame.  This then leads to yet more anger.

A few years ago, for about an 18 month period, my mind was consumed with anger – even rage – about a situation that transpired with my father.  Because I couldn’t let go of my anger towards him (despite trying every day to do so), I became an angry person.  This anger pervaded every aspect of my life, clouding my enjoyment of anything.  During the day, I couldn’t stop thinking about my hurt and how wrong he was for inflicting it on me.  I would awake in the middle of the night and not be able to fall back asleep because my mind would resume its anger towards my father.  Even from an ordinary point of view, anger makes us miserable.  I was torturing myself.

We need to make a complete distinction between what we are experiencing now and what causes we are creating.  All of the effects we are experiencing right now have nothing to do with right now, but are the ripening of karma from previous lives.  What we will experience in the future is determined by what causes we create right now in our response to our situation.   Knowing this, we can realize that the only thing that matters is what causes we create now, not what effects we are experiencing.

We all have countless negative seeds on our mind, some ripening, others not.  We are all the same in this regard.  Where people differ is how they RESPOND.  If we respond with Dharma, happily accepting our situation as purification, then no matter how uncomfortable the situation may be, we will be doing what matters.  Good causes, good future, guaranteed; bad causes, bad future, guaranteed.  We realize that nothing we do in this life will really make a big difference in this life, so we stop worrying about what happens in this life and instead focus our attention on collecting our spiritual pennies for future lives.  Then we become a pure practitioner and develop a genuine equanimity towards the inevitable tides of samsaric life.

(6.4) Overcome by a fit of anger,
I might even kill a benefactor
Upon whose kindness I depend
For my wealth or reputation.

Anger is at the root of most negative actions.  Anger itself is a negative mental action, and so just the thought creates negative karma.  But it also leads to us engaging in all sorts of negative actions such as speaking harshly, speaking divisively, harming others, covetousness, malice, etc.  Anger always makes the situation worse because when we get angry with people they no longer want to help us, and if they do so it is only grudgingly, so in the long run it makes things worse.  This makes it almost impossible even to accomplish our worldly goals.

If we look at the arc of human history and the story of our own lives, the most destructive and harmful acts are almost always driven by anger.  Once we hit “send” on that angry email, there is no pulling it back; and sometimes the consequences of it echo for years to come.  One moment of anger can destroy a lifetime of friendship.  By getting mad at our family, our employers, our friends, we create problems and destroy our relationships.  It makes “sense” to us to do senseless things.  We need merely check our own life and that of those we know to come up with endless examples of the harm anger leaves in its wake.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  There is no evil greater than anger

Overcoming delusions is not complicated.  First, we need to identify what they are.  Then, we need to break our identification with them – they are thoughts passing through our mind, they are not us.  Then, we contemplate the faults of the delusions and the benefits of the opponents.  On the basis of that contemplation, we choose to not believe the lies of the delusions and we choose to try think differently in accordance with the opponent.  We then continue this process until we develop new mental habits, where virtue and wisdom come naturally.  Among delusions, anger is the most harmful of them all.

(6.1) All the virtuous deeds and merit,
Such as giving and making offerings,
That we have accumulated over thousands of aeons
Can be destroyed by just one moment of anger.

This is quite a striking introduction to the chapter. Shantideva is pointing out straightaway the faults of an angry mind.  There are many ways in which we can understand anger as being destructive, and from a spiritual point of view it is most destructive in that it takes away the merit that we’re working so hard to accumulate every day of our life.  As spiritual practitioners, we have been given a very special opportunity to create every day of our life an enormous amount of merit. Yet that merit is taken away from us each time we become angry, and it doesn’t have to be full-blown anger to destroy that merit in our mind.

From a worldly perspective, merit is the principal cause of wish-fulfillment.  If you have merit, things will go your way; if things don’t go your way, it is because you lack merit.  So if you have no merit, everything will be difficult and good things will not happen.  From a spiritual perspective, merit is the fuel for our spiritual progress.  It is the fertile ground for a crop of inner realizations.  Without merit, we can make no progress on the spiritual path, and therefore never find the happiness we seek.

