– The Buddha: Pali Canon
Phenomena are preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act with a corrupted heart,
then suffering follows you as the wheel of the cart,
the track of the ox that pulls it.
Phenomena are preceded by the heart,
ruled by the heart,
made of the heart.
If you speak or act with a calm, bright heart,
then happiness follows you like a shadow
that never leaves.
‘He insulted me,
for those who brood on this, hostility isn’t stilled.
‘He insulted me,
robbed me’ —
for those who don’t brood on this, hostility is stilled.
Hostilities aren’t stilled through further hostility.
Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility.
this is an unending truth.
Unlike those who don’t realize that we are all here on the for a very short time,
those who do realize this—their quarrels are stilled.
Purity of Heart
– Thanissaro Bhikkhu
During my first weeks with my teacher, Ajaan Fuang, I began to realize that he had psychic powers. He never made a show of them, but I gradually sensed that he could read my mind and anticipate future events. I became intrigued: What else did he know? How did he know it? He must have detected where my thoughts were going, for one evening he gently headed me off: “You know,” he said, “the whole aim of our practice is purity of heart. Everything else is just games.”
That one phrase — purity of heart — more than intrigued me. It reverberated deep down inside. I prompted me to recalled the philosopher Kierkegaard and his dictum: “Purity of heart is to will one thing.” I didn’t agree with Kierkegaard as to what that “one thing” was, but I did agree that purity of heart is the most important treasure of life. And here Ajaan Fuang was offering to teach me how to develop it. That’s one of the reasons why I stayed with him until he died.
His basic definition of purity of heart was simple enough—”a happiness that will never harm anyone”. But a happiness like that is hard to find, for ordinary happiness requires that we eat. In my practice one of the first training questions was “What is a being? To begin with, all beings subsist on food.” This is how the Buddha introduced the topic of causality to young people: The primary causal relationship isn’t something gentle like light reflecting off mirrors, or jewels illuminating jewels. It’s feeding. We feed in many ways.We feed our senses, feed our ego, feed our desires. But we can begin by thinking of feeding our bodies. Our bodies need physical food for their well-being. Our minds need the food of pleasant sensory contacts, intentions, and consciousness itself in order to function. If you ever want proof that interconnectedness isn’t always something to celebrate, just contemplate how the beings of the world feed on one another, physically and emotionally. Interbeing is inter-eating. As Ajaan Suwat, my second teacher once said,
“If there were a god who could arrange that by my eating I could make everyone in the world full, I’d bow down to that god.”
But that’s not how feeding works.
We’re so compelled to feed that we blind ourselves to its larger impact. Our first pleasure, after the shock of being born, was getting to feed.
But when you go to a quiet, secluded place and start examining your life, you begin to see what an enormous issue it is just to keep the body and mind fed.
On the one hand, you may think that any suffering caused to others is unavoidable as you fulfill your need. Or you may see something even more dismaying: the emotions that arise within you when you don’t feel that your body and mind are getting enough fuel. You realize that as long as your source of physical or mental food is unreliable, you’re unreliable, too. You may be able to see the connection explaining why even good people can reach a point where they’re capable of murder, deceit, adultery, or theft.
Being born with this body means that we’re born with a huge bundle of obvious and not so obvious needs and desires that compel and can overwhelm our minds. This is where our practice of understanding and training our minds becomes the essential solution.
Fortunately, we human beings have the potential to civilize our continous needs by learning to wean ourselves from our passion for the junk food of sights, sounds, smells, etc., and look instead for wholesome sustanence within our hearts. When we learn to appreciate the joy that comes from generosity, honor, compassion, and trust, we see that it’s much more fulfilling than the pleasure that comes simply from grabbing what we can for ourselves. We realize that our happiness is supported by non-harming.
