Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Be happy for others

(6.78) Those who are not concerned with others’ happiness
And do not want them to be happy,
Are like someone who stops paying wages to those who work for him,
Who then experiences many problems.

One thing’s for sure – if we’re not concerned with the happiness of others, then we won’t get anything from them other than problems. Sooner or later, problems will come for us.  We may feel, we may say, “I am concerned. I am concerned for others’ happiness. Why else would I be practicing Dharma and doing all that I do.”  Ours is not yet a perfectly altruistic, selfless motivation. It is still to a large extent it is a selfish one. We have a problem of self-cherishing.  This is not an attack, it is a diagnosis, but one that we each individually need to make about ourselves.  The truth is we often help others for our own selfish reasons.

Seeing this can sometimes lead to a degree of paralysis.  We see that our motivation is mixed, and we then think it is wrong for us to cherish the other person with a mixed motivation, so we hold ourselves back from engaging in virtue!  Clearly that is wrong.  We should still engage in the cherishing action, even if our motivation is mixed, because our motivation is still partly good and the action is still partly virtuous.  Some virtue is better than none.  If we wait until we can do things completely purely, we would have to wait until we attain enlightenment.  But how are we supposed to attain enlightenment if we never start engaging in virtuous actions in the first place because our motivation is mixed?  Clearly that is absurd.  Instead, we can engage in the virtue, but become aware where our motivation is mixed.  Then, we gradually try to purify our motivation so that it is becomes increasingly pure.  As Geshe Chekawa says, we should “remain natural while changing our aspiration.”

(6.79) When my own good qualities are praised,
I want others to rejoice in me;
So why, when others’ good qualities are praised,
Should I not want to rejoice in them?

If I want others to rejoice, then I should join them in rejoicing.

(6.80) Having generated the bodhichitta motivation
Wishing for all living beings to be happy,
Why on Earth do we not rejoice
When others find some happiness for themselves?

(6.81) If I really wish for living beings to become Buddhas,
Who are worshipped throughout all worlds,
Why do I dislike it so
When others receive a little mundane respect now?

(6.82) If someone I was looking after
And providing for in different ways
Were to find his own source of livelihood,
Surely I would be happy, not upset.

(6.83) If I begrudge living beings even this,
How can I wish for them to attain enlightenment?
Where is the bodhichitta in one who is not happy
When others receive something good?

Good question. So when someone experiences some happiness in their generally miserable life, why can’t we be happy about that?  Every day we wish, don’t we, every day we wish for all living beings, all living beings without exception to experience the perfect happiness of enlightenment.  So why can’t we be happy when they find some happiness now?  Perhaps we do not rejoice when we see others’ happiness coming from non-Dharma activities.  But where does the happiness come from? What is the main cause of happiness? Their past virtue.

Rejoicing when other people are happy is one of the best opportunities we have to make a connection with them at such times.  If they sense that we’re unhappy when they’re experiencing happiness, they won’t want to draw very close to us. We can come across as disapproving.  We must be extremely careful. Even if someone has done a negative action, we mustn’t be disapproving. It is very important that we don’t come across as disapproving, judgmental, critical. For a long time people engage in worldly enjoyments for their happiness. We still do. So who are we to judge?

If we really love someone and we see that they’re happy, doesn’t that make us happy?  If we’re not happy, perhaps that’s a sign indicating we need to love them more.  We need to love them as they are, not who we want them to be. Just love them as they are.  We shouldn’t have the attitude of, “if you were a real spiritual practitioner and stopped engaging in worldly enjoyments and so forth, then I’ll really love you.”  We should really love them now! We need to accept and love everyone wherever they are at. We do this with people we are not close to reasonably well, but for those who are closest to us – our families, our work colleagues, our Sangha friends – we expect more, and we get mad at them when they fail to be less than perfect.

It is especially important to be happy for people when they have worked hard at something and accomplished something, even if for us it is something little. For example, when somebody is working hard at something, it is important to really praise them.  If they are really happy about what they have accomplished, and we belittle it, it is devastating for them and it results in discouragement and they don’t try anything.  If we are happy for them, genuinely happy, this will give them encouragement to keep trying.  The only thing we have to do to attain enlightenment is never give up trying.  If people are taking a long time, we need to be patient.  A Bodhisattva works with people over lifetimes and lifetimes.  We go as far with people as we can, and be happy with whatever they have accomplished.  