For most people the prospect that anger destroys our merit may not seem like a big deal, but for pure spiritual practitioners it is the most terrifying danger.  Pure spiritual practitioner and old people nearing death understand that the only thing that matters is the causes that we create, because they are the only things we can take with us into our future lives.  Everything else is meaningless.  We don’t want to go into our future lives empty handed.  We have worked very hard and endured considerable difficulties to create the good causes we have created for ourselves.  All of our effort becomes a total waste if its fruit all gets burnt in the fire of our anger.  It is like we have been saving up our money our whole life for our retirement, and then on the day of our retirement we take it all out in cash and our house burns down so it is completely gone.  All that wasted work.  Or when we have worked hard on a document for a long time and it gets deleted because the computer crashed.

Perhaps one reason we find it still difficult to fulfill our wishes, and we find ourselves making little progress along that path to Bodhisattva-hood and Buddhahood is because much of the merit we are creating is being destroyed by our anger.  Dedication functions to protect our merit, but if we’re honest we’re not exactly perfect at dedicating our merit.  How often do we dedicate, and when we dedicate, how well do we do so?  We should see anger as a thief stealing our spiritual life.  It makes it as if you never did all the hard work we have done.

 (6.2) There is no evil greater than anger,
And no virtue greater than patience.
Therefore, I should strive in various ways
To become familiar with the practice of patience.

Anger is the worst of all delusions, therefore patience is the greatest of all practices.  Every moment of anger not only destroys our merit but it creates the cause for us to fall into the lower realms.  Shantideva is not saying we need to be attached to the result of not being angry, he is saying the conclusion is we need to apply ourselves fully to trying to practice patience.  The name of the game is trying, even if we don’t succeed, it doesn’t matter because we create causes.  To understand this we need to make a distinction between what tendencies are ripening and what new minds we are generating.  If the tendency to get angry at somebody arises within our mind, this only becomes a new delusion if we assent to that tendency – in other words, we believe it to be true and start thinking that way.  If instead, when the tendency arises, we recognize it as the delusion of anger, realize that it is self-defeating to think in this way, and then choose to try be patient instead, we are not generating the delusion of anger, rather we are practicing the moral discipline of restraint.  Not only does moral discipline create the cause for higher rebirth, each time we train in this way we create the karma for new tendencies of patient acceptance in the future.  With time, we will experience results, it is guaranteed.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Bodhisattva vows of patience

We continue with our explanation of the downfalls of bodhisattva vows associated with the practice of patience.  In the previous post, we talked about the first one of not retaliating to harm or abuse.

Not apologizing when we have the opportunity.  If we have disturbed another person by acting unskillfully, and later the opportunity to apologize arises but, out of pride or laziness, we fail to do so we incur a secondary downfall.  Until we have deep experience of the practice of patience, we will get angry.  This is normal.  We should not expect that we won’t still get angry just because we know better or are taking a Dharma class.  But when we do get angry, after we have calmed down, make a point of saying sorry for having gotten angry.  Explain that getting angry only makes the situation worse, and you are sorry.

