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“Without Inner Peace, Outer Peace is impossible”*

April 18, 2013

What a terrible, dreadful and poignant week it has been, bombs, fertilizer explosions, earthquakes and the death of a once head of state. It’s been a week of senseless awful deeds, untimely deaths and tears that should never have been. Seeing the agony and horror I think most of us had the wish to take away the pain, end the tears, give happiness and put an end to the causes of such suffering permanently. If you did, that’s your heart of compassion, your Buddha nature speaking to you, and if you listen, it offers a profound glimpse into the truth of our existence and potential.

Its tempting to think that these horrors are temporary aberrations, tragedies which happen to the unfortunate. But looking at the week through Buddha’s teachings I see several things. First that all of the destruction and pain wrought by the bomb began in a human mind with a formless thought, and that from something so insubstantial bombs and death and suffering arose.

Buddha said with our thoughts we make the world. Geshe Kelsang describes thoughts as being like pathways or roads within the mind, some lead to happiness and some lead to suffering. These internal paths are difficult to see, but Buddha’s teachings are like a map that shows you the destination of each thought.

The wish we felt whilst watching the news for the people of Boston, of Texas, Iran and Pakistan to be free from suffering is an inner path which accords with the truth of how we exist and will therefore lead to happiness. The belief that we can fulfill our wishes by harming others is an inner path which  does not accord with the truth of how we exist and therefore leads to suffering. I’m sure if you’ve read a few blog posts from me by now you will be familiar with Shantideva’s quote

“All the happiness there is in this world arises from wishing others to be happy. All the suffering there is in the world arise from wishing our self to be happy”

 We might think that this is only true in certain circumstances or towards certain people, but in my own life I have never found a situation to which it has not proved true. For example, we may feel it is appropriate to have anger towards the bomber, wishing to harm him or her. And yet this also is not a path to happiness. The old Kadampa’s said there are only two things we need to do:

“Benefit others as much as possible and harm our delusions as much as possible”

Through the lens of Buddha’s teachings we see that the bomber was under the control of his delusions, we can distinguish between the person and the delusions. To illustrate the power of delusions to control us, Geshe-la asks us to consider that they can make us kill those we love, even our own children or take our own life. The cruelty of delusions is that they make us see a world which is does not exist, a world where it seems that detonating a bomb or taking our own life will actually make things better.

Shantideva says that we should wage war upon our delusions; “Hold a strong grudge and let the battle commence”. So when we feel anger towards the bomber, we should re-direct our anger towards delusions. Then we begin to hate the power of selfishness, anger and ignorance to control and harm ourself and others. Gradually, as with any thing we don’t like we will find more and more faults in them. This process gives fuel to spiritual practice, the actual method for abandoning delusions and benefiting others, this is the way to fulfill our compassionate wish

The events of the last week also remind me that life is temporary and uncertain. Our natural reaction is to feel that what has happened is un-natural. And yet the truth is that suffering is the natural state of a world populated by deluded minds (also called samsara); whilst impermanance is the truth of all existence. Our lifespan is completely uncertain; none of us know when we may die or how.  Failing to appreciate this, the manner of our lives and the way we see the world is incongruous to the truth, which leads to suffering.

When I saw this image of Her Majesty the Queen regarding the coffin of Lady Thatcher as it was carried our of  St Pauls Cathedral I could’t help but think of the 7th Dalai Lama’s words:

The Queen & Lady Thatcher

“Whoever I see differs only in appearance, dress, status and behaviour. In essence they are all equal. They all experience problems in their lives” 7th Dalai Lama

Death is the great leveller. Here the once mighty Margaret Thatcher lies still and silent whilst the Queen, looking on is separated from the same mute state by nothing more than time. In this image, for me at least, its possible to see the real person behind the title, the finery and power. This is how we should learn to regard everyone. Here, I see a person who feels happy and sad just like me, who has fears and hopes and regrets and whose future is unknown, just like mine. Her problems and opportunities, like mine, stem from the capacity and state of her mind. When delusions manifest they harm her in equal measure to me and she has no more protection from delusions than I do.

Geshe-la describes our mind as like a bird and the body as a temporary nest. At death we leave our body, our wealth, our family and friends, even our identity behind us, all that we take with us are the imprints on our very subtle mind. Milarepa said now is the time to collect wealth for future lives by training our mind. Shantideva said that training our mind is the only wealth that can protect us in this life and future lives.

Normally we like to ignore death, and when it happens, we feel it is a tragedy or a mistake. But however awful the events of this week have been, its important to know that death and suffering are the natural result of uncontrolled minds. If there is one thing I will try to take away from my own experience and reaction to the weeks tragedy it’s a renewed determination to yoke my wild elephant mind to the practice of dharma and in particular to do all I can to help love and compassion flourish in this world. In my next article I would like to write about Geshe Kelsang’s important contribution towards achieving just this through dharma centers, World Peace Cafe’s, Schools and of course books and teachings. I think that without easy access to resources such as these its very difficult for people to learn how to train their minds and grow in wisdom from life’s experiences. Its at times like this that I really get a sense of how kind and wise he is.

* I’d like to dedicate any benefit which might come from this aritcle to alleviate the suffering of all of those affected in the past few days by these terrible tragedies; may they quickly find lasting peace and happiness, never seperated from those they love.

From → Current Events

  1. Another great article! Please feel free to post links to your articles on the Kadampa Life FB page so more people can see you’ve written one.

  2. Poignant and well written teaching.I enjoyed reading it very much.It is very powerful

    Now we have the rare opportunity and leisure to attack our delusions,particularly to do battle with the inner demon of anger,the great destroyer,the wrecker of our own world within and without.Imagine how meaningful our lives will be when we have conquered that powerful enemy and we can really teach others how to do the same. Rejoicing in the inconceivable kindness of our Spiritual Guides and his emanations…xxxx

  3. Exactly the correct way to feel about our world(s). Thank you so much for summing up the feelings of true Kadampa practitioners!

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