Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Will it matter on my deathbed?

Shantideva continues with the various objections our mind comes up with for why we are justified in retaliating when others speak to us harshly.

(6.55) “If people dislike you, that might prevent you
From acquiring wealth or status.”
But I shall lose all my worldly acquisitions when I die –
The only thing to remain will be the non-virtue I create.

(6.56) It would be better for me to die today
Than to live a long life filled with non-virtue;
And, even if I have a long life,
I shall still have to face the suffering of death.

(6.57) If one person were to awake from a dream
In which he had experienced a hundred years of happiness,
And another were to awake from a dream
In which he had experienced but a brief moment of happiness,

(6.58) Once awake, the situation would be the same for both
Because neither could ever return to that happiness.
In the same way, whether our life is long or short,
At the time of death everything ends just the same.

(6.59) Even if I live happily for a long time
And acquire great wealth and possessions,
I shall still have to leave this life empty-handed and naked,
As if I had been robbed by a thief.

As our merit and influence in the world grows, we stand to gain a lot of wealth and high status. Over the years our wealth will increase as will our status. And we wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of that, would we? Are we interested in money, respect, status?  Should we be interested in such things?  If so, for what reasons?  Once again, there are valid reasons for wanting these things, but the main point Shantideva is making is “I shall still have to leave this life empty-handed and naked” no matter how much wealth and status I have achieved. Atisha himself says we have to leave behind everything we have, so do not be attached to anything. 

The death test is a powerful tool of wisdom to identify what is and what is not important.  If we can take something with us beyond death, such as our mind and karma, then it is important; if we can’t take it with us beyond death, in the cosmic scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter, so why make a big deal out of it?

(6.60) “Even so, acquiring wealth will support your life
So that you can purify non-virtue and accumulate merit.”
But if in acquiring that wealth I generate non-virtues such as anger,
It will be my non-virtue that increases and my merit that declines.

(6.61) What is the point of a life
In which we commit only non-virtue?
Non-virtues are the main cause of our suffering,
And suffering is the main object to be abandoned!

Of course we need good conditions to support our spiritual life, our Dharma practice, our functioning successfully as teachers, parents, etc.  But how much do we need? How much do we need to support our life as a Dharma practitioner?  Sometimes those who depend upon others’ sponsorship to sustain their practice can become frustrated with their benefactors, thinking, “don’t they realize I am trying to become a Buddha for their benefit?  Why do they leave me in such poverty?”  There are several flaws with such thinking.  First, perhaps we want more than we actually need.  Second, either we have faith Dorje Shugden is arranging the conditions we need or we don’t.  If we are in poverty, perhaps it is what we need.  Third, the cause of our poverty is our lack of past giving, so we have nobody to blame but our own past delusions.  Fourth, perhaps our poverty is a good thing because it means we are not burning up our merit. 

Atisha says since you will definitely have to depart without the wealth you have accumulated, do not accumulate negativity for the sake of wealth.  Much of the modern economy is based upon seeking profit through information asymmetries.  Bankers and others take advantage of people who don’t know any better.  Such theft and manipulation creates terrible karma for the perpetrators.  Finally, if we are bodhisattvas and we have accumulated merit thanks to our practice, what rights do we have to use it for ourselves?  Haven’t we already given it all away to others?

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: It doesn’t matter what others think or say

Much of our anger in life comes from people thinking or saying bad things about us.  Shantideva now explores how we can avoid such anger.

(6.52) Since my mind is not a bodily form,
There is no one who can destroy it;
But, because I am strongly attached to my body,
I feel hurt when it is suffering.

(6.53) Contempt, harsh words,
And unpleasant speech
Do not harm the body;
So why, mind, do you become so angry?

Why do we feel the need to retaliate when harsh, slanderous words are spoken?  When people attack us, we become very defensive and filled with pride thinking, talking to us in such a way is definitely not something we will allow.  “No one speaks to us in such ways!”  Generally speaking, we do not tolerate such unpleasant speech.  We take what is spoken to us directly or indirectly so personally. We become so defensive when we hear such words.  Instinctively, quite instinctively, we retaliate. We become angry and we retaliate.  There are many reasons for our retaliation. The main reason, though, is pride and our attachment to our reputation.  I believe one of the most important jobs we have, one of our greatest responsibilities, is to remove all worldly Dharmas and thereby be able to show others the example of being a pure Kadampa.  Such examples are needed in this world, especially now.