When we apologize it does several things:  First, it softens the heart of the other person.  When people are harmed by us, they wind up bearing a grudge against us.  Every moment anger is running through their mind, they are creating terrible karma for themselves and they feel terrible.  When we apologize it enables them to let go because we have admitted we made a mistake and said we are sorry.  A huge emphasis of Christianity is related to forgiveness.  By apologizing we give the other person a chance to forgive.  Second, it is a powerful form of purification.  Purification works primarily on the basis of the mind of regret.  Regret is a mind that accepts that we have made a mistake.  It is quite different from guilt, as we will discuss more as our explanation of this chapter goes on.  But accepting we have made a mistake and making a point of admitting that to the other person is a powerful purification of the negative karma we accumulated by getting angry.  Third, it creates a special patience in the other person.  When we get angry with somebody and don’t apologize, we infect them with our anger and pretty soon everybody is angry at everybody.  But when we apologize for getting angry, the person becomes more accepting of the mistakes of other people.  It also teaches that anger makes us uncontrolled and is an object to be abandoned.  It helps them accept themselves more when they make their own mistakes.  By us apologizing to them, we indirectly teach them to apologize when they make mistakes.  It also gives them a chance to forgive.  I know an abusive father who only once apologized to his family, admitting that he was out of control, and this was enough for the wife and family to forgive him for countless wrongs, before and after.  This has protected them against so much anger.  Fourth, it undoes the bad lesson taught.  When we get angry with somebody about something, what does it teach the other person?  It teaches them that it is justified to get angry about the given issue, so we set them up for a lifetime of getting angry and creating the cause to go to hell on that issue.  When we apologize for getting angry, we undo that damage by showing it is never justified to get angry.  We can apologize for getting angry while maintaining our position on the issue we got angry about (if we are right on the issue in question).

Sometimes we fear saying sorry and admitting our mistakes, because we fear if we do so the other person will lose respect for us.  This is completely wrong.  There are two possibilities:  First, the other person does not think we made a mistake, at which point if we do not apologize and admit our mistakes, we teach them that it is not a mistake to get angry and that this mistake was not a mistake, but the right thing to do.  Second, the other person realizes that it is a mistake, at which point if we do not admit to it, they lose respect for us because we cannot face up to our mistakes.

If we apologize, it cures all of these problems.  In the first possibility, by admitting our mistakes and apologizing, we teach what is a mistake, thereby protecting the person from making the same mistakes, and we show integrity of admitting our mistake even when the other person didn’t see it, so their respect for us grows.  In the second possibility, by admitting our mistakes and taking corrective action, their respect for us increases because we have the courage to learn and do not fear the consequences of owning up to our mistakes and faults.  We should really focus on this one.  Make a point of doing it.  Mentally make the decision to apologize every time you get angry, even if that means you are apologizing 6 times a day.

Not accepting others’ apologies.  If someone who has previously harmed us later apologies and, without a good reason but not out of resentment (which is a root downfall) we refuse to accept, we incur a secondary downfall.  When somebody apologizes to us, by accepting it we are able to let go of our anger and stop creating a mountain of negative karma.  We also give the other person a chance to let go of their anger.  If we don’t accept their apology, they will likely renew their anger and create a bunch of negative karma for themselves.  Again, take everything you know about Christianity and forgiveness and apply it here.  There is enormous healing power of forgiveness.

Making no effort to control our anger.  If we do not make a special effort to practice patience when we find ourselves getting angry we incur a secondary downfall.  We are not vowing to not get angry, that will be impossible for now.  Rather, we are making the vow to try our best.  Because the methods we have work, if we apply them persistently over a long period of time our anger will gradually subside.  All it takes is persistent effort.  When we try, we create the karma to have the effects of being able to be patient in the future.  Our interest is in creating causes, not in experiencing their effects.  Even if we are a raging inferno inside, if we try not to be then we are creating lots and lots of good causes.  With time, this will manifest in our being less and less angry.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  A reminder of our Bodhisattva vows

In an earlier post, we talked about generating the mind of bodhichitta, the wish to become a Buddha for the benefit of all.  Essentially we become aware of our samsaric situation, and that of others; and how if we gained control of our mind we would be able to escape from it.  We see how all living beings are in the same situation, and if they are going to be saved it is up to us to do it.  This leads to the superior intention to take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others.  We see how we are currently incapable of doing so, but if we were a Buddha we would be able to.  Understanding this, we generate the wish to become a Buddha for all living beings.

The question now is how do we act on this wish?  We do so by practicing the six perfections.  The six perfections are the actual pathway to enlightenment.  By training in them we travel the internal path to enlightenment.  The six perfections are:  giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.

