Dear Still Water Friends,
A quote from the Dalai Lama has stayed in my mind this week. It is from The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice:
By training the mind and bringing about an inner discipline, you can change your outlook and, thus, your behavior as well. Take my own case, for instance. People usually regard Tibetans who come from Amdo as short-tempered. So in Tibet, when someone would lose his or her temper, people would often take it as a sign that the person was from Amdo! This is the region that I come from. However, if I compare my temperament now to the way it was when I was between the ages of fifteen and twenty, I perceive a noticeable change. These days, I hardly find myself being irritated, and even when I am, it doesn’t last long. This is a marvelous benefit—now I am always quite cheerful! It is, I think, the result of my own practice and training. In my lifetime, I have lost my country and have been reduced to being totally dependent on the goodwill of others. I have also lost my mother, and most of my tutors and gurus have passed away, although I now have a few new gurus. Of course, these are tragic incidents, and I feel sad when I think about them. However, I don’t feel overwhelmed by sadness. Old, familiar faces disappear, and new faces appear, but I still maintain my happiness and peace of mind. This capacity to relate to events from a broader perspective is, for me, one of the marvels of human nature.
For me, there is a lot in this one paragraph. I especially appreciate the way the Dalai Lama looks back at his youth and recognizes the significant changes in his temperament, while acknowledging that sometimes irritation and sadness still arise. I also appreciate his faith in practice: that our minds and hearts can be transformed and our suffering reduced. Throughout, there is a tone of warm equanimity.
When I thought about the paragraph, the example of beneficial mind training and discipline that came to me is Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching on working with anger. Rather than striking out with words or actions at the person that has angered us, Thich Nhat Hanh counsels us to go for a walk to calm ourselves, and then to look deeply into our anger and the other person’s suffering. He writes in Peace is Every Step:
I am not saying that someone who viciously attacks us should not be disciplined. But what is most important is that we first take care of the seeds of negativity in ourselves. Then if someone needs to be helped or disciplined, we will do so out of compassion, not anger and retribution. If we genuinely try to understand the suffering of another person, we are more likely to act in a way that will help him overcome his suffering and confusion, and that will help all of us.
This Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will share about mindfulness practice and transformation. Can we, like the Dalai Lama, look back and see that we are now able to respond more wisely than before? Despite our difficulties and the difficulties of the world, are we better able to retain our happiness and peace of mind?
You are invited to join us for our meditation and Dharma sharing.
Two related short readings by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh are below.
We Can Change Our Attitude
from Ethics For The New Millennium by His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Our basic attitude–how we relate to external circumstances–is thus the first consideration in any discussion on developing inner peace. In this context, the great Indian scholar-practitioner Shantideva once observed that while we have no hope of finding enough leather to cover the earth so that we never prick our feet on a thorn, actually we do not need to. As he went on to observe, enough to cover the soles of our feet will suffice. In other words, while we cannot always change our external situation to suit us, we can change our attitude.
Walking Meditation When Angry
from Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh
When anger arises, we may wish to go outside to practice walking meditation. The fresh air, the green trees, and the plants will help us greatly. We can practice like this:
Breathing in, I know that anger is here.
Breathing out, I know that the anger is me.
Breathing in, I know that anger is unpleasant.
Breathing out, I know this feeling will pass.
Breathing in, I am calm.
Breathing out, I am strong enough to take care of this anger.
To lessen the unpleasant feeling brought about by the anger, we give our whole heart and mind to the practice of walking meditation, combining our breath with our steps and giving full attention to the contact between the soles of our feet and the earth. As we walk, we recite this verse, and wait until we are calm enough to look directly at the anger. Until then, we can enjoy our breathing, our walking, and the beauties of our environment. After a while, our anger will subside and we will feel stronger. Then we can begin to observe the anger directly and try to understand it.