Reliance upon Dorje Shugden: Making offerings and requests

In the remainder of the posts in this series, I will explain how to rely upon Dorje Shugden during the meditation session by explaining my understanding of what each line in the sadhana means.  After the invitation to Dorje Shugden, which has already been explained, we then make offerings and requests as follows:

Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind. 

Here we imagine that from ourself and from all the beings we previously put within the protection circle, we emanate all of our past and future lives.  Then with all of these past, present and future emanations of ourself, we prostrate.  This creates special merit with him so that he can provide us protection in all our past, present and future lives.  Present and future lives are easy to understand.  How can he provide us protection in our past lives?   He can bless our mind so that everything that happened to us in the past also becomes a cause of our enlightenment. We view our past differently in such a way that it teaches us lessons of Dharma.  In this way, no matter when we start our practice, even if it is when we are very old, we can effectively have practiced our whole life.

I offer a mass of inner and outer offerings, blissful tormas,
Alcohol, tea, cakes, milk, and curd,
Both actually set out and mentally imagined, filling the whole of space.

The basic idea is this:  whatever we offer to Dorje Shugden, he can then use for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  For example, if I offer my house to him, then everything that happens in my house will be emanated by him for my practice, etc.  So mentally, we offer everything because we want to use everything for our attainment of enlightenment.

Commitment, fulfilling, reliance, and appropriate substances,
Outer, inner, secret, attractive, and cleansing offerings, filling the whole of space,
I offer these to the entire assembly;
May I fulfil the heart commitment and restore my broken commitments.

This refers to an offering of our practice of the Heart Commitment of Dorje Shugden.  What does this mean?  It means to not be sectarian with our spiritual practice.  If we are sectarian in our practice, it will bring the Dharma into disrepute and it will create many problems for people being able to practice the path that leads to enlightenment, so it is very important for us to not be sectarian.  Gross sectarianism is when one tradition claims to have a monopoly on the truth and all the other traditions are wrong.  Many wars and much suffering have taken place due to this.  Subtle sectarianism is when we mix and match different traditions together.  Here, instead of saying one tradition is better than another in a general sense (as in gross sectarianism) we are saying that individual instructions from one instruction are better than individual instructions from another.

To avoid sectarianism, Geshe-la encourages us to ‘following one tradition purely without mixing, while respecting all other paths as valid for others.’  Buddhas emanate many Buddhist and non-Buddhist paths depending on the karmic disposition of beings.  Different people will respond to different instructions, and so we are happy for anybody to follow any authentic spiritual path.  This can be understood with an analogy of being trapped in a burning room.  If we were trapped in a giant burning room and there were many doors out, what would we do?  We would find the door closest to us and head straight out.  We wouldn’t start towards one door, then change to another, then change to another still because that keeps us trapped in a room.  We wouldn’t head towards the average of two doors because that would bang us straight into a wall.  We also wouldn’t judge other doors as being wrong for somebody else who is standing right next to it, instead we would encourage them to go out the door closest to them.  In the same way, if we are all trapped in the giant burning room of samsara and there are many different spiritual doors out, what do we do?  We find the one that is karmically closest to us and we head straight out.  We don’t follow one path, then another, then another because then we complete none of them and remain in samsara.  We don’t mix together two different traditions because this amalgam of our own creation does not lead to an actual door out.  We don’t tell people who are closest to the door of another spiritual tradition, such as a Christian, that they should abandon their Christian path and follow our Kadampa path, instead we encourage them to go out through the emergency exit closest to them.  If somebody criticises our practices and says that their practices are superior, we should not become defensive.  We can just say, ‘I am happy for you that you feel you have superior practices.  I hope you enjoy them.’ We then continue to do what seems best for us.  This avoids all problems.

So what is the Kadampa door?  It can be summarized in one sentence:  “relying upon guru, yidam and protector, I practice the path of lamrim, lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.”  If we are doing this, if we have chosen this as our path and we are following it purely without mixing while respecting all other paths as valid for others, then we are keeping our heart commitment to Dorje Shugden.  Taking such a commitment is our personal choice.  Nobody can force this on us, we do so voluntarily.   This is not a commitment of the empowerment, it has to be something from our own side we decide to do.

In the next post, I will continue to explain verse by verse my understanding of the meaning of the Dorje Shugden part of the sadhana.


Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Viewing our life as a training ground for becoming the Buddha we need to become

We are continuing with our discussion of how to rely upon Dorje Shugden during the meditation break.  In the last post we discussed how we can take personal responsibility for removing the faults we perceive in others.  In this post we will discuss how to view our life as a training ground for becoming the Buddha we need to become.

How can we understand this?  Dorje Shugden knows who we have karma with to be their Spiritual Guide.  We each have the karma to be the spiritual guide of certain beings.  Dorje Shugden knows this and he knows what karma we have with them.  If we ask him to do so, Dorje Shugden can manage our karma in such a way that he forges us into the Buddha you need to become.  Primarily Dorje Shugden provides us with favorable conditions and arranges everything to be perfect for our practice.

But he is so powerful, he is also able to ‘use’ our negative karma and ‘transform’ it into the spiritual path.  He gives us now the problems that our future students will have so that we can learn how to use the Dharma to overcome these problems.  We have the negative karma on our mind to experience anything and everything.  So Dorje Shugden is able to manage the flow of the ripening of our negative karma so that the negative karma which does ripen is that of our future students and it ripens in a context where we will be able to transform it into the path.

What are the benefits of relying upon Dorje Shugden in this way?  It will create indestructible karmic links between ourselves and our future students that will ripen in the form of us being their spiritual guide in the future.  We will gain the realizations we need to be able to help the beings with whom we have the closest spiritual karmic connections.  It will enable us to find great meaning in all of our inevitable difficulties in life.  Life will still be difficult, but these difficulties will be part of a larger project to forge us into the Buddha we need to become.

So practically speaking, how do we view our life in this way?  The key lies in viewing everyone as an emanation of Dorje Shugden for our practice.  The view we adopt of others determines the qualities we draw out.  This is so because view itself is a creative action, it is not a passive observation.  We do not view others in a particular way because they ‘are’ that way (they are not any way), rather we view others in a particular way because it is most beneficial to them for us to do so.

The view we adopt is to view others as emanations of the Spiritual Guide.  We can maintain pure view of others.  We consider them to be Buddhas appearing in the aspect of ordinary beings so we can act normally with them.  By acting normally with them, we gain the realizations we need to attain enlightenment.  We can maintain pure view of their actions.  We can consider all of their actions to be the supremely skillful actions of a Buddha.  For example, if they make some big mistake we can view it as they make mistakes to teach us things.  If we assent to the appearance of others as being ordinary, engaging in ordinary actions we will simply plant the karma which will give rise to the appearance of ordinary beings engaging in ordinary actions.   In this way, we re-imprison others into contaminated aggregates engaging in non-Dharma actions.