(6.54) “Such slanderous words may cause others to dislike you.”
Their dislike will not cause me any harm
In this or future lives;
So why should I not want it?

Such slanderous words may cause others to dislike us.  We may feel as a result of harsh words people will dislike us, and we want people to like us, don’t we? We want people to think well of us. We don’t want people to feel that we are in any way how others seem to think about us, do we? We don’t want that. We don’t want people to dislike us, we want them to love us.  But what difference does it make whether people like us or not?

Should, for example, we want people to like us or even love us? Is it important? Is it important that people do not dislike us? Is it important that people do not have bad feeling towards us? If we want to maintain the purity of our tradition, help Kadam Dharma flourish, then it is important that people not dislike us. It is, isn’t it? Should we then be concerned, and stop people uttering such words? What do we do? Do we act, or not? If we do act, why? With what motivation?

These are not easy questions, and it is very easy for our attachment and selfish motivations to hijack our wisdom to try rationalize why we should care.  In the end, the test is very simple:  do we feel our happiness depends upon what other people think of us?  If yes, then that is attachment.  If no, then it opens up all sorts of valid reasons why we should want people to think good things of us, such as our ability to help them depends upon them having faith in us.

But how do we control what others think of us so that they think good things?  Of course if somebody misunderstands us, we can attempt to clarify if the other person is open to hearing our explanation.  But ultimately, what others think of us is nothing more than a karmic echo of how we have thought about others.  If we want to change what others think about us, we need to change what we think about others.  This will change our karma, and thus change – over time – what others think of us.  From the point of view of emptiness, there is in fact nobody there thinking anything about us.  It is just the karmic appearance of that happening.  So why be bothered when people think ill of us?

I think a lot of our present difficulties with worrying about what others think of us comes from PTSD of our Middle School years.  For me at least, that was hell – but a hell that revolved around obsessive concern over what people thought of us.  If, for whatever reason, we found ourselves on the outside of the group, we were ostracized and it emotionally hurt – badly.  Fortunately, people largely grow out of Middle School, but the trauma remains within us, and so we carry this concern with us well into our adulthood.  Some people never grow out of it.  But we don’t need to judge ourselves for this, we need compassion for ourselves.  We need to look back on those years and request Dorje Shugden, “please bless me to transform all of that hurt into powerful causes of my enlightenment.”  Healing this past hurt will go a long ways to letting go of our obsessive concern with what others think about us now.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: We are harming them by serving as their object of anger

Now is when Shantideva starts to get very radical.

(6.47) Although those who harm me
Are provoked into doing so by my own karma,
It is they who will take rebirth in hell as a result;
So, is it not I who harm them?

(6.48) By depending upon them as my objects of patience,
I can purify many non-virtues;
But by depending upon me as their object of anger,
They will fall for a long time into hellish states of suffering.

(6.49) Thus, since it is I who inflict harm on them
And they who benefit me,
Why, unruly mind, do you distort things so
By becoming angry with them?

Here, Shantideva explains that when we look closely, we see it is not we who are being harmed when somebody tries to harm us – we are purifying our negative karma; rather, it is the other person who is being harmed because they are creating negative karma for themselves.  Seen in this way, we are actually the one receiving benefit and they are the ones being harmed.  Why are they harmed?  Because we have not yet purified the negative karma on our mind to serve as an object of anger for them.  Our unpurified negative karma compels them to harms us.  Besides not retaliating (more on that below), two conclusions can be drawn from this.  First, we must purify our negative karma so that we no longer serve as an object of anger for others; and second, if we can get out of a harmful/abusive situation, we must do so because for us to remain means we are harming the person by continuing to be the object of their anger when we could otherwise escape.