Unfortunately, these qualities of the heart are conditional, for they depend on a tender web of beliefs and feelings — belief in justice and the basic goodness of human nature, feelings of trust and affection. When that web breaks, as it so easily can, the heart can turn vicious. We see this in divorce, broken families, and society at large. When the security of our food source — the basis of our mental and material well-being — gets threatened, the finer qualities of the mind can vanish. People who believe in kindness can suddenly seek revenge. Those who espouse non-violence can suddenly call for war. And those who rule by divisiveness — by making a mockery of compassion, prudence, and our common humanity — find a willing following for their law-of-the-jungle agenda.
The unconditional happiness—one’s unwavering source of wisdom and compassion comes from “the knowledge and vision of things as they truely are”. This unconditioned happiness can guarantee the purity of your behavior-— purity of heart. Independent of space and time, it’s beyond conditions. No one can threaten its food source, for it has no need to feed. When you’ve had even just a glimpse of this happiness, your belief in goodness becomes unshakable. Other people can trust you, and you can genuinely trust yourself.
You lack for nothing.
Purity of heart is to know this one thing.
Consider all phenomena
to be conditioned & impermanent.
Be grateful to everyone and everything.
Let the middle way/heart center be your refuge.
Let go of brooding over others faults.
Be curious about all phenomena.
At all times rely on a joyful heart.
Don’t expect a standing ovation.
Right & Wrong
– Thanissaro Bhikkhu
What is the wise understanding of right and wrong in the buddhist tradition? The Buddha based his methods for reconciliation with a culture of values whereby right and wrong become aids rather than hindrances to reconciliation. To prevent those in the right from abusing their position, he counseled that they reflect on themselves before they accuse another of wrongdoing. The checklist of questions he recommended boils down to this: “Am I free from unreconciled offenses of my own? Am I motivated by kindness, rather than vengeance? Am I really clear on our mutual standards?” Only if they can answer “yes” to these questions should they bring up and pursue the issue. The Buddha recommended that one determine to speak only words that are true, timely, gentle, to the point, and prompted by kindness. The motivation for actions should be compassion, solicitude for the welfare of all parties involved, and the desire to see the wrong-doer rehabilitated, together with an overriding desire to hold to fair principles of right and wrong.
To encourage a wrongdoer to see reconciliation as a winning rather than a losing proposition, the Buddha praised the honest acceptance of blame as an honorable rather than a shameful act: not just a means, but the means for progress in spiritual practice. As he told his son, Rahula, the ability to recognize one’s mistakes and admit them to others is the essential factor in achieving blamelessness in thought, word, and deed [MN 61]. Or as he said in the Dhammapada, people who recognize their own mistakes and change their ways “illumine the world like the moon when freed from a cloud” [Dhp 173].
In addition to providing these incentives for honestly admitting misbehavior, the Buddha blocked the paths to denial. Modern sociologists have identified five basic strategies that people use to avoid accepting blame when they’ve caused harm, and it’s noteworthy that the Buddha’s teaching on moral responsibility serves to undercut all five. The strategies are: to deny responsibility, to deny that harm was actually done, to deny the worth of the victim, to attack the accuser, and to claim that they were acting in the service of a higher cause. The Buddha’s responses to these strategies are: (1) We are always responsible for our conscious choices. (2) We should always put ourselves in the other person’s place. (3) All beings are worthy of respect. (4) We should regard those who point out our faults as if they were pointing out treasure. (5) There are no — repeat, no — higher purposes that excuse breaking the basic precepts of ethical behavior.
When someone harms us or is a source of ill will or causes us deep grief, meditation is indeed very effective to reduce this type of suffering. In other instances, for example when one gets stuck or feels a block in their Loving-Kindness meditation practice, one may find it beneficial to do a Forgiveness Meditation. This enables one to remove the barriers that may be there. And after the Forgiveness Meditation, a true warm sincere Loving-Kindness arises.
Forgiveness meditation is a way of opening oneself up to the possibilities of true healing and love for oneself and others. The forgiveness meditation is a soft, gentle way of learning how to lovingly-accept whatever arises and to leave it be, without trying to control it with thoughts.