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Rejoice!

Now Shantideva explains how jealousy and envy can also lead to anger. 

(6.76) If someone else develops a mind of joy
Through praising another’s good qualities,
Why, mind, do you not praise him too
And experience the same kind of joy?

Our normal reaction when others experience some sort of good fortune is jealousy or envy.  We think about how the other person doesn’t deserve that good fortune, or we simply wish we were experiencing it but are frustrated that we are not.  It is quite common for some people to work very hard and they never seem to catch a break, whereas others hardly work at all, yet good things just naturally fall into their lap.  This usually leaves us feeling jealous and discouraged, and then we go looking for others to blame for our plight, leading to anger.

We all wish to experience joy, happiness in our lives and whenever there is an opportunity to do so, we take it.  So why not rejoice in others’ good qualities, happiness, and so forth, rejoice when others are being praised?  The only reason for a difference in our reaction is because we are still influenced by the wrong view that our happiness is somehow more important than theirs, or their happiness is somehow not important.  The key to developing a robust practice of rejoicing, therefore, is the meditation on equalizing self and others.  Once we have some experience of considering the happiness of each and every living being as being equally important, then rejoicing will come easily.  Once rejoicing comes easily, we will be able to accumulate merit all of the time – we merely need think of those who are experiencing some good fortune, and we can rejoice.

We should also take an opportunity to share in the happiness experienced by the one who is giving praise.  As we go through our daily life, we will sometimes hear one person praising another.  Our normal reaction when this happens is externally we may nod in apparent agreement, but internally we then quickly going on to point out some fault that we have noticed in the person who is being praised.  There is always a ‘yeah, but’ in our mind.  We see only faults.  But when we see somebody praising another it is a particularly good time to practice rejoicing, because we can rejoice both in the person receiving the praise and the person giving the praise. 

As Dharma practitioners we must rejoice in one another’s good qualities, we must rejoice in one another’s activities, virtuous activities. We need to not just observe, but also admire them and rejoice in them.  We need to admire and rejoice in their skillful means. And then we will be inspired to follow the example others are setting for us.  And as well we must rejoice in the joyful effort of others. Whenever they try, we must make a point of rejoicing in their efforts, and talk to others of the good qualities that we see in them.  And we should also rejoice when others understand things that we don’t.  

The benefits of rejoicing are almost limitless.  First, rejoicing creates the cause to acquire the qualities you rejoice in.

(6.77) I should always rejoice in others’ happiness and virtue.
This joy causes my virtues to increase.
Moreover, it is the cause of delighting the holy beings
And the supreme method for benefiting others.

Rejoicing I think is one of the best ways of accomplishing results.  We’re so concerned with results! If we really want results, rejoice. It is the best way of accomplishing both internal and external results.  Rejoicing creates the causes to acquire what we are rejoicing in.  If a teacher and students are rejoicing a lot, then even if mistakes are being made at their Center, progress is being made, both internal and external.  No doubt that holy beings easily, powerfully can help progress in such a joyful, harmonious environment.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: We can’t afford to not practice

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Kadam Lucy once said we shouldn’t be too concerned about other’s relationships with us, but rather their relationships with each other.  We work out of the wish that all living beings have love for one another.  Our goal is not that everyone have good relationships with us, rather that they have good relationships with each other. 

Very often we criticize one to move closer to the other.  We see this all the time, and not just with teenagers.  Most political speech these days is of this nature, we signal our judgment of some other group so that we feel accepted by a group we wish to be a part of.

We need to do the opposite.  We need to say only good things about each person to all the others.  We need to praise people for being kind and good with others.  It is also good to praise the people in our world for being friendly and happy with others.  This draws these characteristics out.  We need to make people feel like they are a light in other’s lives, then they become such a light.  It starts with us individually and then it broadens to the whole world.  Individually we strive to do this for the Sangha to be happy and harmonious and learn how it works.  Then our Dharma community does the same for those outside of the community and in our daily lives.  Our role in the world is to help others love one another.   In this way, we can gradually transform our society and world into an enlightened society and an enlightened world. 

(6.73) If we cannot bear the relatively slight suffering
That we have to experience now,
Why do we not refrain from anger,
Which causes the far greater sufferings of hell?

