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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
37 summer 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Let us consider the example of anger. The Buddhist teach- ings contain rich descriptions of the shortcomings of anger. They describe how anger and aggression produce a slew of unpleasant results, both in the immediate future and in future lifetimes. While some of those teachings might seem to apply only for those who actually believe in the existence of future lifetimes, the buddhadharma’s descriptions of the shortcomings of anger are still relevant for those who do not hold this belief. When we become angry, our face changes and we take on a frightful appearance. We become unattract- ive to others; even those who are close to us find it difficult to be around us. Since anger in us instills fear in others, it greatly hinders our relationships. When we clearly see the shortcomings of anger and the positive qualities of loving-kindness, our practice of lov- ing-kindness and compassion becomes strong and we feel delighted about training in these qualities. When we are delighted about training in these qualities, we exert our- selves all the more strongly. When we exert ourselves more, the results we experi- ence also become much more powerful. Being able to dis- cern what is beneficial and what is faulty, therefore, is very important. Without such discernment, our compassion can become susceptible to the same old habits. Perhaps, when trying to practice compassion, we are treated angrily by someone. We habitually respond by looking at that person in a negative light and resenting him or her. But if we have a deep under- standing of the problematic aspects of our negative emotions, and can see them to be like illnesses, we will no longer see aggressors who harm us as bad in themselves. Rather, we will understand that these aggressors are not acting out of their own free will; they are afflicted by the illness of their own negative emotions. Once we are freed from resentment in this way, we are free to grow our loving-kindness and compassion limitlessly, without obstacles. There are many other obstacles that can prevent our practice of compassion from reaching its full power. From among all of these adverse conditions, one of the foremost is jealousy. Jealousy can rob us of our freedom and interrupt loving relationships between people. Jealousy occurs when we cannot tolerate others being happier than we are. When we continually feel we need to have others below us and have no one equal to us, that is jealousy. When we are controlled by jealousy, we only feel comfortable when others come to us for assistance; we only feel at ease when others are looking to us with hope. We cannot stand being in situations where others have something that we need. Moreover, in this era many people in society feel that these manifestations of jealousy are justified. Many people seem to believe that when we have competitive attitudes to- ward others, and when we want to vie aggressively against others for some reward, this is not only acceptable but to be encouraged. To make our compassion strong and to make our seed of compassion ripen, we need the path. When we enter the path of compassion, we begin to connect with the compas- sion we need in order to help others, and beyond that we begin to develop the compassion we need in order to attain enlightenment. We already have compassion, wisdom, and many other positive qualities, yet our mental afflictions are far stronger than all of these most of the time. It is as if the afflictions have locked all of our positive qualities away in a box. One day, we will open that box and all of our good qualities will spring forth. We will see that we do not have to go look- ing for our compassion, trying to get it or buy it somewhere. It is not available for purchase anywhere in any case. What we will discover is that compassion is present in our minds spontaneously. At that point, a wealth of excellent qualities will become immediately available to us. One of the ways that people in Tibet generate compassion is by visualizing the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokitesh- vara, and reciting his mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. I have memories of my mother’s mother from when I was young reciting the mantra of Avalokiteshvara all the time. Even though she was blind, she continued to recite mantras with great diligence. She always had a cheerful demeanor and smile, as if she didn’t have any problems at all. She always maintained a graceful and dignified presence, and the gaze of her eyes was like that of a normal, seeing person. Such is the power of practicing loving-kindness and compassion. The great affection for and continual supplication to the bodhisat- tva of compassion was a binding force for our family. My grandmother passed it to my mother, and my mother passed it to me, and I am passing it to you, like an heirloom or an inheritance. My family was not wealthy in a material way, so this is what I have to offer as my main family heirloom. With unbearable compassion we are completely willing to endure any obstacles we may encounter on our path to freeing sentient beings.