If instead we imagine that others are by nature emanations of Dorje Shugden engaging in supremely skillful actions to lead us to our swiftest possible enlightenment we plant karma which will give rise to the appearance of others as emanations engaging in the actions of a Buddha.  In this way, we free others from contaminated aggregates and we create the causes for them to engage in the actions necessary to lead themselves to enlightenment.  But how do we do this, especially when we see others acting in deluded and unskillful ways.  There are two 2 key questions we can ask ourselves to be able to maintain this view:  First, what do their actions teach me?  Second, we can ask ourselves what do their actions give me an opportunity to practice?  We can even do this same practice with our own body and mind.  If we assent to ourselves as being an ordinary being engaging in ordinary actions it will creates the karma for the recreation of that appearance.  But if we view our ordinary body and mind as emanated for us to practice overcoming in order to forge us into the Buddha we need to become, it will plant the karma for that appearance to arise in the future.  For example, if we get sick, it is for us to practice with.  If we have a delusion, it is for giving us an opportunity to practice the opponents.

This view is extremely beneficial for both ourselves and for others.  We are able to transform whatever happens to us into the path to enlightenment and we are able to receive the blessings of the spiritual guide through everyone.  It karmically reconstructs others and ourselves into pure being.  By imagining that they are Buddhas engaging in a Buddha’s actions, it karmically reconstructs them so that they will later actually engage in enlightened actions and become a Buddha.

In sum, the practice of Dorje Shugden can be reduced down into four simple ideas:

  1. Renew our spiritual motivation, that what matters to us is creating good causes for spiritual progress.
  2. Request with infinite faith that whatever happens to us (or others) is perfect for our swiftest possible enlightenment.
  3. Accept with infinite faith whatever subsequently arises as the perfect conditions we requested.
  4. In those perfect conditions, practice to the best of our ability.  To practice means to try to send our mind in the direction of enlightenment by striving to abandon our delusions and by cultivating virtuous minds.  It does not matter whether we succeed in actually doing so, what matters is that we try.  If we try, we create good causes which will ripen in the future in our ability to do it.

We can use your reliance on Dorje Shugden to overcome all of your delusions.  This practice was explained to me by the great Gen Togden.  He said we can overcome our anger through relying on Dorje Shugden by considering that anger wishes things to be other than they are.  When we rely on Dorje Shugden, we know they are perfect, so there is no basis for wishing they are otherwise, thus there is no basis for anger.  He also said we can overcome our attachment through relying on Dorje Shugden.  We think we need something for our happiness, but we do not know.  So we make requests to Dorje Shugden that if this is what is best for him to please arrange it; if not, then we request him to please sabotage it.  Finally, he explained we can overcome our ignorance through relying on Dorje Shugden.  Dorje Shugden is a wisdom Buddha, so we can request him to bestow his blessings so we will always know what to do in all situations.

Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Taking personal responsibility for removing the faults we perceive in others.

Normally we explain what to do in the meditation session first, but I wanted to explain how we rely upon Dorje Shugden in the meditation break first because this is where we first gain experience of him and see how useful he is.  Then, we naturally want to deepen our practice of him in the meditation session.

I would like to explain two key practices for the meditation break:  taking personal responsibility to remove the faults we perceive in others and viewing our life as a training ground for becoming the Buddha we need to become.  I will explain these over the next two posts.

Taking personal responsibility for removing the faults you perceive in others

Normally, we think it is the responsibility of others to remove the faults we perceive in them, but if we think about this carefully, we will realize that actually we are uniquely responsible for all the faults we perceive in others.  At a simple level, we can say that the world we experience is the world we pay attention to.  If we pay 90% of our attention on the 10% of faults in the other person, then it will seem to us that the person is 90% faulty.  This is how we will experience the other person.  Our teacher explain that this is how we make ‘enemies’, ‘friends’, ‘sangha’ and even ‘Buddhas.’  In the same way, we ‘make’ faulty people.

We can also understand this by considering emptiness.  If we consider emptiness according to Sutra, we understand that everything is just a dream-like projection of our mind. Where does this faulty person come from?  Our own projections of mind.  There is no other person other than emptiness. Are we responsible for the faults in the people of our dreams?  If yes, then we are likewise responsible for the faults in the people of the dream of our gross mind.  If we consider karma and emptiness together, we realize that others are mere appearances arising from our own karma. We engaged in actions in the past which are now creating the appearance of a ‘faulty’ person.  So it is our own past faulty actions which created this appearance of a faulty person.

If we consider emptiness according to Tantra, we understand that these faulty people are actually different aspects, or parts, of our own mind.  We consider our right and left hands to be aspects or parts of our body.  In the same way, when we understand emptiness according to Tantra, we realize that others are merely aspects or parts of our mind.  Just as Ryan is an appearance in my mind, so too is the ‘faulty’ person.  Both are equally appearances to my mind inside my mind.  They are different aspects of my mind.  So this is the ‘Ryan’ part of me and that is the ‘faulty’ part of me.  When we meditate deeply on these things we will come to the clear realization that there is no ‘other person’ other than the one created by my mind, so we are uniquely responsible for all the faults we perceive in others.

So how do we actually remove the faults we perceive in others?  There are several things we can do.  First, we should make a distinction between the person and their delusion.  Just as a cancer patient is not their cancer, so too somebody sick with delusions is not their delusions. By making a separation between the person and their delusions, we no longer see faulty people, rather we see pure people sick with delusions.  We see faulty delusions, but pure beings.

Second, we need to develop a mind of patient acceptance that can transform everything.  The mind of patient acceptance is a special wisdom that has the power to transform anything into the spiritual path.  This wisdom enables the person to ‘accept’ everything without resistance because the bodhisattva can ‘use’ everything.  When we have this mind, what would otherwise be a fault is considered to us to be perfect because it gives us a great opportunity to further train our mind.  If we can learn to use whatever others do for our spiritual development, then their otherwise ‘faulty’ actions for us will be perfect.

Third, it is also very helpful to create a space of 100% freedom and non-judgment of others, and in that space, set a good example.  A bodhisattva does not try or need to change others.  When people feel controlled or judged, they become defensive.  If they are defensive, then it blocks them from changing because they are engaging in a process of self-justification.  For change to take place, it has to take place from the side of the person.  Internal change can only come from the inside.  So in the space of not controlling or judging others, we set a good example.  This will naturally inspire people to change from their own side.