Sometimes in our lives, there can be a feeling of letting someone down by not doing enough to help them. Of course this is just mind saying “I should be better”, “I should have done better”, “ I failed and I am not worthy” and “ because of that I should suffer even more.”
The forgiveness meditation is not ever to be used as a club to beat away a feeling of sadness, or anger, or frustration or any other kind of feeling. Once again, the forgiveness meditation is a soft, gentle way of learning how to lovingly-accept whatever arises and to leave it be, without trying to control it with thoughts.
Of course, blaming kinds of unwholesome thoughts and feelings don’t have anything to do with reality. Nor does anyone need to blame themselves for their friends or family members decisions. These complicated feelings that cause difficulties can be gently addressed by a Forgiveness Meditation practice.
This meditation is done by sitting down and beginning the forgiveness process by forgiving yourself.
I forgive myself for not understanding
I forgive myself for making mistakes
I forgive myself for causing pain to myself or anyone else
I forgive myself for not acting in a wholesome way.
The way one does this is by first forgiving themselves. This is done by taking each of these 4 statements, Beginning with “I forgive myself for not understanding” Repeating silently this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, ( visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness) and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance within yourself, your body and your heart.
Use the statement, the feeling and the radiant light filling your body as the object of your meditation.
The thing is, mind it tricky and it will sometimes have huge resistance to forgiving yourself and will come up with all kinds of thoughts to distract you and blame yourself. But when you see the mind taking off and thinking unwholesome things then gently 6R those thoughts and feelings, then gently redirect your attention back to forgiving yourself again. Sit with that feeling of loving-acceptance for as long as it lasts, then make the statement again to help the loving-acceptance last for longer.
When your mind wanders in meditation…
Release the distraction
Relax your body and mind
Return to your object of meditation
Re-Smile give yourself a little smile, like the Buddha
Mind will naturally have a lot of, “But… But… But…” interruptions and try to distract you and condemn you and then make you feel guilty or sad or angry or whatever it wants to do. This is where patience needs to be cultivated, softly allow those distracting (hindrances) to be there and then you gently bring your attention back to forgiving yourself. Do this softly with the 6R’s. Return to using the statement, the feeling and the radiant light filling your body as the object of your meditation
Having forgiven yourself allow your mind to go to the person(s) you are now going to forgive. Softly, gently, start forgiving them.
I forgive you for not understanding
I forgive you for making mistakes
I forgive you for causing pain to myself or anyone else
I forgive you for not acting in a wholesome way.
Pick one of the 4 statements—whichever one that seems most appropriate at the time. Using that one statement, “I forgive you for not understanding” Repeating silently this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart.
And now see them in your mind’s eye and look into their eyes and see their acknowledgment of your forgiveness. Then, place that forgiveness into your heart. Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart.
Completing the Circle of Forgiveness
This forgiveness meditation starts by forgiving yourself, then forgiving another person, then you “hear” them forgive you too. This is a complete circle. It will eventually make things change in your mind so there will not be any guilt or frustration or sadness or anger or making excuses for making mistakes and then feeling hard about yourself. Making excuses about anything means that one doesn’t take responsibility for their own actions and this is a subtle attachment to be forgiven and to be let go of.
Pick one of the 4 statements—whichever one that seems most appropriate.. Using that one statement,
hear that person saying: “I forgive you for making mistakes.” Hearing from that person this forgiveness statement over and over again. Place that feeling of forgiveness in your heart, Visualize in your minds eye, a soft pink radiant glowing light of forgiveness and permeate your whole body with that pink glowing light, radiating and feeling the soft acceptance of forgiveness within yourself, your body and your heart.
And now see them in your mind’s eye and look into their eyes and acknowledge you have received their forgiveness.
Eventually there may develop an equanimous acceptance and feelings of understanding toward that person who caused so much pain.