For the most part we try to bring out good things in others.  But we have to acknowledge that we sometimes bring out bad things too. When we bring out these bad things, we can’t get angry with them. Why are those bad things coming out? Why are they acting in the ways that they do, such as getting angry with us, criticizing us, disagreeing with us, not accepting what we want them to do, shouting at us, and so forth?  Perhaps it’s something to do with us. Perhaps we’ve got something to sort out. We cannot get angry with them, if things come out of their mind and they behave in the way that they do, in perhaps harmful or negative ways. We must be patient and help them, really try to help them to change their karma and try to change our own karma.  Especially those with whom we have a strong connection, we must try to help.

We don’t want them to create the cause for even more suffering by getting angry at them through retaliation, making matters worse for them.  If we do, then they will become more upset and more angry, and even develop bad thoughts towards other people.  We need to remind ourselves it is in dependence upon the karma we have created to be their object of harm that they create the cause of suffering.  In this sense, we’re harming them.  We’re harming them simply by being the object of their anger. We harm them by serving as their object of anger.  They benefit us by serving as the object of our patience.  Why on earth do we become angry with them? Surely, we must take the opportunity to practice patience, to be considerate, kind … and return their kindness by patiently helping them.

Thinking in this way naturally gives rise to a series of objections.  Shantideva now explores them.

(6.50) If I maintain this positive view,
I shall not create the cause to be reborn in hell;
But, although I protect myself through the practice of patience,
The same effect will not ripen on others.

From a karmic point of view, when we practice in this way, when others harm us we receive benefit, but they still accumulate negative karma.

(6.51) “Then would it not be better to return their harm?”
No! Retaliation would not protect them;
It would just cause my Bodhisattva vow to degenerate
And destroy my practice of patience.

Perhaps we should be the object of their patience, after all they need to practice patience. We will give them the opportunity. It does happen!  Perhaps we tell someone off because we feel they need to learn patience. This is just our anger hijacking our Dharma to try rationalize getting angry at others.  If we follow this way of doing things, the other person will just get angry back.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: If you don’t like your karma, change it

Kadam Bjorn used to say, “if you don’t like your karma, change it.”  But we have to know how to change it.  We believe that we can change our karma simply or merely by manipulating external circumstance.  That may change what karma ripens, but it does not actually change our karma itself.  Sometimes, in an effort to change our external circumstance, we might create new negative karma.  Even if we don’t, the karma to experience such suffering remains on our mind, and it is just a question of time before we experience it.  Rather than bringing about any change, we often just create the causes for worse things to happen.  If we do, in reality we’re not improving, we’re making things worse for ourselves.  In the short term, in the immediate, we feel there has been some improvement.  But when we think about it from a karmic perspective, we realize that the opposite is the case. There’s been no improvement. We’ve made things worse for ourselves.

If we had deep conviction in karma we’d behave a lot differently. We’d stop getting angry and behaving out of anger.  We’d stop altogether because we understand the consequences of such actions.  First, there is the effect similar to the cause – when we yell at others, from a karmic point of view, we are yelling at ourselves, making ourselves afraid in the future, harming ourselves.  Second, there is the environmental effect – we live in a hostile environment of war, conflict, where anger is the norm and only way to survive.  Third, there is also the ripened effect – we take rebirth in a realm that is the same nature as our anger.  Sometimes we have a hot, firey anger (hot hells); other times it is a cold, icy anger (cold hells); sometimes it is a conflictual anger (Reviving hells).  Finally, there is the tendency similar to the cause – in the future, we will get angry very easily, so we plant all these seeds again and again.  This effect doesn’t just ripen in this life, but will ripen in future lives when we don’t have Dharma and we will have nothing to hold us back.

For example, sometimes we are abused in some way – someone throws verbal abuse at us, criticizes us, shouts at us, engages in some hurtful or harmful speech.  If this happens, we must not react by abusing the other person back.  We must not abuse that person and react to abuse with abuse.  We definitely have imprints to be abused and imprints to abuse.   

