Tag Archives: anger

And let it begin with me

Before I get started on the Gampopa Ornament of Precious Liberation class notes, here’s a short presentation I gave a couple of weeks ago at an interfaith prayer service in Richmond, Virginia. Organized by Chaplain David Curtis at Westminster Canterbury Retirement Community, the service’s theme was how peace can be lived in different areas of life: self, home, community, and the world. While Buddhism would have been a natural fit for peace within self, I addressed how it views the possibility of peace in the world.

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37 practices: verse 27, part 2 of 2

The translation and audio for practice 27, to cultivate patience, may be found in verse 27, part 1. Bear with me — this is a longer than usual post because I found some extra resources for the patience paramita. Or, to put it another way, this post is an excellent opportunity to practice the second kind of patience — and the reward will be immediate, because there are some fabulous commentaries ahead.

In part 1, we looked mainly at the first of the three categories of patience: being patient with sentient beings who harm or irritate us. Though this may be the kind of patience we are most often called upon to exercise — and also where we may be at the greatest risk of doing harm if we lose our patience — the other two types are also important, and we will look briefly at those today.

Pop quiz: Do you remember what the three categories of patience are, along with the three ways we are instructed to practice patience toward other beings, and — also very important to keep in mind — what exactly the Buddha meant by “patience”? If not, I recommend a quick review of the class notes for verse 27, part 1, and/or Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s commentary.

In the second class, we also looked at commentaries by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Pema Chodron, and Ken McLeod; and turned to His Holiness the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, for some invaluable advice on how to prevent our practice of patience and the other paramitas from being plagued by . . . demons!  Continue reading

37 practices: verse 27, part 1 of 2

27. To cultivate patience

For bodhisattvas wishing to accrue / a wealth of wholesome virtue and good deeds,

All harm is like a precious treasure trove, / from other people or adversity.

To cultivate a patient attitude, / not feeling irritated or abused:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

verse 27 audio above

Patience is really the basis for all the bodhisattva boot camp practices, starting with verse 12, in which we truly begin to put others first, after setting the ongoing preliminary practices in motion (verses 1-7) and developing the three levels of motivation to wake up (verses 8-10).

Patience is the opposite of emotional reactivity, and it is that freedom, to whatever degree we have cultivated it, that gives us the space and perspective to repay harm with kindness and to see our detractors as our teachers, instead of blindly following the emotional impulses that arise from our ordinary habitual patterns. Geshe Jampa Tegchok, in Transforming the Heart, observes, “All of the practices mentioned earlier that involve transforming bad conditions into the path are included under the practice of patience.”

If we didn’t possess at least a little patience, we wouldn’t even be able to count to 10 before responding to insult or injury — the first step in anger management that most of us learn as children. So the good news is we probably aren’t starting from scratch, even though we may feel we have a long way to go.

So what, exactly, is patience? Gampopa has the answer!

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37 practices: verses 20 and 21

20. To conquer my own aggression / How to use objects of hatred on the path

If I don’t tame my inner enemy, / the poison of aggression, anger, hate,

Then outer enemies just multiply / no matter how, to vanquish them, I fight.

To tame my own mind with an army of / the forces of compassion, kindness, love:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

verse 20 audio above

21. To abandon attachment right away / How to use objects of desire on the path

Sense plea-sures and de-sire are like salt wa-ter: / The more I drink them in, the more I crave.

There-fore, the mo-ment that at-tach-ment stirs / To drop it right a-way with-out a pause:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

verse 21 audio above

Verses 20 and 21 are the final practices of bodhisattva boot camp, where we have learned how to bring specific situations that challenge our bodhicitta directly onto the path of practice. We’re going to study these two verses as a pair, because they are two sides of the same coin: how to tame our mind in the face of feeling anger and feeling desire. They are also a bridge to the next set of verses. You may recognize aggression/anger and attachment/desire as two of the three root mental poisons. The third, and most primal, poison — ignorance, aka obliviousness to our true nature — is the topic of verses 22-24, on cultivating ultimate bodhicitta.

Silent pop quiz /contemplation: What is the most basic principle of mind training, i.e., of bodhicitta, in two words? How does it apply to verses 20 and 21?

Hint: I’ve shared this principle several times as expressed by Lama Karma Samten of New Zealand, who taught mind training at PTC in 2016. The answer is here, in the first post on verse 11.

More to come, as we resume class Thursday after a break for the flu.

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37 practices: verse 2

2. To leave my homeland

While those I love can stir up a tsunami, / And those I hate can burn me up like fire,

When I don’t care I lose my moral compass / And dark delusion permeates my mind.

To give up all my habits and reactions — This homeland where I’ve dwelt from life to life:

This is the way a bodhisattva trains.

Verse 2 chanted 3x.

Verses 1 and 2 chanted 1x.

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Some Buddhist ways to work with emotional overwhelm

The Buddha taught that disturbing emotions, such as anger, fear, jealousy, and attachment, are not to be denied or suppressed but recognized, felt, owned, and thoroughly processed. That process can take time and needs to be respected, but in the meantime, we can do significant harm to ourselves and others if we let strong emotions, especially anger in all its forms, govern our words and actions. Learning to see beyond a disturbing emotion, even in the midst of feeling it, allows us to act effectively, with clear focus and constructive compassion, and without collateral damage.

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Compassion versus Wisdom

OK, the title is a trick–as we know, compassion and wisdom are complementary, and in the end of course there is no difference between them at all. Buddhahood, enlightenment, full awakening is the ultimate development of both, and they are ultimately undifferentiable, like any qualities we may ascribe to the nature of mind for the purpose of discussing it. Buddhahood is sometimes likened to a bird with two wings–both wings have to function fully for flight to take place.

I hear a lot about the importance of engaged Buddhism, putting compassion into action, not thinking it is enough to sit on our cushion or chair and meditate. Sometimes there seems even to be an implication that sitting on the cushion is indulgent compared with being up and about to help others in active ways. Why waste time in solitude when so many are suffering?

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Lather, rinse, repeat

“Mind is empty. You can change your thoughts.”  –Lama Norlha Rinpoche

We are taught in the Seven Points of Mind Training, “Be grateful to everyone,” and “Rely all the time on a joyful mind.” How can we put this into practice when all around us things are constantly going wrong and people continue to behave in ways that disregard or harm us?

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