(6.74) In the past, because of my attachment to non-virtuous actions,
I have endured aeons of torment in the hells and elsewhere,
And yet none of that has brought any benefit
Either to myself or to others;

(6.75) But now, through enduring comparatively little discomfort,
I can accomplish the greatest purpose of all –
To free all living beings from their suffering –
So I should feel only joy at having to endure such hardships.

If we genuinely felt that we could attain perfect freedom and help others do the same by enduring the difficulties on the spiritual path, we would feel only joy, wouldn’t we?  The problem is the benefits of the path seem very far off in the future, if they ever come at all; whereas the inconveniences of following the path are experienced now.  Our delusions all have a similar function – to fool us into thinking happiness is found by following them.  Because we still have strong faith in our delusions and weak faith in the Dharma, to go against the grain of our delusions is hard – it takes effort.  It’s very easy to conclude it is not worth it and settle into our spiritual life being a temporary fad, or a part-time hobby.

But if we can gain conviction in the 100% certainty of the sufferings of samsara and we can come to understand clearly how Dharma works to provide a solution, then this calculus reverses.  We realize if we really want to be free from inconvenience, we must practice – not practicing is worse.  When we have this long-term outlook, then we view working through the temporary difficulties on the path as the very substance of our spiritual practice – we are digging ourselves out of samsara.

Sometimes we can become very frustrated with Dharma teachings, either thinking they are asking the impossible of us or they are so difficult (such as the teachings on emptiness) that they seem meaningless.  Shantideva has a tendency in particular to provoke these sorts of reactions.  When we first start practicing Dharma we are like a baby that eats only mashed food, but now we are learning how to chew.  We need to train in the patience of definitely thinking about Dharma, accepting that we don’t understand, but joyfully working with it like a spiritual puzzel, knowing that when we get it all figured out it will be well worth it.  So we should be willing to gladly accept the difficulties because we understand it is completely worth it.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Attachment enables anger to spread like wildfire

(6.70) If, for example, a house caught fire
And there was a danger of the fire spreading to an adjacent house,
It would be advisable to remove anything, such as dry grass,
That might enable the fire to spread.

(6.71) In the same way, when those to whom I cling are harmed,
My attachment to them enables the fire of anger to spread to me.
Fearing that this will consume all my merit,
I should definitely abandon such attachment.

(6.72) How fortunate is a person condemned to death
Who is spared with having just his hand cut off;
And how fortunate are we if, instead of the agonies of hell,
We have to experience only the sufferings of the human realm.

It is surprising, but not surprising, how easily we become angry and retaliate when those we are attached to are harmed in any way.  This is especially true for parents.  When our kids are harmed in some way, we leap into action and are ready to go to war on their behalf.  I have too many stories to tell where this has happened to me, but the point is because we are attached to those we love being happy, when they are harmed in some way, we quickly become angry.

Why do we do this?  Because we have attachment to others being happy.  This seems like a just and normal reaction.  But we need to make the distinction between attachment to others being happy and compassion and love.  On the surface, they seem like the same in that they both wish others are happy and free from suffering.  What is different is for whose sake we want them to be happy and free from suffering.  Attachment to others being happy is concerned about ourselves, and becomes unhappy when others are not happy. We think our happiness depends on them being happy, so when they become unhappy we become unhappy, so anything that causes them to be unhappy, we also get angry with. 

When we have attachment to others being happy, we are not able to help them when they are down because we fall with them, so we become useless to them.  When we have attachment to others being happy, we can’t do what we need to do to actually help them.  Sometimes we have to do things that will make people unhappy when we don’t go along with their dysfunction, but we do it for their own benefit, even if they don’t realize this.  Parents have to do this all the time.  Unconditional love and compassion is concerned about others, and when they are unhappy we just love them more and so are still happy.

But it seems almost wrong to abandon our attachment to those we love being happy.  Won’t that make us indifferent to their plight and a cold and heartless person?  The opposite is actually the case.  It is our attachment to them being happy which actually gets in the way of us loving them purely, especially when they need us the most. 

We think instead of give up our attachment to our friends and family and children, can we just try hard not to get angry? We can even make promises to do so.  But is it possible if we have attachment to others being happy for us to not to get angry when they are harmed? If we have attachment, then is it definite that at some time we will get angry?  Of course it is. 