What should we do when somebody abuses us?  Of course, if we have a means of stopping them from doing so, we should.  Allowing others to abuse us does not help them, but instead allows them to create all sorts of negative karma for themselves.  If we can’t stop them, but we can get away, then we should get away for exactly the same reasons.  However, sometimes, there is nothing we can do about the abuse we receive.  We can’t stop it and we can’t get away.  In such a situation, we must mentally accept that abuse as a practice of purification of our negative karma. If we don’t accept it, then it’s possible, probable even, that the second type of imprint will ripen – namely the tendency for us to abuse – and so we’ll abuse the other person back.  We’ll criticize that person, retaliate, and shout at that person. And in this way create the cause for receiving more of the same in the future. And so it goes on and on and on.

When we are harmed, at such times patient acceptance will function as a very powerful purifying effect.  We normally think purification practice is primarily doing prostrations, reciting Vajrasattva mantras, and so forth.  But a powerful type of purification we can practice almost every day is to practice patient acceptance, especially at the times when we feel that we’re being harmed in some way.  If we do practice patient acceptance, then we’re allowing virtuous imprints to ripen in our mind. And at the same time we’re creating the cause for good fortune in the future, both internally and externally.  But if we don’t accept and we react angrily, then non-virtuous imprints will ripen in such a mental environment.  Non-virtue will ripen, and we create the cause for bad results, misfortune in the future, both internally and externally.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Looking squarely at our karma

Now Shantideva describes another method for overcoming our wish to retaliate – seeing how undesirable situations are a result of our karma.

(6.42) In such situations, we should think,
“In the past, I harmed others in a similar manner.
Therefore, it is fitting that I, who caused harm to others,
Should now be experiencing such harm myself.”

(6.43) The physical suffering I experience
Is caused by both the stick and my body;
But, since the stick comes from my assailant and the body from me,
With which of these should I get angry?

(6.44) Blinded by craving and ignorance,
I have taken this form, the basis of human suffering,
Which can hardly bear to be touched;
So with whom should I get angry when it is hurt?

(6.45) Although we childish beings have no wish for suffering,
We are greatly attached to its causes.
Thus, the harm we receive is entirely our fault;
What reason is there to blame it on others?

(6.46) Just as with the guardians of hell,
The forest of razor-sharp leaves, and so forth,
My sufferings in this life result from my actions –
So with whom should I be angry?

Generally we blame other people for the harm, any harm, we receive, directly or indirectly. We are convinced it’s always others’ fault. But any harm we receive we have to say is just karma ripening, our karma ripening. And we can either accept that happily or not.  It’s our choice. Some karma is ripening for us, bringing suffering upon us – we can either accept that happily or not. The second is usually the case.

We’re not prepared generally to happily accept our suffering. Even though we may recognize what is happening as a ripening of our karma, we still try to get some different karma ripening for us. How?  By changing conditions. If we change conditions, different karma will ripen, of course. There is nothing wrong with trying to do so, but when we are not successful, we must accept our suffering patiently.

Why do we experience any harm, mental or physical?  The harm we receive is entirely our fault.  When we receive harm we should identify this so that we stop blaming others.  What reason is there to blame it on others?  We can see this by considering the four different main karmic effects.

The harm we receive is a result of the ripened effect of karma. The ripened effect of our action is rebirth, rebirth in the human realm with contaminated aggregates – a body and mind that naturally give rise to suffering. Our present basis, our human body and mind, is the basis of all our human problems. It is the basis of all our suffering, mental and physical. Without such a basis, how could we be harmed? We could not be harmed by anyone or anything.  Whose fault is it that we have a body and mind that can be hurt so easily?  We are easily hurt mentally and physically. Why is it that we have a body and a mind that can be hurt so easily? We created the cause for such aggregates by engaging in deluded actions.

It is the result of our environmental effects.  If we live in a place where people are unfriendly or even hostile to us, like guardians of hell, it’s because we created the causes for such an environment.

It is the result of an effect similar to the cause.  We did similar things to others, and now it has simply come back to us.  When we harm others, we are actually harming ourselves in the future.  The harm we receive now comes from our past actions of having harmed somebody else – we are the future self of our past self.