Expanding Forgiveness into your life:
Now, this is the sitting meditation but there is still more to the meditation and that is to forgive everything and everybody, all of the time. Use this forgiveness as your only object of meditation. Forgive yourself for bumping into something or if cooking for cutting yourself or burning yourself or for making mistakes. Put forgiveness into everything all of the time. Forgive thoughts for distracting you, forgive others for distracting you. In short forgive everything all of the time. When walking from one place to another forgive yourself and/or others. Any tiny distraction, forgive it. Forgive yourself for not remembering, forgive yourself for making mistakes. Forgive every thought, every memory, forgive every pain that arises. 6R and forgive ALL OF THE TIME!!! If you forget to forgive something then forgive yourself for forgetting and then start again.
It may take some time before the mind begins to let go of these attachments but patience leads to liberation (eventually).
Resentment and Ill Will are old energies, unwholesome habit patterns we all carry within us, knowingly or sometimes unknowingly. So it is necessary to keep this practice going for quite some time so the attachments will loose their hold on your heart and you can free your energies to follow wholesome, uplifting states leading to peace and a sense of wellbeing and eventually awakening.
Opening The Injured Heart
– Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
The way to live with joy in a painful world
is not by shutting down or closing off
—just the opposite.
Love is never the culprit. An open heart only provides joy, never suffering.
A self-destructive story we may tell ourselves when we’ve been hurt is that our open heart itself was the cause of our suffering. This is a common scenario in romantic love, for example. In the beginning, our love is so innocent and trusting, but when things don’t work out the way we had hoped, we can become bitter and jaded about love itself. We can blame love for our hurt and then have a hard time opening our heart toward others. But love is never the culprit. An open heart only provides joy, never suffering. If a few experiences of being disappointed make us give up on love altogether, our world will become dark and gloomy, even if everything else in our life works out the way we want. Therefore, to avoid this outcome, we have to investigate what has really happened, setting our story lines aside as much as possible. We need to look at cause and effect objectively, until we are able to blame whatever deserves blame—whether it’s our unreasonable attachments, our expectations, or our lack of wisdom and skillful means. When we use our mind to prove love not guilty in this way, then our heart will once again be free to love—from one person, to many people, and eventually to all sentient beings.
A similar descent into jadedness can happen with children as they grow up. Young children who are brought up in good circumstances feel a lot of love for their parents, for the world, for their games and activities, and so on. They maintain this innocent openness until they get older and meet the complex reality of the world. Then the innocent phase comes to an end, and they are faced with a challenge. At this point, they need to develop wisdom to keep that warm feeling flowing in the heart. Otherwise, they may interpret their loss of innocence as evidence that they have awakened from some kind of self-delusion: “Now it is time to wake up and accept the grim facts of life, the harsh reality of the world,” they may think. With such thoughts, it is natural for them to feel foolish about their naiveté and gullibility, and they may blame their disappointment on their openness of heart. The world is indeed full of harsh realities, but that is no justification for shutting down into our small, bitter self. On the contrary, the painful nature of samsara is the most important reason for us to find ways to keep our hearts continually warm with tsewa.
To reopen our heart after a deep hurt or a painful disillusionment can take a long time, even if we understand how necessary it is to do so. Even when we apply the effective methods of the dharma, such as those mentioned earlier, we may find that our thoughts still return to whatever self-destructive story we were telling ourselves. Because we have given a lot of energy to perpetuating these stories, there will still be momentum for them to keep resurfacing and occasionally carry us away. We have to be patient with this process. In our mind, thoughts are continually arising and dissolving, arising and dissolving. The thoughts that make up the story behind our injured heart are no different. But if we just give these thoughts space to arise and dissolve, they will eventually wear themselves out. The story will lose its feeling of reality and it will no longer be able to convince us. The key here is to focus on our tender heart and not pay so much attention to the story. If we do so, our tsewa eventually will overcome our confused and limited way of looking at things. We will have more confidence in tsewa and thus more confidence in ourselves. This confidence will be invaluable in carrying us forward along our spiritual journey.