Fourth, Venerable Tharchin once explained to me that we need to “own other’s faults as your own.”  Since the faults of others are projections of our own mind, the only reason why others appear to have any faults is because we possess those faults ourself.  So we find these faults in ourselves and purge them like bad blood.  We take the time to find where we have these same faults, and then we use the Dharma to eliminate them from ourself with a bodhichitta intention to be able to help the other person, and anyone else, who appears to have this fault.  If we practice like this, there are many different benefits.  We will gain the realizations we need to be able to help the other person overcome their problem because we have personal experience of having done that.  We will show the perfect example for the other person of somebody striving to overcome and eventually becoming free from what troubles them the most.  Our example often helps much more than our words.  The problem will actually disappear in the other person because it is coming from our own mind anyways.  And at the very least, we ourselves will have one less fault.

Finally, we can adopt a pure view of others as emanations of Dorje Shugden.  I will explain this is greater detail in the next post.


Reliance on Dorje Shugden: The nature and function of Dorje Shugden

In this post, I will explain the nature and function of Dorje Shugden.  In the subsequent posts I will explain how to rely upon him outside of formal meditation and then I will explain how to rely upon him during the formal meditation session.

What is the nature and function of Dorje Shugden?  In short, his nature is the same as our Spiritual Guide, but in particular he is by nature the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri.  Manjushri assumes two forms, Je Tsongkhapa to lead us along the path and Dorje Shugden to arrange the conditions for our practice of the path.  His function is to arrange all the outer, inner and secret conditions necessary for our swiftest possible enlightenment.

To understand this in more detail, we can consider the meaning of the invitation prayer to Dorje Shugden that we recite every day in the context of our Heart Jewel practice.  The Sadhana begins by saying, “HUM, I have the clarity of the Yidam.”  With HUM we dissolve everything into the clear light Dharmakaya and recall that the definitive nature of Dorje Shugden is the Truth Body of our Spiritual Guide.  ‘I have the clarity of the Yidam’ means we engage in our Dorje Shugden practice self-generated as our personal deity.  We do this for two reasons.  First, it is more effective.  Heruka is much closer to Dorje Shugden than we are, so by requesting Dorje Shugden as Heruka we tap into their close karmic connection.  It is not that different than knowing somebody who knows somebody very powerful.  We may not know the powerful person ourselves, but if we know somebody who does know them, if they ask the powerful person to fulfill our wishes it is far more likely we will get the response we want.  The second reason why we do this is the practice of Dorje Shugden can be engaged in for the sake of ourself or for the sake of others.  When we eventually become Buddha Heruka our work is not finished – we will still need to lead all other beings to enlightenment.  At that time, we will need powerful allies such as Dorje Shugden who can help us help living beings.  Training in the practice of Dorje Shugden while maintaining divine pride of being the deity is a very powerful method for having Dorje Shugden accomplish his function for all those that we love.

Next the sadhana says, “Before me in the center of red and black fire and wind.”  Here, we imagine that encircling all the living beings we are visualizing around us is a large protection circle of Dorje Shugden made out of five-colored wisdom fires.  It is like a giant sphere which completely envelopes all of these beings and the entire universe.  I like to imagine that all living beings are now inside of the protection circle and everything that happens to them is perfect for their swiftest possible enlightenment.

The Sadhana then says, ‘on a lotus and sun trampeling demons and obstructors is a terrifying lion powerful and alert.’  The function of Dorje Shugden’s lion is to dispel all fear.  It is a bit like in the movie Narnia, when people were in the presence of Aslan, they knew they were safe and they had nothing to fear.  If ever we are in a situation where we are afraid, we can remember the protection circle of Dorje Shugden and we can remember his lion and strongly believe that we are protected and that we receive his blessings which pacify all of our fears.

The sadhana then says, “upon this sits the Great King Dorje Shugden, the supreme heart jewel of Dharma protectors.”  Dorje Shugden is the principal deity of the visualization.  There are a couple of different analogies we can consider to get a feeling for who he is.  He is our karma manager.  Rich people give their money to money managers to manage their money in an optimal way.  In the same way, Dorje Shugden is the supreme karma manager.  He will manage our karma in an optimal way for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  He is our personal spiritual trainer.  When people want to get their bodies in shape, they go to a personal physical trainer who gives them the specific exercises they need to get in the peak of physical health.  In the same way, Dorje Shugden is our personal spiritual trainer who gives us the specific exercises we need to put ourselves in the peak of spiritual health, full enlightenment.  He is our spiritual father.  Our father protects us from danger and provides us with everything we need.  In the same way, Dorje Shugden is our spiritual father who will protect us from all danger and provide for us everything we need to accomplish our spiritual goals.  He is the director of our spiritual life.  When people make movies or plays, there is a director who organises and puts together all the appearances.  In the same way, Dorje Shugden is the director of our spiritual life, who will create a play of appearances around us for the rest of our life that are perfect for our spiritual path.  In a future post, I will explain how he has the power to help us not just in this life and right now, but in all our past and future lives as well.  Yes, we can go back within our past and transform what happened into a cause of our enlightenment!

The sadhana then says, “his body is clothed in the garments of a monk.”  This symbolizes his power to assist us with our practice of moral discipline.  We all have bad habits we are trying to abandon, such as smoking, getting angry at people and so forth; and vows we are trying to keep, such as our refuge, pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantric vows, but we are not very successful in doing so.  Dorje Shugden can give us the strength and wisdom we need to abandon these bad habits.  Whenever we feel tempted to break our moral discipline, we can recall Dorje Shugden in front of us dressed in the garments of a monk and request his special blessings to give us the strength to keep our moral discipline.

Next, the sadhana says, “on his head he wears a round and yellow hat.”  This symbolizes his ability to help us gain the correct view of emptiness, the ultimate nature of reality.  He helps us understand how all things are like a dream, and how if we change our actions, we can change our karma and that will change the dream that appears to our mind.  In this way, we can become the architect of our own destiny, and cause this world of suffering to cease and the pure world of the Buddhas to arise.  If ever we have difficulty understanding emptiness, we can recall his hat and request that he bless our mind to be able to gain a correct understanding of emptiness.  We then imagine we receive his blessings and return to our Dharma book (or the teaching we are receiving) and try again.  If we still don’t understand, we once again request blessings and repeat the cycle.  We can continue like this for as long as it takes.  Eventually, through the power of his blessings, we will understand.

The sadhana then says, “his hands hold a sword and a heart of compassion.”  This symbolizes his ability to help us engage in lamrim meditation, in particular the union of the vast and profound path.  The vast path is all of the lamrim meditations for developing a good heart, leading up to bodhichitta, the wish to lead all beings to enlightenment.  The profound path refers to the wisdom realizing emptiness, that everything is like a dream.  Just as we did with trying to understand emptiness, when we are having difficulty with our lamrim practice, we can recall this function of Dorje Shugden, request his blessings, receive his blessings and then try again.  Practicing in this way dramatically increases the power of our lamrim meditation.