We can synthesize our practice of the six perfections into the keeping of the Bodhisattva vows.  A few years ago, I did an extensive series of posts going over all of the different Kadampa vows and commitments, which you can find in the special series in the link at the top.  The bodhisattva vows are a practical means of practicing the six perfections.  One of the main reasons why we take vows is it is a special way to continuously accumulate virtuous causes, even when we are not thinking about it.  For as long as we have not un-done our vows, we continue to accumulate merit.  For example, once a trench or a valley has been dug, any subsequent water poured into it will effortlessly follow the path previously forged.  In particular, the karma keeping our Bodhisattva vows functions to create the causes to maintain the continuum of our Mahayana Buddhist practice between now and our eventual enlightenment.  The biggest fear of the wise is losing the path.  If we fear losing the path, we won’t, and therefore we will have nothing to fear.  If we don’t fear losing the path, we very well could and then we would have all of samsara to fear.

If you have not yet taken the Bodhisattva vows, I strongly encourage you to do so.  You can make the request at any Kadampa center around the world, and they are almost invariably given at every empowerment.  Once we have taken them once with a preceptor, we can then take them again any time we wish on our own, and most Kadampas renew their vows every day.  Nonetheless, it is good to retake them in a more formal way from time to time as the impact this has on our mind is often deeper than just taking them every morning in the context of our daily practice.

In this and the next post, I will review the transgressions of the bodhisattva vows associated with the practice of patience.

Retaliating to harm or abuse.  If out of impatience we retaliate to harm or abuse we incur a secondary downfall.  When somebody harms us in some way, our natural instinct is to harm them back.  This just perpetuates the cycle of harm and sows the seeds for future suffering for everyone.  Wishing to break the cycle, we should not retaliate when we are harmed, but instead we should accept it as purification of a long-standing debt.  We should be happy that we are finally bringing an end part of the harmful dance we have with living beings.

Very often we get angry with people when they do not show us the respect that we think we deserve and when they do not listen to us.  But when we get angry at them, we send the message that we are not worthy of respect or listening to – how can we respect somebody who is out of control and cannot admit their faults?  If they show us respect in response to our anger, it is not real respect but rather fear of us, or mafia-respect.  This never works because as soon as the threat of fear is gone, the feigned respect will disappear and they will rebel and retaliate for all the anger we sent at them over a long period of time.  When this happens, they lose all of the benefit that we have given them.  Parents experience this all the time.  If we are patient regardless of the provocations against us, people naturally gain respect for us because this takes enormous strength.  If we are able to go further and respond constructively and positively while everybody else is out of control, then we really stand out and their respect for us grows abundantly.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Roadmap of the next three perfections

The next three perfections we will explore are patience, effort and concentration.  Before we do so, I wanted to give a brief overview of their meaning and how they mutually support one another.

First we will examine at length training in patience, patient acceptance.  We currently feel as if our lives are filled with imperfect people and imperfect situations that are the causes of our problems and suffering.  The reality is we are mentally unhappy because we are poor in virtue, and then we mistakenly look for reasons for our unhappiness outside of ourselves and we blame others and our situation.  Because we are convinced that our happiness depends upon our external situations and others acting as we wish them to, when they don’t, we become frustrated and angry.  We become angry because things don’t go the way we want them to, not because things go the way they do.  So the real problem is thinking things are not perfect.  Whether things go the way we want them to or not depends upon what we are trying to accomplish or do.  If what we are trying to do is find a comfortable place in samsara, it is inevitable that some things will not go the way we want.  If instead what we want is to develop spiritually, then everything and everybody is exactly perfect for us because they provide us so many opportunities to practice.