Although they may take a long time to let go of completely, the most painful forms of grudge or disappointment can be the easiest for us to make progress with. The acute pain they cause gives us a lot of incentive to work with them. But in addition to these more blatant hurts, we can hold on to other forms of resentment that also block the flow of tsewa from our heart.
One of the most common causes of resentment is when we feel our love and tenderness are not reciprocated. It’s as if our tsewa comes with an implied condition—we can continue to keep our heart open only if the other party meets this expectation. This is not to say that reciprocation isn’t important. Gratitude, appreciation, and the willingness to reciprocate are signs of good character. Those who are strong in these qualities are well respected, and deservedly so. Also, mutual reciprocation gives people a greater sense of solidarity with each other.
But none of this should make reciprocation a condition for our expressing tsewa. Parents are able to love their young children, even before good character has formed. If parents always needed reciprocation, they couldn’t even begin parenthood. After all, babies do not reciprocate. We hope that our children will eventually become mature enough to know the value of gratitude and become worthy of our respect in this way. But until then, we never even think of making reciprocation a requirement.
When it comes to expressing our tender heart, we should try to have the same openness and tolerance that parents have with small children. This openness is based on appreciating tsewa as the source of all happiness, including our own. As the great sage Shantideva said, “If you make yourself a delicious meal, will you expect gratitude from yourself?” If you apply your power of discernment to your experience, you will see how tsewa is its own reward and how keeping your heart filled with tenderness is itself the greatest joy. If others respond well to your warmth, that is a bonus, but the continued flow of your tsewa shouldn’t be based on the response.
If we can’t recognize the joy in tsewa, it’s easy for us to get confused about why we are keeping our heart open. Are we doing it because we want to be good, because we’re “supposed to be” loving and compassionate? Are we doing it because of our ideas about karma, or because we’ve made some kind of commitment or vow? Are we doing it in response to some kind of pressure? If any of these become our primary motivation for expressing tsewa, then we may well overlook how joyful it is to have a tender heart. Our love will be based on concepts, not on our deep, heartfelt connection to the source of everything positive in the world.
Sometimes we don’t open our heart to others because we feel they are unworthy of our tender feelings. We are full of love and warmth, we think, but not everyone deserves our tsewa. Some people aren’t pure enough vessels to merit our outpouring of love and affection. They lack this or that qualification. If we are not careful, our critical mind will come up with a long list of requirements. Then our tsewa, which has the potential to flow limitlessly, will be walled in by our biases. That is not intelligence; it is ignorance. When we let the natural expression of our tender heart be handcuffed to a set of qualifications, we are putting our small, confused self in charge. We are forgetting that all beings are equally in need of tsewa because all beings—ourselves included—are constantly longing to be happy and free from suffering.
We are also forgetting the equality of all beings when we allow prejudices to tighten our heart. We may block our tsewa because of religion, gender, nationality, cultural differences, political differences, race, species, and so on. These prejudices can be very subtle, manifesting as a slight contraction or a feeling of indifference. They may not stand out as anything worth noticing, much less remedying. But these subtle blockages hinder our tsewa, and thus hinder our own happiness and our path to enlightenment. Therefore, we need to apply continual mindfulness and vigilant introspection to make sure we don’t come under the sway of any form of prejudice.
We need to be wary of closing our heart not only with people we know or encounter, but even with those we have never met or seen in person. It seems natural to withhold tsewa from a corrupt politician or ruthless war criminal that we read about in the news. But by doing so, we reverse our progress toward realizing the full capacity of our tender heart. Even if all our friends, or all of society, supports our closing down toward certain “evil” people, we have to put things in proper perspective, remembering the law of karma and choosing to have a bigger view of things. Otherwise, we won’t be able to arouse genuine bodhicitta, the aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings without exception.