After this, the sadhana says, “to his followers he shows an expression of delight, but to demons and obstructors he displays a wrathful manner.”  This symbolizes Dorje Shugden’s ability to love and care for us while destroying our delusions.  We need to make a distinction between ourselves and our delusions.  Just as a cancer patient is not his cancer, we are not the cancer of our delusions.  Many people fear Dorje Shugden because they know he can be quite wrathful, but this fear only arises because they identify with their delusions.  So when their delusions are challenged, they feel like they are being challenged.  Whenever we have a delusion arise strongly in our mind, we can immediately remember Dorje Shugden and request his blessings to be able to happily accept our difficult circumstances understanding that what is bad for our delusions is good for us.


Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Preliminary practice of the Guru Yoga of Je Tsongkhapa

Within the Kadampa tradition we are advised to practice the sadhana Heart Jewel as our daily practice.  If we are a Tantric practitioner, we engage in the Tantric version of this practice known as the Yoga of Buddha Heruka.  In either case, the sadhana beings with the Guru Yoga of Je Tsongkhapa.  I will explain things from the perspective of Heart Jewel since it is a common practice.

In general, the practice of Heart Jewel is the method for practicing the entire path to enlightenment.  There are three main parts – affectionately called a ‘Heart Jewel Sandwich.’  The first part is the Je Tsongkhapa part – the function of this part of the practice is to be able to draw closer to Je Tsongkhapa and receive his external and internal guidance to be able to realize his Dharma of Lamrim, lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  The second part is our Meditation on Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  We do this in the middle of the practice.  And the final part is the Dorje Shugden part – this creates the causes to be able to receive Dorje Shugden’s care and protection for being able to gain the realization of Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra.  This series of posts is primarily about how to rely upon Dorje Shugden, but I will nonetheless give a brief explanation of how to engage in the first two parts of the Heart Jewel sandwich.

To actually engage in the Je Tsongkhapa part, we do as follows:

  1. Refuge and bodhichitta – here you are establishing your motivation for engaging in the practice.  “With the wish to become a Buddha so I can help all the beings around me attain the same state, I will now engage sincerely in the paractice of Heart Jewel, trying to generate the minds indicated by the words.”
  2. Prayer of the seven limbs and the mandala.  This accomplishes two main functions:  Accumulate merit – merit is positive spiritual energy.  It is like gasoline in your spiritual car.  Purify negativities – negative karma prevents us from engaging in spiritual practices and is the substantial cause of all our suffering.  It is like lots of traffic and debris on the roads.
  3. Migtsema prayer and prayer of the stages of the path.  These two enable you to receive the blessings of all the Buddhas.  Blessings are like spark plugs which ignite the gas of your merit to push you along the road to enlightenment.  The migtsema prayer draws you closer to JTK, and enables you to receive the blessings of the wisdom, compassion and spiritual power of all the Buddhas.  The prayer of the stages of the path is a special prayer for requesting the realizations of the lamrim.
  4. At this point in the sadhana we typically engage in meditation on lamrim.  Usually people use the book the New Meditation Handbook and cycle through the 21 lamrim meditations explained there, one each day.  For more information, we can also attend classes on the Lamrim at our local Dharma centers.
  5. After our meditation, we recite the dedication prayer from the Je Tsongkhapa part of Heart Jewel.

For more detailed information, we can read in the book Heart Jewel which provides an extensive commentary.  Geshe-la has said that this is his most important book.  It is available for sale at

We should also take advantage of the opportunity to attend courses on Heart Jewel at our local Kadampa center, and we should make many requests that our local teacher grant the empowerments of Je Tsongkhapa and Dorje Shugden.  What is an empowerment?  An empowerment in general is establishing a very close connection with a particular enlightened being.  The closer our karma with a given enlightened being, the more ‘bandwidth’ they have for being able to help us.  It is a bit like making a connection with a very special friend.  When we meet somebody very powerful and we have a close connection with them, we can more easily call upon them and ask them for help.

An empowerment is like receiving a personal deity within our mental continuum.  We can all appreciate the qualities of the different Buddhas, and think how wonderful it would be to know them and be able to call upon them.  But how much more wonderful would it be to have a personal emanation of a Buddha who is available for us 24/7.  During the empowerment, we receive our own personal emanation of Dorje Shugden into our mental continuum.  We will be able to develop a personal relationship with this Dorje Shugden and he will care for us.  Geshe-la once told a very senior teacher about the Dorje Shugden empowerment, “people need this empowerment, they need this protection.”


Reliance on Dorje Shugden: Introduction to series

In this series of posts I will explain my understanding of how to rely upon Dorje Shugden, our Dharma protector.  All of Dharma essentially has one purpose:  to bring the mind under control.  Delusions are that which make our mind uncontrolled.  For me personally, I overcome about 90% of my delusions “merely by remembering” Dorje Shugden.  In this series of posts I will explain how.

Our ability to rely upon Dorje Shugden depends primarily upon one thing:  are we a worldly being or a spiritual being.  If we are a worldly being, reliance on Dorje Shugden will not work.  If we are a spiritual being, reliance on Dorje Shugden will change everything for us – we will never be the same again.  All fear, all anxiety, all grasping will vanish.  Our mind will become smooth, balanced, flexible and peaceful all of the time.

There is one question we need to ask ourself :  what kind of being do I want to be, a worldly being or a spiritual being?  A worldly being is somebody who is primarily concerned with securing happiness in this life.  Their actions are aimed at securing worldly happiness in this life.  A spiritual being is somebody who is primarily concerned with securing happiness of future lives.  Their actions are aimed at laying the foundation for happiness in future lives, up to the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.

It is important to understand whether our life is a worldly one or a spiritual one does not depend on what activities we do, rather it depends on what mind we do these activities with.  Sometimes we think that our families, jobs, vacations and so forth are necessarily ‘worldly’, but this is not the case.  They are only worldly if we engage in them with a worldly mind.  If we engage in these same activities with a spiritual mind, then they become spiritual activities and part of our spiritual life.  What does it mean to live our life with a spiritual mind?  It means what we are looking to get out of a situation is different.  For example, I have a close friend who is a very successful businessman.  He views everything through the lens of the business opportunity.  We went to Magic Mountain together once (Magic Mountain is an amusement park with very big roller coasters, etc.).  For my friend, because he looked at things through the glasses of a businessman, what he took home from his trip to Magic Mountain was lessons in business.