The mind of patient acceptance is a mind that has the ability to see how everything, even the most adverse conditions, is extremely useful and indeed precious for the accomplishment of our spiritual goals.  So no matter how things go, for us it is perfect and we can happily accept the situation.  Therefore, there is no basis for anger to arise.  Just because we see things as perfect for our practice doesn’t mean we think things are perfect the way they are.  Suffering is perfect for our practice, but the point of our practice is to eventually transcend all suffering.   It does mean, however, that we no longer feel like our happiness is dependent upon things going in any particular way, so no matter how things go, it is not a problem for us.  We still try to make things better through all the external and internal means we have.  The main conclusion of the mind of patience is a wholehearted welcoming of whatever happens without the slightest resistance because we realize how it is completely perfect for our practice.

THEN on the basis of a mind patience we can develop effort.  Normally we think effort is working hard.  But according to Dharma, the mind of effort is one that takes delight in engaging in virtue, in other words takes delight in engaging in our practice.  Because we naturally and effortlessly do what we enjoy doing, if for us engaging in virtue is playtime, then we will naturally and effortlessly engage in our practice.  This will be what we want to do.  With the practice of patience we are able to see how every moment and every situation is absolutely perfect for our practice.  With the practice of effort we thoroughly enjoy being able to practice.  With these two, we can thoroughly enjoy every moment of our life.  We can enjoy a spiritual life.  If we enjoy our spiritual life, our enlightenment is just a matter of time.  We will truly enter the Joyful Path and go from joy to joy to the citadel of enlightenment and we will bring countless others with us both now and for the rest of eternity.

On the basis of joyful effort, we then train in concentration.  Concentration is the ability to single-pointedly place our mind on virtue.  At present we have enormous difficulty keeping our mind centered in virtue because it naturally goes out to contaminated objects of attachment, etc.  Why does our mind go out to contaminated objects?  Because we are convinced that happiness arises from mixing our mind with these objects.  Shantideva completely shatters this notion and shows us how going out to these objects of attachment just creates suffering and problems for us and deceives and betrays us.  We become no longer fooled by samsara’s deceptions and so are not drawn into its lies.  When thoughts of attachment arise within our mind, we see it as mental spam and don’t pay it any heed.  Because, on the basis of joyful effort, we are taking delight in the luxury of a virtuous mind, we cannot be bothered with contaminated objects which we know will only bring suffering. We become like a child who has outgrown their toys.  Samsara’s toys no longer interest us, we have found much more sublime enjoyments, the meditations on Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  When we let go of this mind of attachment to the pleasures of samsara it means we no longer look to these things for our happiness, it doesn’t mean that we avoid them.  We just no longer look to them as causes of our happiness.

The mind of non-attachment gives rise to two very special minds:  First, the mind of contentment.  Shantideva says the greatest wealth is the mind of contentment because it lacks nothing.  Ordinary wealth leaves us wanting more, so the more we have the more we feel poor.  But with contentment, we can enjoy everything and never feel any lack.  Second, the mind of being in love with everyone.  One of our biggest attachments is to relationships.  The honey we chase after is the feeling of ‘being in love.’  This feeling is a mind that is delighted just to see and think about others.  When we have a mind of non-attachment we are able to have this feeling of being in love with everyone every moment of the day, like a sun that shines on all before it.  Our relationships will then become sources of infinite pleasure and happiness instead of the constant stream of problems they are now.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  A reminder of the main point

This series of blog posts is my own individual reflections on the meaning of Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life.  I don’t pretend in any way that I know what I am talking about or that I have anything particularly useful to say.  Geshe-la defines meditation as familiarizing ourself with virtue.  For me, Shantideva’s Guide was my first book (in the form of Meaningful to Behold).  It is thanks to this book that I have any spiritual life at all.  Geshe-la has said the job of Modern Kadampas is to attain the union of Kadampa Buddhism and modern life.  Everything I do and everything I say is my understanding of what that means.  I write this blog because it gives me an opportunity to mix my mind with the virtue of Shantideva’s Guide.  If other people find some benefit in what I say, then all the better.