It is the result of our tendencies similar to the cause.  Because we had tendencies similar to the cause, we created all of this karma and so the tendency is the deep cause of the other effects.  Also, when we are harmed now and we react negatively due to tendencies, this negative mind activates new negative karma which makes our situation worse because negative minds activate negative karma. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: We don’t get mad at fire when it burns

We need to create an atmosphere around ourselves that invites people to offer suggestions on how we can do better, especially if we are in a position of responsibility.  If people feel like they can’t tell us when we are making mistakes, then they will sit with their faulty views like a cancer in their mind and eventually it will fester and grow.  Geshe-la said at a Spring Festival one year that Buddha Vajradhara is appearing in this world in an ordinary aspect because he wants us to act normally with him.  When we are with somebody and they are making a mistake, the normal thing to do is respectfully call it to their attention.  Geshe-la often said, ‘tell me if I am making a mistake.’  We need to do that with others, let them feel free to discuss with us how we can do better.  Then either we learn something or the other person learns something, but either way there is growth.  No open communication, no growth.  The key to this is a humility that accepts that we don’t know what we are doing or saying and so therefore we have a lot to learn from everybody. 

Now Shantideva turns to how to overcome the causes of anger

(6.39) If it were the very nature of a childish person
To inflict harm on others,
It would be no more reasonable to get angry with him
Than it would be to resent fire for burning us.

(6.40) On the other hand, if that harmfulness were a temporary fault
And that person were otherwise good-natured,
It would be just as unreasonable to get angry with him
As it would be to resent space for filling with smoke.

This is a very powerful logic:  There are two possibilities, either the person is by nature harmful or it is a temporary fault.  If it really is the nature of the person to harm, there is no point in getting angry. They are behaving exactly as what we would expect.  Fire burns.  That is its very nature.  We know that.  We accept that. There is no point in getting angry with fire for burning. What do we expect?  On the other hand, if it is not the nature of the person to harm, why then do we get angry with the person when we perceive harmfulness within them? They’re not by nature harmful. Harmfulness is not part of their essential nature, so why get angry with the person? 

(6.41) If someone were to harm us with a stick or other weapon,
We would normally become angry with the person;
But, since his intent is governed by anger,
It is really towards that anger that we should direct our wrath.

This is another classic analogy.  Why do we not get angry with the stick?  Because it is controlled by the person, it has no choice in the matter.  In the same way, we shouldn’t get angry with the person because they are controlled by their anger, they have no choice in the matter.  The conclusion is we should wish to destroy the other person’s anger.   

We naturally wish to be free from the causes of suffering and to free others from the causes of suffering.  But we have just been mistaken as to what are the real causes.  With this analysis, we can identify the causes of suffering are delusions, so they are what needs to be destroyed.  You can’t destroy delusion with delusion, only wisdom can do that.  We help others overcome their anger primarily through love, compassion, the practice of patience, setting a good example, requesting blessings for the other person, etc.  Geshe-la said love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Free will wills freedom

We continue with the discussion of the patience of not retaliating.

We get angry at others because they fail to fulfill our wishes.  Our attachment then seeks to control others so that they act in the ways we want them to.  Hegel’s categorical imperative, interestingly, points to a Buddhist answer to this problem.  For him, the categorical moral imperative of living beings is “free will must will freedom,” in other words, we use whatever free will we have to will the freedom of others, which is quite similar to bodhichitta – we use our own liberation to liberate others.  Practically, though, this primarily means learning to let go of controlling others and to instead respect their freedom to make their own choices.

Sometimes, if we are in a position of responsibility, we may think that we have to control people to get things that need to get done done.  But there is a big difference between being responsible and being controlling.  If we are responsible and somebody is helping us out in some way, and we need them to do certain things, we can present to them choices that are reasonable.  For example, it is entirely appropriate for an employer to say certain responsibilities need to be carried out if the other person wants to remain an employee.  Since they know the consequences of their decisions, after we leave it up to them to decide.

In the context of relationships, we generally try to control the other person to do what we want them to do to fulfil our wishes.  But we need to make a distinction between helping people and having attachment that they change. We usually have a very good Dharma excuse why the other person needs to change their behavior so we feel justified in controlling them or manipulating them.  But in reality, we are trying to change them to conform with our needs and wishes, not theirs. A Dharma practitioner has no personal need that others change, including no need for them to practice Dharma.  It suits us just fine that other people are all screwed up.  We help people when they seek out our help, but we have no need to change them. We genuinely give people freedom without emotional penalty if they make choices that don’t correspond with our wishes.