For a worldly being, what they are looking to get out of a situation is external happiness in this life.  Their actions are aimed at improving their reputation, increasing their resources, receiving praise and experiencing pleasure (and avoiding the opposite of these things).  For a spiritual being, what they are looking to get out of a situation is opportunities to train their mind and create good causes.  They view situations from the perspective of the opportunity they afford the person to train their mind and create good causes for the future.  To be a spiritual being doesn’t mean we don’t care about this life, rather it means we also care about future lives.  We include future lives in our calculations for how we use today and how we use this life.

Before we can actually become a spiritual being, we have to have at least some belief in future lives.  Without such belief, it is difficult to view your life as a preparation for them.  So how can we develop some conviction, or at least some virtuous doubt, about the existence of future lives?  The definitive reason which establishes everything in the Dharma is emptiness.  Emptiness explains that all phenomena, ourselves included, are mere karmic appearance of mind.  ‘Mere’ means they are like appearances in a dream, and ‘karmic appearance’ means that these appearances arise from karma.  This life and all its appearances are just a mere karmic appearance of mind that was triggered by a previous mind.  The quality of our mind determines the quality of the karma activated.  Every karmic seed has a certain duration, and when it exhausts itself the appearance supported by that karma will cease.  It is just like during a dream.  The nature of the mind is a formless continuum, it is like a giant container in which new karmic appearances are projected.  Think back to 2 hours ago.  What is appearing to our mind now is completely different.  What used to appear no longer appears at all, yet the nature of our mind itself is still there.  In the same way, when the appearances of this life and this body cease, the nature of our mind itself will still be there, equal and unchanged, just as the sky remains even as the clouds change.

If none of these ideas work for us, then it is useful to consider even if we are not sure, it is nonetheless better to live our life as if there are future lives.  Why?  If there are future lives, but we assume there are not, then we won’t be prepared for them and our future will be uncertain.  It is like somebody denying that there is a tomorrow.  If there are not future lives, but you assume there are, then you will at least be able to have the happiest possible life because a spiritual outlook on life is simply a happier way to relate to the world.  Why is this so?

Why is it a good idea to adopt a spiritual way of life?  Doing so can make every moment of our life deeply meaningful.  Our lives are as meaningful as the goals towards which we work.  If our goal is to lead each and every living being to the complete freedom of full enlightenment, then since this is the most meaningful goal, our life in pursuit of this goal will be felt to be full of great meaning.  We can find a true happiness from a different source – the cultivation of pure minds.  External happiness, if we check, is really just a temporary reduction of our discomfort.   Even if it does provide us with temporary moments of happiness, we have no control over it and so our happiness is uncertain.  We feel we can’t be happy without our external objects.  In Buddhism, we have identified a different source of happiness – a peaceful mind.  If our mind is peaceful, we are happy, regardless of what our external circumstances are.  The cause of a peaceful mind is to mix our mind with virtue, such as love, compassion, etc.  When we engage in the actions of mixing our mind with virtue, we plant the karmic seeds on our mind which will ripen in the form of the experience of inner peace.  Understanding this, we have an infinite source of happiness just waiting to be tapped.  When our mind is at peace, we can then enjoy all external things, not just the ones we like.

We are all going to die, and the only things we can take with us are the causes we have created for ourself.  Everything else we have we need to leave behind.  The only riches we can take with us into our future lives are the karmic causes we have created for ourself.   When we think about this carefully, we realize that only they matter.  The rest of this life is not guaranteed to happen, but our future lives are, and they are very long.  Now is the time to assemble provisions for our future lives.  We do not know when we are going to die.

We can learn to be happy all the time, regardless of our external circumstances.  Normally, we are happy when things go well, but unhappy when things go badly.  When we are a spiritual being, all situations, good or bad, equally provide us with an opportunity to train our mind and create good causes for the future, so we are equally happy with whatever happens.  In this way, we can develop a real equanimity with respect to whatever happens in our life.

We have the power to free all the beings we know and love from this world of suffering.  We have the opportunity to become a fully enlightened Buddha who has the power to lead each and every living being to full enlightenment.  So eventually we can save everyone we know and love.  We can understand this at a deeper level by understanding that we are dreaming a world of suffering.  By purifying our own mind, we dream a different dream, a pure dream, and thereby free all these beings.

With this background in mind, in this series of posts I will explain a special practice we can do to make the most out of our precious human life, namely rely surrendering our life completely to the protection and guidance of the Dharma Protector Dorje Shugden.

Activating our inner Spiritual Guide: Working for our local Dharma center

We want pure seeds on our mind so that the Spiritual Guide has a lot of material to work with.  One of the most effective methods for planting such seeds is working to fulfil the wishes of our Spiritual Guide.  But we may wonder how we can do that when we aren’t with him every day.  The answer is simple, we work to fulfil the wishes our Spiritual Guide has for our local center.

Many Dharma practitioners work very hard to try overcome their delusions, but they do not enjoy much success.  Why?  The main reasons are because we lack sufficient merit and we haven’t purified.  We can solve both problems by doing work for our local center.  I used to study under Gen Lhamo.  When somebody would come to her with a personal problem, she would give them a job to do for the center and hardly even talk to them about their specific problem.  Then, after they were done with their task, she would sit them down to have a talk, and very often the problem would simply be gone, either externally or internally being considered a problem.  Miraculous!

How does work for the center accumulate merit?  All such merit is necessarily non-contaminated because the final goal of the center is the enlightenment of others.  The merit we accumulate from helping our centers grows exponentially as the generations continue.  If each student helps 10 people in their life, then each of those 10 people helps 10 people, after 2 generations the karma is multiplied by 100, after 3 generations the karma is multiplied by 1000, and so forth – so it grows exponentially. The merit continues to accumulate for as long as the center – or the effects of the center – exists, which theoretically is forever.    The conclusion is the merit we accumulate is non-contaminated and it grows expontentially for eternity.  Where else can you accumulate such merit?  We need to really see this as an incredible opportunity.  If we think deeply about this, we should even be willing to pay to be able to do such work at our local center!

What kind of karma in particular does working for a center create?  It creates the karma of causing the Dharma to flourish, the effect of which is it flourishes in our own mind.  The center is like an internship for being a bodhisattva.  Everybody wants to get a good internship so that they can gain the skills they need for a good job.  The same thing applies to working for our local center.  The questions is what do you want to do/to accomplish with your life.  Working for our local center also create the causes for finding the Dharma in our future lives.  We create the causes of having a supportive and authentic spiritual community and friends in our future lives.  We create the tendencies to make the most of our spiritual opportunities.  We create the causes for being able to receive pure spiritual teachings.  We create the causes to have the necessary conditions to engage in practice, retreat, etc.  We create a conduit between the ordinary world and the pure world of the Buddhas.  The center is like an exit in the matrix, or an Embassy for all the Buddhas.  It is like a beacon or transporter.