Our attachment to others being happy also can turn us into emotional tyrants.  We so can’t bear them being unhappy that when they are, we become angry with them and get upset at them for not being happy.  We then think we know what they need to be happy, and we will use our anger to try manipulate them into doing what we think they need to do to become happy.  Of course, this never works, but it doesn’t stop us from trying. 

We also, frankly, like our attachment to others.  Society fails to make the distinction between love and attachment, which is why there are so many poems and songs about how painful love is.  If we find ourselves getting angry often at those we have the most attachment to, is there a connection between the two?  We need to look at these things.  We don’t want to lose our object of attachment.  Do we have to?  When we abandon the mind of attachment, what happens to its object?  Does it cease altogether? Does part of it remain?  In truth, when we abandon our attachment, the object of our attachment disappears.  This doesn’t mean the person disappears, rather they turn into an object of love.  Objects of love are so much more pleasant than objects of attachment, so we can abandon our attachment without fear.

Of course we don’t want to experience hardship of abandoning the objects of our attachment.  But as Shantideva indicates, abandoning our attachment is nothing compared to the suffering we’ll experience if we keep our attachment, especially if we continue to get angry in dependence upon that attachment.  If we are not willing to pay the short-term price of abandoning our attachment we will never know the long-term rewards of permanent freedom.  A Dharma practitioner is somebody who is willing to do this because they know it is worth it.  The difficulty we experience does not come from the fact that we are now making the right decision, rather it comes from having repeatedly made the wrong decision in the past.  When we see this clearly, the more difficult it is, the more determined we will be to get free from it. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Becoming magic crystals

(6.67) If one person causes harm out of ignorance
And another gets angry with him, also out of ignorance,
Which person is at fault
And which one is not?

We read all of the teachings on the faults of anger, and how angry people are just so awful, so we tend to think it is justifiable to get angry with angry people, or at least we find it easy to do so.  In reality, the person who gets angry and the person who gets angry back are the same – they’re both as bad as one another.  No one can be right in getting angry.  It is wrong, always wrong, to get angry.  In many ways, you can say that we are more wrong for getting angry at people for getting angry, because we know better. 

(6.68) Out of ignorance, previously I committed actions
That now result in others causing me harm.
Thus, all the harm I receive is related to my own actions,
So why get angry with others?

(6.69) Seeing this to be the case,
I should practise what is meritorious,
Impelled by the wish that all living beings
Will develop love for one another.

It is important that our Dharma communities and our families show the example in this world of living with one another, being with one another, in harmony – or at least trying to.  We need to show the example of accepting and loving one another. Being able to accept one another and to love one another, regardless of differences, regardless of difficulties that we may experience.

Kadam Lucy once said we shouldn’t be too concerned about other’s relationships with us, but rather about their relationships with each other.  We work out of the wish that all living beings have love for one another.  Very often we criticize one person as a means of getting closer to the other.  I did this with my parents, teenagers do it all the time.  We need to do the opposite.  We need to say only good things about each person to all the others.  It starts with us, we need to do this for our Sangha and within our families.  We need to show patience, and we need to show love for them.  They will then be a bit kinder with those around them, and outward it spreads like the magic crystal (see Eight Steps to Happiness).  Within our centers, our families, and our places of work, we create mutually loving communities.  Then gradually the much larger community, society, will be influenced by the example of our micro communities.  In this way we transform our world into an enlightened society.  It is also good to praise the people in our world for being friendly and happy with others.  This draws these characteristics out.  We need to make people feel like they are a light in other’s lives, then they become such a light.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Why do we get most angry at those we love?

(6.66) Embodied beings are harmed
By both animate and inanimate objects;
So why become angry only with animate ones?
We should be patient with both types of harm.

When there is bad weather, or some device isn’t working properly, we don’t get angry at the weather or the device.  We might be frustrated, but we realize the futility of getting angry at inanimate things.  It’s not the weather’s fault it is bad, it just is.  We don’t get mad at our device because we know it will make no difference, though we might get mad at whoever made the device.  The point is we can see in our life that we don’t get angry – or at least not as angry – at inanimate things as we do animate ones. 