Very often we will see people acting in strange of silly ways that we know are wrong.  Sometimes when somebody has a silly idea, Geshe-la will go along with it even though he knows it is a bad idea.  Why does he do this?  First of all, because he sees there is no real harm, and what is most important is that he maintain a very good relationship with the person.  Second, he gives the person a chance to learn from their mistakes.  Allowing the person to continue, later they will see that they have made a mistake and learn from it.  He has such a sense of responsibility for each and every individual that he gives us total freedom.  It seems like it should be the opposite, but because he wants us to grow, he gives us freedom.  We can only grow in freedom.  We still need to guide those who seek our advice, but we never control them.  They come to us for help, we guide them as to what THEY need to do for them.  Then we leave it up to them to decide what to do, and we accept them whatever their choice is. 

We also need to learn skillful means to help people realize their mistakes from their own side.  We need the skillful means to get people to think that the idea they now have was their own. When people come to a conclusion on their own, it is their conclusion, and then they never lose it.  When it is our conclusion that they follow, it doesn’t penetrate deeply enough into their mind.  When we disempower people by controlling them, we don’t give them a chance to learn to think for themselves and develop their own wisdom.  We think we are helping them by controlling them, but actually we are stifling them. 

One of the most important skills we need to learn is to just listen to others, fully and completely.  Even if we feel what they’re saying is wrong, our job is to listen. Listen to what they have to say. Listening is a training in and of itself.  We have to learn how to listen fully, and I think especially we must be able to listen to those who are turning to us for help.  Normally we think they need to listen to us, but it is actually the opposite.  We need to help people feel like we genuinely appreciate discussing things with them, and we benefit from the exchange of views.  The way we can do this is for it to be true, we genuinely do appreciate discussing things with them.  How can we develop such appreciation – just actually listen to them and their point of view? It depends upon humility and faith that they are emanations.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Forgive them, they know not what they do

(Several years ago, I started a blog series on my thoughts on how to apply the wisdom found in Shantideva’s Bodhisattva’s Way of Life to our modern lives.  In April 2019, I had to stop because – funnily enough – I became swept away by my own modern life, and since then haven’t had the time to properly keep up with this series.  You can find the previous 188 posts in this series here. However, for at least the next two years, I should be able to post regularly).

We continue with our discussion on the perfection of patience, a commentary on Chapter 6 of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. I am going verse by verse. When it says 6.35, for example, it refers to Chapter 6, verse 35 and so forth.

Over the next several posts, Shantideva will be discussing meditating on the patience of not retaliating.  People harm us all of the time, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.  We need to transform this experience into an opportunity to train in Dharma.  Then, even when people are harming us, we are able to receive lasting benefit.

The core of not retaliating is to have compassion for the person who is harming us.  For me, the best example of this is when Jesus was on the cross and he said, “forgive them father, for they know not what they do.”  When people harm us, they are driven by their delusions.  Delusions function to make our mind uncontrolled, so others are quite literally like puppets on the strings of their delusions.  They have somehow been led to believe that harming us (or somebody we love) is good for them, when in reality they are just creating negative karma for themselves.  They know not what they do.

(6.35) Some misguided people inflict harm upon themselves
By lying on thorns and the like;
While others, obsessed with finding a partner,
Deprive themselves of food.

(6.36) Then there are those who inflict harm on themselves
Through non-meritorious actions,
Such as hanging themselves, leaping from cliffs,
Swallowing poison, or eating bad food.

(6.37) Although they cherish themselves more than anything else,
If, under the influence of delusions, people are capable even of killing themselves,
Why should I be surprised when they inflict harm
On other living beings such as me?

(6.38) When those who, under the influence of delusions,
Set out to harm or even to kill me,
If I cannot develop compassion for them,
At the very least I should refrain from getting angry.

What people are doing to themselves out of ignorance and other delusions brings so much harm and suffering upon themselves. Since when they fall under the influence of delusion they harm themselves whom they cherish, then we can only expect that they will harm others too, such as ourselves.  It’s bad enough for them already. Why do we make matters worse by retaliating and becoming angry with them? At best we should have compassion for them since they are so lost and confused that they make their situation worse. 