There are several things you can do to fully seize the opportunity you now have to work for the center.  Through our local centersr, we can fulfil our vajra commitment to others.  If our superior intention is authentic, we will naturally be motivated to do as much as we can.  It is up to us to decide what we are going to do with this opportunity.  Only we can decide for ourselves to make the most of it.  We can do as much or as little as we wish.  If we do as much, we create opportunities to do more; if we do as little, we burn up the merit giving rise to this opportunity and as a result almost never get it again.  We need to meditate again and again upon dying full of regrets.  Imagine that you arrive at your deathbed and your spiritual guide shows you what all you could have accomplished if only you had been motivated enough.  You could have accomplished all spiritual goals and lead countless others to the same state.  You could have caused your local center to flourish and enabled countless people to make contact with the Dharma – actually engaging in a Bodhisattva’s actions.  But instead we listened to and followed our laziness and attachment and anger, and accomplished nothing.  We have used up all the Dharma karma and now will fall into the lower realms where we will remain for aeons once again saving up our spiritual pennies.  We use this meditation to arrive at the conclusion that we will not let this happen to us.

We need to realize that this moment is the one in which we can fulfil our spiritual destiny. We wouldn’t go to school for years and years only to at the last minute not finish.  We wouldn’t run for political office our whole career and win the election to the presidency and then not show up for the job.  We have worked very hard in the past to create for ourself this spiritual opportunity, we can’t throw it away now when we are so close.  The only thing standing in our way is the strength and purity of our motivation.  If we work on that, then we will have everything.

We need to appreciate the high stakes for the success of our practice and the center.  If we don’t attain enlightenment, everyone we know and love will fall into samsara and be lost for as long as it takes us to get out.  All the people who are depending upon our future students are also depending upon us, and so forth.  There are literally countless beings whose fate depends upon our actions in this life.  Our local center is like an Embassy for all the Buddhas in our area.  It is our job to make it happen for the people of our area.  If we don’t make it happen, it won’t happen for them at all.  When we see others on the street, we should think, ‘this person is depending upon me.’  We need to ask ourselves the question, “what am I doing for the people of my region?”

We need to cherish our local Dharma center as our most precious endowment.  It is an outpost of the Buddhas in the wilderness of our mind.  Through our Dharma center we can accomplish everything.    Geshe-la has put everything at our feet.  We simply need to pick it up and use it.  We can accomplish with our local center what Geshe-la has accomplished with Manjushri center.  And we will have it much easier than he did because he has already written all the books and practices, established the study programmes, etc.  We just need to use it.  Venerable Tharchin says he views every person who walks into the center as the future savior of all.  This is true.  This is a very literal statement.  We need to adopt this view, and cherish others accordingly.

Activating the inner Spiritual Guide: The art of making requests to enlightened beings

I have explained the following before in the series on cultivating a true self-confidence, but it is so important I wanted to explain all of this again.  If we can master this, then the rest of the path becomes easy.

What is the most important question – the question if answered would answer all your other questions?  When we were kids, we would ask each other questions like:  if you had three wishes, what would you wish for.  Eventually we figured out that the best thing we could wish for was more wishes.  In that way, we could accomplish all our wishes.  Along exactly the same lines, the most important question we can ask is:  “what do I need to do to be able to make internal requests to you and receive perfectly reliable responses every time?”  I have had this question in my heart for years, saving it for whenever I would have a meeting with Geshe-la, but he answered the question during an ITTP without my ever asking it!

So here was Geshe-la’s answer:  “It is important to develop a good heart, a Buddhist intention, a beneficial intention, day and night, even during our sleep.  We will perceive a special idea, a mental image or plan as our intention is maintained.  Through blessings, imprints, receiving teachings and so forth, a special understanding or idea will develop.  Then our teachings will be perfect.  If we follow the writings alone, we will maintain just an intellectual understanding.  It is most important that we improve our motivation.”

After this advice was given, the ITTP then discussed this in great detail about what it means and how we practice it.

  1. First we dissolve everything into the Dharmakaya.  This eliminates all the interference from our ordinary mind.  We talked about this in an earlier post.
  2. We then align our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide.  We also talked about this in an earlier post, but just to review some of the main points.  Our Spiritual Guide’s final intention for everyone is for us all to attain union with the Dharmakaya.  We generate a specific beneficial motivation with respect to the specific request we have for specific people by asking ourselves the question:  “what does Geshe-la want for this person/these people?”  ‘A good heart’ means a bodhichitta motivation, we wish to guide these people to enlightenment.  ‘A Buddhist intention’ means we are thinking about their future lives, not just this life alone.  Pure love, by definition, is love that works for the happiness of others in their future lives.  ‘A beneficial intention’ means we are seeking to benefit the other person, without any self-concern.  ‘Day and night’ means that we have a spontaneous realization of this pure motivation, we are never separate from it.  So we train consistently in the Lamrim until all of our wishes are pure.  ‘Even during sleep’ means we should try to carry this intention even into our sleep, and by doing so we can often receive signs and indications in our dreams.  We can fall alseep in the Dharmakaya posing a question according to this method, and during our sleep we will likely receive a response.  This gives new meaning to the saying ‘go sleep on it.’
  3. With strong faith that he is there and that he has the power to respond, we make our request.
  4. We then wait with our ordinary mind inactive, maintaining our pure motivation and faith for wanting a response to our request.
  5. Through this, a special image or plan will appear to our mind which will be the perfectly reliable answer to our request.  This is Geshe-la’s personal advice for us.
  6. This likewise works when invoking the Buddhas to accomplish their function for ourselves or for others.

How does this work?  We can understand this by an analogy.  Dissolving everything into the Dharmakaya is like having a clear space within which to project an image.  Aligning our motivation with that of the Spiritual Guide is like aligning the crystals of our karma with the direction of the light of our Spiritual Guide.  The crystals themselves are our own karmic potentialities which when a special light is shined through them they project, like a hologram, the future experiences they hold or what is possible.  These are created through our practice, study, etc.  We will talk in later posts how we can plant good seeds which can then be blessed.  The more faith we have that our Spiritual Guide is there the more it opens the curtains in our mind by purifying the obstructions of his presence being manifest in our mind.  The more faith we have that he has the power to respond to our request, the greater the power is the source of light.  Our request creates the cause for him to actually shine the light through our karmic potentialities.  The special idea that arises is the reflection of the light through the crystals that reflects the constellation of our karma.  This is our perfect response individually tailored to our karma.