Yet, generally we find it more difficult to be patient with people. I believe we are particularly impatient with people who are closest to us, especially our family.  On the surface it is odd that we usually get more angry at those we love the most.  I believe this comes from three factors.  First, we expect more from our family, so they fail to meet our expectations more easily.  Second, we tend to take out our frustrations on those we know are more likely to forgive us or who are kindest to us.  And third, because we spend more time with our family, so their behavior is a slight irritant at first and absolutely intolerable after the 37th time! 😊

We also tend to get most angry at our family during the holiday season.  During the holidays, we have this unrealistic expectation that everything go perfectly, and so life’s minor annoyances are seen as a much bigger deal.  We also have higher expectations of others, thinking because it is the holidays they should be on better behavior, but delusions know no calendar.  In particular, it is very easy to expect gratitude around the holidays.  We work so hard to create a good experience for everyone, and they inevitably complain or focus on what is wrong.  The truth is all of this is normal.  As a general rule, we should expect problems, difficulties, and inconveniences.  That is the norm.  If we are at peace with this fact – it is the nature of samsara, after all – then when these things happen it won’t be a problem because we don’t expect it to be any different.

We make great effort to gather family and friends around us and then we become angry with them when they don’t act according to our wishes.  That’s terrible.  A bodhisattva doesn’t need others to change at all.  He accepts others as completely perfect just the way they are.  Because he doesn’t need people to change for his own purposes, he is able to accept others and help them according to their wishes.  Others will be unhappy, deluded, and grumpy.  So why should that be a problem for us?  It is just another opportunity for us to practice Dharma.  Somebody with the mind of patient acceptance doesn’t need others to act in any particular way – we can accept them as they are.  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respond normally or stop them from harming others if we can.  The point is we don’t get angry with them because we don’t expect it to be any different and because we view their behavior as an opportunity for us to train. 

As well we need to take into account, seriously take into account, the capacity of the people around us.  We shouldn’t take into account only what needs to be done, but also the karma and capacity of the people around.  If we don’t accept the karma in play, we can easily expect more than is possible and become angry when it doesn’t happen.  By listening to others, we can come to know where they are coming from, and in this way find the balance between encouraging them and expecting too much from them.  We have the Dharma and have been practicing for many years, yet we still get upset and deluded.  How much harder is it for somebody who doesn’t have the Dharma and hasn’t been training?  We don’t expect a baby to be able to lift up a couch, yet we expect others to be able to emotionally lift up their mind when life gets difficult for them.  That’s not fair. 

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Talking with Christians about God

Another potential source of anger about what others say is when we discuss religion with our Christian friends and family.

This can also come up in our daily lives, especially if we are practicing Buddhism in predominantly Christian societies or families.  Geshe-la once gave some advice about engaging with our Christian friends.  He said, there will appear to others, including Christians, to be differences between their teachings and the Kadampa teachings.  And they will possibly want our opinion on those differences. He said we must be very skillful in what we say and what we teach in such circumstances.  Some people may feel threatened thinking we disbelieve the existence of God, and we could be asked our view on the existence of God.  He said of course we shouldn’t answer “God doesn’t exist.” We can answer that different people have different conceptions of God, even Christian scholars have different thoughts.

But the Kadampa teachings are very clear in saying “there is no creator other than mind,” and many Christians and others say God is the creator of the world.  What should we say when somebody asks this?  Geshe-la was very clear, he said we should say, “in reality, I believe there’s no contradiction.”  How can we understand this?

Many years ago at a festival, Geshe-la talked about the Dharmakaya being creator of all – God.  Usually the objection to the conception of God is there is a contradiction between all powerful and perfectly good.  If God is all powerful, then why is there suffering?  It is true for an inherently existent God, this is an impossible contradiction.  But when you understand the emptiness of God – his actual mode of existence – this contradiction falls away.  The Dharmakaya is all knowing, perfectly good and all powerful in that the mind is the creator of all. When our own mind is fully purified it will be all knowing, all powerful and perfectly good.  The Dharmakaya does not exist from its own side, but is our own mind fully purified.  It is something we need to make manifest within our mind.  We need to bring God to everything by viewing everything as inseparable from the Dharmakaya.  The kingdom of heaven is not something that exists from its own side, but something each one of us has to create.

