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Do Something Positive*

December 13, 2012
Copyright Leonida 2012

Copyright Leonida 2012

Did you ever spend a miserable time brooding over the selfish or inconsiderate behaviour of someone you thought to be a friend? Or because someone said or did something which seemed at best thoughtless, so you felt unimportant, or at worst, deliberately hurtful, so you felt angry and sad? Well, if you have, i’d like to share some great advice I heard recently.

“You know nothing”

The truth is, we know almost nothing about our own mind, let alone the minds of others. For example most of us can’t really say why we feel happy some days and sad others? Or drawn to some people and repelled by others? If we are honest, its hard to know these things. In fact, in Buddhism, we say a person who truly comprehends the workings of their own mind is a Buddha. And yet, despite this, when it comes to others we feel that we are able to judge them very accurately,

and feel quite justified in expressing our anger or disappointment towards them……..But unless you are actually a Buddha this simply can’t be true. If you really want to understand others, first, you need to understand yourself.

Copyright Leonida 2012

Copyright Leonida 2012

There is also a rather nice corollary to the recognition that we are completely ignorant with respect to the minds and intentions of others, and that is that they may in fact be a very wise and special being, behaving in a certain way to help speed up our own inner development. For example, in Joyful Path, Geshe-la says that Asanga first saw his Spiritual Guide Maitreya as a maggot ridden dog, Milarepa’s teacher Marpa seemed to be a heavy drinker and sometimes abusive, Naropa’s teacher Tilopa appeared as a fisherman (whilst the deliberate killing of any life is strictly prohibited in Buddhism). This shows that we really can’t judge others based on how they appear.

“Its ok to be judgmental, as long as its our own mind we are judging”

Ask yourself, why is it that I see selfishness or other faults in people? The answer must be because we possess these faults ourself. For example the pain we feel when it seems that others don’t behave as we expect them to, is really the pain of failing to fulfil our own wishes, and our disappointment towards the other person indicates that we feel our wishes are more important than theirs, and that in fact, our feelings should have taken priority! So the selfishness we see in them, is really a reflection of our own. This is true of all faults we see in others.

People for whom minds of love and compassion are manifest do not see others as faulty, instead they see the great potential of others and always respond by trying to encourage them to realise and fulfill that potential and free themselves of the delusions which harm and hinder them. Recently I read a very interesting post by a Buddhist talking about Jesus, in it he quotes Jesus asking:

“what do you want from God?” And somebody said, “forgiveness.” So he said, “then forgive others.” Then somebody said, “love.” So he said, “then love others.”

If we use our experiences of other people to judge our own mind rather than theirs, we can transform our negative feelings into something very positive, because we begin to understand the truth that the harm we experience is in-fact inflicted upon ourselves by holding and relying on self limiting attitudes and views.

An ignorant person is completely dependent and vulnerable to the whims, moods and actions of others. Buddha defined ignorance as the view that things exist independently of the mind. Due to this it seems that we are completely blameless for the actions of others towards us, and so it seems quite right to get angry or unhappy when we are “wronged”. Minds like anger are known as delusions, Buddha said they are our real enemies. I saw a quote recently which said:

“Hatred is drinking poison, hoping it will kill our enemy”

Copyright Leonida 2012

Copyright Leonida 2012

Instead of using the time we normally spend examining the behaviour of others we should use it to examine our own mind and feelings; this transforms a negative moment into a positive one. And if you normally spend a lot of time worrying about others, you will suddenly have a whole lot of time which you spend improving yourself. Instead of using a moment to trap ourself in a blind rage, or drain ourselves of will by becoming sad, we can use the moment to make us wise. I’ve seen for myself that responding to difficulties in this way, its quite easy to realise how the harm and suffering we experience arises from our own mind, especially because we get to see our mind when it is at its worst, rather than say retrospectively recalling it from the comfort and peace of a meditation cushion (although it helps there too!).

By learning to identify how our mind makes us unhappy, we shall stop blaming others behaviour for our feelings. Also, the natural consequence is a really strong wish to free our mind of these inner enemies. This wish is at the root of the spiritual path and the power which will sustain us as we follow it. The spiritual path is necessarily an inner path leading to a destination within our mind. A correct spiritual path, like love, leads to the inner experience of happiness and freedom.

Also we will develop a renunciation or non-attachment for feelings we used to turn to for solace so that they will lose their power to control and harm us. Instead of holding painful feelings and wrong views in our hearts as though they were dear friends, we shall wish to abandon them, just as we previously wished to abandon or even hurt the people who we felt harmed us. At the same time, the people we previously felt anger or other negative feelings towards, will gradually seem very precious to us, and so naturally just thinking of them will make us happy and we won’t be easily upset by them, whatever their behaviour, just as previously we were very patient with our feelings of anger and so forth, even though they “harmed us at their leisure”, we would welcome them with open arms.

I believe that responding to unhappiness and disappointment like this we can become real Kadampas. Instead of reading Dharma as something far off from ourselves, only for extraordinary saints and sages like Buddha or Christ, we shall know it as personal advice to be practiced in daily life. And we shall wish to follow it along the inner path towards the unmistaken minds which are the real refuge and protection and the source of all happiness for ourself and our friends.

Copyright Leonida 2012

Copyright Leonida 2012

As always, i’d love to hear what you think about all of this and other people’s experience, so please do comment if you have something to say. Thank you once again for taking the time to read this blog 🙂

* This article was actually inspired by Gen Losang Kelsang’s teachings on Amitayus practice last weekend at KMC Switzerland in Zurich (http://www.kadampa.ch/en/meditationclasses-at-kmc-switzerland)

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