There are some things we can consider about how to increase the power of this method.  First, the scope of the ‘special idea’ will correspond with the scope of our aspiration.  If our aspiration is worldly, the idea can be at a maximum worldly, if our scope is initial scope, the idea will correspond, etc.  Second, the purer the quality of the imprints we create, the clearer the will be the special idea, mental image or plan.  We will talk in the next post about how to create pure seeds.  Third, the quantity of imprints determines how much material the spiritual guide has to work with in shaping the plan.  Fourth, the less the ordinary mind is functioning, the clearer is the space within which the special idea is projected. The more I get my ordinary self out of the way, the clearer I will perceive the image because there will be less distortion.  The more willing I am to follow whatever is revealed, the more readily the special image will develop.  Fifth, the more familiarity I have with engaging in this practice, the easier it will get.  Sixth, the more faith that we have in the practice, the more rapidly will the special idea come.  Seventh, the longer we can maintain/sustain the motivation, the more complete and dynamic (in time, nuance, flexibility, etc.) the special idea will be.  Finally, eighth, the aspect of the Spiritual Guide to which you direct the request (Tara, Dorje Shugden, etc.) determines the nature or type of special idea or plan that emerges.

You can engage in this practice with all of your Dharma activities:  when preparing your teachings, when deciding what to meditate on, when making plans for the center or for your life, when thinking about how to help somebody, when posing any question, when doing sadhanas, when doing analytical meditation to generate object of placement meditation, when deciding what to do or say, when studying or contemplating, and when listening to teachings.

Through this practice, we can move beyond the books, from which we can only gain an intellectual understanding, to being personally guided, or taken by the hand, from where we are now to the final goal.  Likewise, we can know how to do the same for others (lead them by the hand to enlightenment).  Through mastering this technique, we can receive perfect inner guidance from our spiritual guide at any moment, and always know what to do.  With this ability, we will have nothing to fear and have infinite self-confidence.

Since much of this depends on faith, I want to just say a few words about faith in the Dharma.  Westerners have a natural resistance to faith because they associate faith with blind faith.  When we use the term faith in a Buddhist sense, we have a completely different understanding.  Blind faith is faith without a valid reason.  Believing faith is faith with a valid reason.  It is easiest way to understand believing faith by likening it to the scientific method.   In the scientific method, scientists have hypotheses which they then test.  A hypothesis is developed when they take all available information and come up with the most logical conclusion given that information.  Then they test that conclusion through experiments.  When they conduct their experiments, they then acquire new information with which they refine their hypotheses.  This is the type of faith we have in the Dharma.  Dharma is an inner science.

Believing faith is the strongest type of faith.  How do we develop believing faith?  There are several different methods we can use.  First, we can use the logical reasoning contained within the Lamrim to convince ourselves by weight of argument.  Second, we can be a good scientist and suspend our doubts about whether it works or not, and experiment with the instructions by putting them into practice purely.  From this we can see if they work.  Third, we can choose to believe.  Faith is a choice to believe.  What do we choose to believe?  That which is most beneficial to believe.  So we simply investigate whether it is beneficial to think in a particular way, and then we choose to do so.  Fourth, if you have previously gained conviction that your spiritual guide is a Buddha, and therefore completely reliable, then you can use the perfect logical syllogism which says, ‘the spiritual guide is omniscient and therefore completely reliable, he says X, therefore X is true.’  This is not blind faith because it is based on the valid reason that the spiritual guide is completely reliable.  You then use your powers of reasoning to fully understand from your own side.

At this point, it is useful to discuss the relationship between faith and wisdom.  This is best done through the faith wisdom cycle:  It starts with believing faith – we believe in the good qualities of the Dharma, for example, we believe that the spiritual guide is a Buddha.  Believing faith naturally leads to admiring faith – where we think, fantastic, how great.  We appreciate the good qualities of the observed object.  Admiring faith naturally evolves into wishing faith – the wish to acquire the good qualities of the spiritual guide ourself.  Wishing faith naturally leads to joyous effort – where we put the instructions into practice.  When we put the instructions into practice, we gain personal experience of their truth, which is wisdom.  We know the truth of the instruction from our own side.   This wisdom then functions as our next valid reason informing a now stronger believing faith, and so the cycle continues until we attain enlightenment.  This cycle is how we gain realizations, and all our practices should be organized into this cycle.

Everything in this series of posts is ultimately an extension of this advice.  This is the core of our reliance.

Cultivating healthy relationships: How to make peace instead of retaliate

When somebody harms us our first reaction is to retaliate.  We usually do this out of anger, with the wish to get the person back or teach them a lesson not to do this to us again in the future.  But in general, retaliation only makes the situation worse.  To understand this we need to examine who really benefits and who is really harmed when someone acts towards us in a way that would normally harm us.  If we check, we realize we actually benefit.  We have now paid off a long-standing karmic debt.  If we practice patience, our inner qualities are improved.  The other person loses – they create the causes to experience suffering in the future, and were miserable in the experience because they got angry.  It was our fault they did what they did to us anyway, since we created the cause for them to do it to us.  So actually it is we who should feel sorry towards the other person.

But non-retaliation does not mean that we become everyone’s favourite doormat, or that there aren’t circumstances where we need to be firm.  Here we make a distinction between wrathful actions and angry actions.  Anger is necessarily an uncontrolled deluded mind, whereas wrathful actions are engaged in with total control, knowing exactly what we are doing.  Anger is necessarily motivated by self-cherishing, whereas wrathful actions are necessarily motivated by compassion and the wish to help the other person.  We need to be honest with ourselves and check if it is sincerely for the sake of the other person that we are wrathful with them or are we just using Dharma to rationalize the conclusions of our self-cherishing and angry mind.  Anger is directed towards the another person, whereas wrathful actions are necessarily directed towards delusions.  Anger is directed towards anyone who harms us, whereas wrathful actions are generally directed towards those who have sufficient faith in us.  So we need to check how much faith the person has in us.  Anger is necessarily a reckless action, whereas wrathful actions require tremendous skill.  In general, they almost always backfire unless you have extreme skill.