When we understand the emptiness of the creator, Buddhism and Christianity merge perfectly.  In Buddhism, because we understand emptiness, we understand that we are uniquely responsible for everything that happens because our mind is its creator.  Our job is to become a good God for our karmic creation.

If Kadam Dharma is to flourish within predominantly Christian societies, we must now be very skillful in what we teach, especially in relation to Christian principles.  We need to try to show people that in reality there is no contradiction so that their interest in Buddhist teachings grows. Over time they may become more influenced by Buddha’s teachings, or maybe not.  Either way, the choice is theirs. Geshe-la is encouraging us a little to think about what we say and what we teach in the future if the Kadam Dharma is to grow in Western society. We need to think carefully about the answers that we will give.  There are many many different levels to this, and it is worth considering and discussing.  If individually we practice in this way, seeing the non-contradiction between Dharma and Christianity, then the obstacles coming from Christian corners or our families will gradually fade away and this will become a society in which Kadampas are a natural part of the fabric.  This is quite a special way of practicing.

There are three things I find useful to contemplate when thinking about the relationship between the Kadam dharma and Christianity.  First, Mike Garside said that Christ prepared the west perfectly for the arrival of Kadampa Buddhism.  It is as if Christ took the people of the West up a certain distance of the mountain, and then from there Kadampa Buddhism can take them the rest of the way.  Perhaps we can say that Kadampa Buddhism is like ‘enhanced Christianity.’  Christian principles are part of our common path, we just move beyond these principles to a deeper level without being contradictory.  Kadampa Buddhism explains many of the deep inner mechanisms as to how Christianity works, such as blessings, taking and giving, etc.  Kadampa Buddhism introduces a Mahayana element, we seek to become God ourselves so that we can care for our creation.  Kadampa Buddhism eliminates all remaining obstacles to uniting with God by realizing his lack of inherent existence.  Then there is no separation between him and us.  We become inseparably one with him.  We become one and the same.

Second, there is a parallel between when the Dharma came to Tibet and when the Dharma came to the West.  When the Dharma came to Tibet, the local culture and religion was Bon.  Spiritually things were degenerate, but culturally people were Bon.  Out of culturally Bon and spiritually Buddhist emerged ‘Tibetan Buddhism.’  When the Dharma came to the West, the local culture and religion is largely Christian.  Spiritually things are degenerating, but culturally people are primarily Christian.  Out of a culturally Christian and spiritually Buddhist context emerged ‘Modern Kadampa Buddhism’.  One of my teachers once said that one of the uncommon characteristics of Kadampa Buddhism that separates us from Tibetan Buddhism is we do not reject our Christian background, but we take it as a starting point.  Just as Tibetan Buddhism took ‘Bon’ as its starting point, Kadampa Buddhism in many ways takes Christianity as its starting point.

Third, I believe that Kadampa Buddhism has an important role to play in the revival of Christianity as well.  It seems to me that Christianity fell on the rocks for two principal reasons:  First, most people have difficulties with Christianity because it comes down to ‘believe me because God said so.’  This just doesn’t work in modern times with highly educated people.  Second, it got mixed with politics – especially anti-LGBT politics.  There is considerable evidence that Jesus taught a Mahayana path, but when the state hijacked the church, such teachings were removed or reinterpreted for political ends.  Mixing religion and politics destroys the religion as it gets coopted for worldly aims.  My experience has been that the more I study Dharma, the more I understand how Christianity works, and I can explain to my Christian friends our understanding and this helps them improve their faith in their Christianity.  As Kadampa thought infiltrates into Christian culture, effectively becoming a Kadampa society, it will provide Christians with powerful reasons demonstrating why their religion is valid, and this will help them increase their faith in it.  So we have an important role to play not just in the flourishing of Dharma but also the revival of Christianity.

Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Not getting angry at those who attack our tradition and Dorje Shugden practice

(6.62) “At least you should retaliate when people speak ill of you
And cause others to lose their faith in you.”
In that case, why do I not get angry
When people speak ill of others?

(6.63) If, mind, you can forbear such loss of faith
When it is related to others,
Why are you not patient when others speak ill of you,
For that is related to the arising of delusions?

(6.64) Even if someone were to insult or destroy the Dharma,
The holy images, or the stupas,
It would still not be appropriate to get angry with them,
For how could the Three Jewels ever be harmed?