We need to make the distinction between the person who is under the influence of their delusions and a person who is in control of themselves.  When we are under the influence of strong attachment or anger we do things without choice or control.  Even though we don’t want to be attached or angry, it comes nonetheless and we are not in control.  At other times, when we are calm and collected, we act differently.  When we do something nice for somebody, we never do so ‘uncontrolledly’.  This is the real us. The same is true with others.  When they harm us, they do so under the control of their delusions, but when they are nice with us, they do so from their own wishes.  The real person is the kind one. We should generate compassion for this kind person who gets hijacked by their delusions and engages in harmful actions without control.

We need to respect the freedom of others to do as they think is best for them.  If we check carefully, most of our frustration with others comes from them not acting in ways that correspond with our wishes.  For example, in a center there is a lot of work to do, and it is very easy for the people who have some degree of responsibility in the center to ‘want/expect’ others to help out.  Then, when they don’t, we get upset or frustrated and then there are problems in our relationship.  But if we check, it is our wish that they do something, not necessarily their wish. 

Sometimes it is not a case of them acting under the influence of delusion and harming us, rather it is an issue of us projecting the fulfillment of our wishes onto others and then feeling like they are harming us when they don’t fulfil them.  The solution to this is to provide people 100% freedom to do what they wish.  We can adopt as a life principle to give people freedom and to not control them.  We accept their choices, as just that – their choices.  It is our job to then adapt around their choices.  Yes, less things that we want to get done will get done, but this is only a problem for our mind of attachment. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  There is nobody to get angry at

(6.32) “If all things were like illusions, who would restrain what?
Surely, any restraint would be inappropriate.
On the contrary, it is precisely because things lack inherent existence
That it is possible to assert the continuum of suffering can be cut.

Sometimes the objection may arise in our mind that if things lack inherent existence then there is no “us” who can practice Dharma and there is nothing for our Dharma practice to oppose, so what is the point?  Both of these objections arise from grasping at the extreme of non-existence – in other words, going too far with our understanding of emptiness to wrongly assert that things don’t exist at all.

Who is practicing Dharma?  A self that is imputed on a mind that has received Dharma instructions and gained a certain degree of control over one’s mind.  We have received Dharma instructions, we have practiced them in the past, this has given us a certain degree of control over our mind.  With that control, we then choose to practice Dharma.  What are we resisting when we practice Dharma?  In practice, we are disassembling the causes and conditions which cause delusions to appear.  If a rainbow is appearing, but suddenly the sunlight is blocked out, the rainbow simply disappears because the causes and conditions which give rise to it are no longer present.  The same is true with our delusions.  Another way of looking at it is with our choice of mind we create new conditions of the opponent to the delusion which then functions to neutralize the delusion within our mind.

Suffering can come to an end because its causes can be ended.  If you end the cause, the effect cannot arise.

 (6.33) Thus, whenever an enemy, or even a friend,
Commits an inappropriate action,
Such behaviour arises from other conditions.
Realizing this, I should remain with a happy mind.

Once again, this is reminding us how we can use emptiness to oppose our anger.  Normally we hear the teaching on emptiness and quickly become lost in the contemplations and lose the point.  This is why we need to make a point of directly connecting our understanding of emptiness to specific delusions that arise within our mind.

When we become angry with somebody, we should take the time to ask ourselves, “who precisely am I angry at?”  When we look, we find nobody.  We can ask, “what exactly am I angry about?”  When we check, we find nothing.  It’s all just a variety of causes and conditions coming together with nothing behind any of it.  Conventionally, we can’t blame the other person because it is not their fault these causes and conditions have come together.  Ultimately, we can’t blame the other person because there is nobody there to blame.  Realizing this, there is no longer an object of our anger and the anger disappears.  The same sort of reasoning can be used against any delusion.

(6.34) If things occurred independently, out of choice,
Then, since no one wishes to suffer,
How would suffering ever arise
For any living being?