How to resolve conflicts with others

What follows is some step-by-step advice we can follow for resolving conflicts with others:

  1. Face up to your own mistakes and faults.  The first step is admitting that you have done something wrong.  Normally we blame the other person for all conflicts, and then we come up with a million reasons justifying why we are faultless and they are to blame.  This just causes things to degenerate into a blame game, increasing defensiveness and the problems.  It is totally useless to do this because it leaves the solution to the problem in the court of the other person.  It is much better to take the responsibility all into our court, so that the solution is all in our court.  It is particularly useful to look at ourself from the perspective of the other person.  Try see yourself the way the other person sees you.  This will help you identify where you have made mistakes and will make your facing up to your faults more effective with the other person.  The key to wisdom is being able to view the world from the perspective of others.  By facing up to your own faults, and apologizing for what you have done wrong creates the space for the other person to do the same.  The key here is you need to be sincere.  It doesn’t work to just say, ‘it was all me’, when you don’t really believe that.  The key here is not to expect anything in return.  We can get mighty upset when we apologize for what we did wrong, and then the other person doesn’t reciprocate.  We should do the right thing, regardless of what the other person does.
  2. We need to relate to the other person’s pure intentions.  Nobody is evil in their own mind, even Stalin, Hitler, and Osama Bin Laden thought they were good.  So you need to put yourself into the mind of the other person and understand what their good intentions are, and relate to that.  A good example is those family members who care so much about you that they smother and control you because they cannot stand to see you suffer.  Of course, their controlling behaviour makes things worse, but it is coming from a good place.  Likewise, we all know people who want all the right things but they use all the wrong means to attain them.  By relating to the person’s pure potential, it functions to draw it out, and shows them that you understand their position.
  3. Start first by establishing common ground.  When we are in a conflict we tend to focus so much on the differences that we lose sight of the much more significant commonalities.  In most conflict situations, it is inappropriate attention to focus on the minor differences and neglect the vast swaths of commonality.  It is from the space of common ground that differences can be resolved.
  4. In working through the differences try the following approach:  For those issues which are not important, or you are wrong, graciously practice accepting defeat and offering the victory.  There are so many things that we fight for that are really irrelevant.  For those issues that are important and that there are differences on, stand your ground without getting angry and clarify your intention.

These steps will help lay the groundwork for de-escalating the conflict in your life.  The other person will see you are trying to make things better and you are trying to act constructively.  It is much harder to act unreasonably in response to somebody who is being reasonable and constructive.  This helps not only you, but it also helps them.

Finally, if we want to eliminate even the possibility of being harmed, we need to surrender our lives and our karma completely to our Dharma protector Dorje Shugden.  We get angry because we wish things were different than they are.  When we rely on Dorje Shugden, everything is perfect for our swiftest possible enlightenment.  The situation may be uncomfortable and even painful, but we will know it is good for us.  We will know it is by working through this emotional challenge that we will grow spiritually and move closer to enlightenment.  We will gain the realizations we need to help others in the future who are suffering from similar problems.  In short, our difficulties will have a clear spiritual purpose.  If we genuinely feel that things are indeed “perfect”, then there is no basis for us wishing things were different than they are.  Therefore, there will be no basis for an angry response to arise in our mind when we are harmed.  Conflict may still occur, but we will not experience that conflict as a problem.  Through our not adding fuel to the fires of anger in the world, gradually the relationships around us will become increasingly harmonious, peaceful and rewarding.

Cultivating healthy relationships: How to resolve conflicts in our relationships

For most people, conflict is the main problem they have in their relationships.  There is virtually no one who does not have conflict in their relationships.  In this post I will try explain what are the causes of conflict in our relationships, how to overcome our own anger and how to resolve conflicts with others

What are the causes of conflict in our relationships

Self-cherishing is the root cause of all problems in our relationships.  It is because we are pursuing our own interests, often at the expense of others, that our relationships have difficulties and conflict.  From self-cherishing comes attachment – where we view other people as a cause of our happiness.  They are there to make us happy.  From self-cherishing also comes anger – the mind that things that other people are the cause of our suffering.

So how does attachment cause problems in our relationships:  mostly through our expectations of others.  We expect so many things of others, and then when they don’t live up to our expectations of them, we feel like they have failed us, and we are unhappy or angry.  We have expectations that others treat us in a certain way, for example talking to us in a certain way or treating us with respect. We have expectations that others do or not do certain things for us, for example our parents paying for our university or our partner bringing us flowers on Valentine’s day.  We have expectations that others behave in a particular way, for example of wanting our kids to go to bed. But others did not ask us to have these expectations of them, so it is mighty unfair to judge them when they don’t live up to them.

So how does anger create problems in our relationships?  We can get angry about anything and anger always makes the situation worse.  It always escalates the conflict or harm.  Even if we deter the other person from doing what we don’t want with our anger, we just create resentment which provokes other problems, it leaves us miserable and from a spiritual perspective, it destroys all our merit.

How do we overcome our own anger in our relationships?

In the final analysis, it is better to have zero expectations of anyone or anything.  Then we are never disappointed.  Take the example of how we are all taught to manage the expectations of our boss.  If he gives us some project to do and asks us how long do we think it will take to complete it, we always give ourselves a little more time than we will actually need.  Why do we do this?  If we think the project is going to take us 1.5 weeks to complete and we say that, then if we turn it in in 1.5 weeks it will be expected and if it takes longer than 1.5 weeks we are late.  If instead we say 2 weeks, then if we turn it in after 1.5 weeks we are a hero, whereas if we turn it in in 2 weeks it is not a problem.  We manage our boss’ expectations.  But we need to manage our own expectations of others.  If we expect great things – or for that matter, if we expect anything – from others, then we set ourselves up for disappointment.  If they meet our expectations, we are not happy because it was expected.  If they fall short of our expectations, we are unhappy.  Either way we lose.  If instead we expect absolutely nothing from others, then even the smallest thing they do will exceed our expectations and we will be happy and grateful.  Ironically, by expecting nothing of others we can become grateful for everything.

In every situation if we check carefully we will see there are two possibilities:  We can do something about it or we can’t.  If we can do something about it, we should do so.  Then no problem.  No need to make a big drama out of it (which we usually do).  If we can’t do something about it, then we practice patient acceptance.  This is a mind that happily and wholeheartedly accepts difficult situations.  It is not just bear with it, but genuinely welcome the situation.  Since there is nothing you can do about it, you have a choice of either be upset about the unavoidable or transform the experience into something meaningful.  If with two cancer patients, one accepts their illness and the other does not, surely the latter suffers far more.

How do we practice patient acceptance?  We find ways of transforming the situation into an opportunity to increase our own inner qualities. We consider the situation a lesson in the law of karma.  We created the cause to experience whatever is happening to us.  So we are paying off a long-standing debt – like paying off the last mortgage payment.  We can use the situation to increase our determination to treat others as we would want to be treated:  kindly.  It is important to not feel any guilt here.  Guilt differs from regret in two ways:  (1) regret is forward looking, and (2) regret blames our delusions (not ourselves).  We can consider it a lesson in the need to overcome our delusions.  The only reason why we suffer in a situation is because we respond to it in a deluded way, and because motivated by delusions we created the karmic cause to experience this problem.  So we can identify what delusions are present in our mind, and try to overcome them.  We can consider it a lesson in compassion for others.  Others are suffering from far worse, and so instead of thinking about ourselves, we can think about others and generate the compassionate wish to actively dedicate ourselves to helping relieve others of their suffering.

In the next post we will talk about how to not-retaliate, and instead to make peace.