It is worth recalling how we become Bodhisattvas.  A Bodhisattva is somebody who is driven by a particular intention – namely the intention to become a Buddha for the sake of others, to help lead them to the same state.  How do we develop this mind?  By considering how things really are.  Globally, we see that natural disasters, like tsunamis, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and so forth seem to be increasing in frequency and deadliness.  Terrorist attacks occur regularly, airplanes are falling out of the sky like flies, killing hundreds in a go.  Genocides and famines are taking place and nobody is doing anything about it.  New diseases are arising very rapidly, like AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, TB, Malaria, Ebola, Zika, etc.  The population is exploding in the most poor, turbulent and disease ridden areas in the world and declining rapidly where things are better.  The political leaders of the most powerful nations consistently make decisions which make the situation worse.  It is said the next age is the ‘age of arms’ where people see how everything can be used as a weapon to kill others.  We see this age emerging before our very eyes.

Individually people are becoming increasingly selfish, materialistic and angry.  Psychologists estimate that people are 9 times more likely to have negative minds than positive ones, and 9 out of 10 people die with a negative mind.  People’s minds are becoming increasingly uncontrolled.  Spiritually, there is a global collapse of the religious institutions of the last 2000 years.  The spiritual traditions of the West are in total decline, the Archbishop of Canterbury said Christian spirituality is dead, though it heartens to see how the new Pope is bringing about a revival.  In the East the spiritual traditions have been commercialized and politicized and are fading fast in the face of economic growth.  Now it is frequently little more than praying for good exam or business results.  Islam has been hijacked by radical terrorists who use it to justify mass murder.  Mainstream Judaism is now more of a political movement than a spiritual one, and the ‘religious side’ has likewise been hijacked by fundamentalists.  Pure spiritual teachings on Tantra, for example, are being co-opted to be able to extract more pleasure out of samsara or to succeed in business.

In reality, what is going on is this planet is rapidly sinking deeper into samsara.  Things that were hidden (relatively lower realms) are becoming increasingly manifest.  In reality, these sorts of things are happening all over samsara’s 6 realms all the time, it is just happening behind the curtain of our ignorance.  Because we have no control over our mind, we have no control over our death process and we get thrown from one samsaric rebirth to another.  If we take rebirth in the lower realms, we know only suffering; if we take rebirth in the upper realms we burn up all our merit and fall.  Virtually everyone is in the lower realms.  We are trapped in a cycle of uncontrolled rebirth into contaminated aggregates.  Remaining with our uncontrolled mind is like choosing to repeatedly play Russian Roulette where there is no chamber without a bullet.

The creator of this house of horrors is our own contaminated mind.  In reality, none of it is real – it is all a bad nightmare produced by our contaminated minds, but we suffer from it because we believe it is real.  If we purify our mind, we can purify the world it projects and in this way transform the world around us into a pure one.

The Dharma is the method for being able to purify our mind and take control over the death process so we can with choice take rebirth in a pure land, liberation or enlightenment.  Buddha explains to us how, and Sangha provide us with good examples and all the conditions necessary to do it.  Seeing how Dharma is the solution to all the problems of all beings, we then commit ourselves to bringing about this solution in our own mind so that we can help others do the same.  Then one by one we take everybody to freedom.  The intention to do this is bodhichitta.  A Bodhisattva is somebody who has this as their intention.  What does a bodhisattva do with this intention?  They practice the six perfections.  The six perfections are the actual pathway to enlightenment.

A shortcut for being able to quickly generate a qualified bodhichitta is to view others as your future students who you are spiritually responsible for.  If you don’t save the people around you, who will?  It is up to you.  You have the karma with them, so one day it will be up to you.  The longer you take to attain enlightenment, the longer they drown in samsara.  Seeing this, we become very motivated to quickly become a Buddha.  This view radically reorganizes our relationships with others and transforms them into bodhisattva relationships.  This creates the karma with them to one day have them as our students and for us to become a Buddha with the special ability to help them.  Of course we need to be skillful with this and realize that at present we are completely incapable of being their spiritual guide, but seeing this incapacity propels us to wish to become a Buddha who has no such limitations.