This is actually an important point.  Nobody wishes to suffer.  We all wish to be happy all of the time.  Yet we suffer without choice and find it difficult to secure even a modicum of happiness.  We are all in the same boat.  When somebody harms us, they too are a victim of their delusions.  They do so without freedom or control.  As a result, they accumulate negative karma for themselves, which will ripen later in the form of suffering for them.  We may view ourselves as a victim of their harmful actions, but in reality they are equally a victim because in the future they will have to experience the suffering consequences of their actions.  Why are we experiencing this suffering now?  Because we had the karma to do so arising from our own negative past actions.  So what really is the difference between our attacker and us?  Nothing.  We are both victims, separated only by time.

We want to be happy and so do they.  Unfortunately, they are confused about the causes of happiness.  They are lost.  Instead of getting angry with them, we should generate compassion for them.  We are all the same, therefore there is no basis for loving some and being angry at others.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  We don’t blame the stick for hurting us

(6.29) Clearly, if the self were permanent,
Then, just like space, it could not perform any actions;
And, even if it could meet with other conditions,
It would still be unable to do anything.

(6.30) Since, even when acted upon, it would remain as it was,
What effect could an action have on it?
If you say that something else affects the self,
What relationship could the self have with that?

(6.31) Thus, all effects arise from other conditions,
Which in turn depend upon previous conditions.
Therefore, all things are like illusions – they are not independent.
If we realize this, we shall not become angry with anything.

The main point of all of this is anger needs an object – there has to be someone or something to get angry at.  Anger depends on some external thing to be angry with that we consider to be the cause of our suffering.  Everything that arises in dependence upon various causes and conditions, so there is never anything that we can point to that we can get angry at.  If we try get angry at the thing, we realize we can’t because it just arises in dependence upon causes and conditions.  If we try get angry at the causes and conditions, we realize we can’t because they too just arise from different causes and conditions.  So we never find anything that we can get upset at and our anger subsides because anger needs an object.  When we look, we find no such object that we can point to.  Finding none, our anger has nothing to latch on to and it falls away.

In one sense it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of anger within their mind.  But if anger were able to speak up for itself, would it not say the same thing?  “I’m sorry, I have no choice. It is due to inappropriate attention in this person’s mind that I’m here.”  Just as the person can’t help it, the anger can’t help it either.  There is a classic analogy given of somebody hitting us with a stick.  Do we get angry with the stick?  No, youwe get angry with the person because the stick was controlled by the person.  In the same way, if youwe don’t get angry with the stick, we should also not get angry with the person because they too are controlled by their anger.  If we get angry with something, we should get angry with their anger.  But their anger is controlled by their inappropriate attention.  So we should get angry with their inappropriate attention, and so on.

On an easier to understand level, the situations that give rise to our anger do not exist from their own side.  They can be viewed in any way we choose.  Right now our anger is casting this elaborate story about how all these things are the causes of our suffering, and so to be happy we need to destroy these things.  With emptiness we realize that this is just a fictional story projected by my mind that has no truth.  I can view the situation in any way – it is not fixedly any one thing.

So instead of viewing this as samsara, we can view everything as the charnel grounds.  What appears is horrific, but we understand these things to be completely pure teachings arising from the Dharmakaya that are perfect for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  We do can do this with external situations, including anything that normally gives rise to our anger.  We accept it fully as a pure teaching arising from the Dharmakaya.  We can do this internally, where we find even the arising of suffering and delusions as perfect for us because it gives an opportunity to create certain causes, namely practicing their opponents.  In this way, we can have a real equanimity towards all effects that happen, either externally or internally.  We can accept everything as perfect.  When everything is perfect, there is no basis for anger.

We very often blame others and situations for why we get angry, but this is not fair.  Nobody or nothing has the power to make us angry, other than our own deluded mental processes.  It is not fair to others to blame them for what is the fault of our own mind.  This is actually a very liberating thought, because it means that no situation has any power over us.  By accepting responsibility for the problem, the solution falls into our hands.  Nobody or nothing needs to change for us to get better, we just need to change our mind.  Yes, it is a long training, but what is the alternative?  Remain angry forever and fall into terrible states of suffering?