(6.65) We should also prevent anger arising towards anyone
Who might harm our Spiritual Guide, our friends, or our relatives
By seeing that such harm also occurs in dependence upon conditions
In the way that was just explained.

It is very easy to think it is justifiable to get angry against people who seek to harm the three jewels.  Even if we don’t think it is justifiable to get angry, it is easy to actually get angry when we feel others are attacking us, our tradition, Geshe-la, or our faith.  We receive a lot of criticism from a lot of different directions, and even the most secure in their faith can easily become discouraged or angry at those who keep falsely accusing us or unfairly criticizing us.  This is part of our karma, no doubt because we did this to others in the past.

I have actually spent a good amount of time “defending the tradition” against those who would attack it.  This started for me way back in the mid-1990s when the Dalai Lama started to aggressively attack Dorje Shugden practice and practitioners.  What was being said didn’t jive at all with my experience of Dorje Shugden practice, teachings, or our tradition, but I was still relatively new.  I wrote Geshe-la about what I had read/heard expressing concern, and he wrote back saying, “Dorje Shugden could never have anybody.  Investigate for yourself.”  So that’s what I did.  I read through everything that was written on the web at the time, including all of the speeches by the Dalai Lama, statements made by the Tibetan parliament, and others.  The more I looked, the more it made no sense.  Each of the arguments lodged fell apart upon investigation.  By investigating myself and comparing it with what I had learned, it became very clear to me that the Dalai Lama’s position was full of contradictions.  I helped Venerable Tharchin prepare a book to try answer some of the arguments lodged against us.  It never got published, but it did clarify my own thinking. 

It was very easy for me to get angry about all of the criticism against Dorje Shugden and the NKT because my in-laws, who were already skeptical about my involvement with Buddhism thinking I had joined some cult, found all of this stuff and it created all sorts of obstacles.  I had had obstacles with them before and also had written Geshe-la about how to deal with this.  He replied that “they might have a problem with external manifestations of Dharma practice, but everyone appreciates a good heart and a good example.  You will need to be skillful.” 

A second wave of this happened about 10 years later when the criticisms started up again, and so did our protests in response.  I spent the entire summer at TTP writing a website that answered every single argument made against us.  My goal was to enter into a debate against all those who opposed us.  I invited all of our main critics to engage in the debate, line by line, with the agreement of whoever loses the debate has the intellectual integrity to at least admit it.  Unfortunately, nobody took me up on my offer.  But the website still exists, and I believe it can be a useful resource for somebody new encountering these questions to help them work through the arguments made on both sides.  You can visit this site at:  https://dorjeshugdendebate.wordpress.com/  But I also remember discussing with these people on a variety of different on-line forums, and while I was strong in my faith, it really wore on me (and others), and I eventually had to step away because it was just so negative.

A third wave happened about 5 years ago.  The criticisms started up again, and so did our protests.  I was in China at the time, and found it so absurd how those accusing us used my presence in China as proof that we were working for the Chinese.  No, actually, I was working in the American embassy, but facts didn’t matter.  One of our chief critics then published a manifesto of why we are so bad and why Dorje Shugden is so bad, so I decided to try once again and debate with them – this time on their medium.  It turned into this absolutely massive discussion.  I tried to be fair and objective in my arguments, admitting it when we were wrong.  My hope was by being reasonable I could at least soften things up a bit.  I tried to move people – on both sides – towards agreeing the resolution to the conflict was for everybody to practice their bodhisattva vows.  In the end, my efforts failed.  But I can say that I tried.

These same folks, 20 years later after their original dispute with the NKT, are still at it.  My theory is they are unable to let go and get on with their lives because somewhere inside of them, they know they are wrong.  So they are battling within themselves and keep coming back.  Of course they would howl in protest at such a characterization, but the core question remains – why haven’t you moved on with your life yet?  If the NKT isn’t for you, fine, it doesn’t need to be.  You have your bread, we have ours.  Why decades of relentless attack?  Why are they so threatened by us thinking what we do?  I’m fine with them thinking whatever they want.  But it still functions to activate anger and defensiveness in me when I see their attacks.  I try accept this as purification.

Many people have their own story with all of this.  It’s not easy for people to work through.  But working through it is a fantastic way to become solid in our own Dharma understandings and confidence in our path. 

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.