The great Tibetan teacher Dromtonpa was once circumambulating a temple with a few of his disciples. Circumambulation is a traditional practice of showing respect to an object of veneration. At the outer edge of the circumambulation path, a stray dog was lying on the ground. Instead of walking down the middle of the path, Dromtonpa purposely went around the dog so as to include it in the circle of veneration. When one of his disciples asked him why he was paying such respect to a stray dog, Dromtonpa said, “I’m not paying respect to a dog. I’m paying respect to a being whose nature is enlightened.” This is how a sage sees other beings. However they may temporarily appear or behave, all sentient beings have the seed of enlightenment in their tender heart. Their innate tsewa may be thickly obscured, but it is still there. If we look at things from a wider perspective, we will know that there is something to venerate in everyone.
Our biases can come up not only in giving tsewa, but in receiving it as well. Sometimes we only want to receive tenderness and support from special people, an exclusive group that is worthy of giving that to us. But we are not like flowers that can only blossom if they receive rays of light from the sun. That is too limited a view. We can blossom by receiving tsewa from anyone, from the highest to the lowest. If we are too picky about whom we receive warmth from, then we may even lose the affection of those we do admit to our heart. For it will become harder and harder for the latter to meet our standards and expectations.
Sometimes we turn away from others’ tsewa because we are suspicious. Why is this person being so nice to me? What’s behind his friendly expressions? This person doesn’t even know me. What could he want? Is he planning to take advantage of me? So much paranoia can manifest when someone spontaneously and genuinely tries to be friendly with us. Of course, people can have ulterior motives, but 99 percent of the time, they are simply expressing the natural human desire to connect with one another. Why turn that into something else, something from which we need to protect ourselves?
If we let the 1 percent spoil the other 99 percent, we are letting our suspiciousness color all our relations. On one hand, we always long for love in our lives. We know we can’t be happy if we isolate ourselves. But on the other hand, we feel that we’re taking a big risk by opening up to receive tsewa. We have to recognize that this risk—which is usually tiny—is a risk well worth taking. What do we think we have to lose? Whatever it could be, that loss is nothing compared to the pain of keeping our heart closed in fear and paranoia.
At other times, we may feel that we just don’t deserve love. Somehow we’re fake, and when our true colors are exposed, we’ll be rejected. Inside we may feel shaky and weak. In this state, it’s very hard to open up to receiving warmth from anybody. This is when we have to remember that no one is undeserving. We are no worse than the dog that Dromtonpa circumambulated. We are also no better—everyone has the same precious tsewa. There is nothing fake about what lies at the core of all our hearts. We may have a lot of negative habits and shameful thoughts, but they are not our true colors.
As you remove impediments to giving and receiving tsewa, your mind and your life will be transformed. As you let go of small-minded stories and biases, you will be more and more amazed at how much warmth there is in this world. You will find so many beings to whom you can reach out and so many who can touch you as well. Wherever you stay or go, you will be able to make a difference in many others’ lives, and many others will be able to make a difference in your life. When you orient yourself to tsewa, what you can give and receive is boundless.
Opening The Injured Heart
– Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
The way to live with joy in a painful world
is not by shutting down or closing off
—just the opposite.
I’d like to talk to you about a profound quality that we all have: the innate tenderness of our own heart, or tsewa in Tibetan. When it is warm with tenderness and affection toward others, our own heart can give us the most pure and profound happiness that exists and enable us to radiate that happiness to others. That happiness is right here within us. It is not something on the outside for which we need to search and strive. We don’t need to get several university degrees, work hard, and save up a lot of money to buy it. We don’t need special opportunities or amazing luck. We only need this heart, which is right here within us, accessible at all times.
This may sound too simple—even simplistic. If happiness is so accessible, then why are so many of us unhappy? And if we do experience periods of happiness, why is our happiness so unreliable and difficult to maintain? The reason is that although this joyous, warm heart is part of our nature, most of the time its glow is hidden from us.
One of the most common impediments to tsewa is holding a grudge. If someone has caused you pain, it’s challenging to keep your heart open to that person. Even worse, a grudge against one person or a few people can turn into a much bigger form of resentment, such as prejudice toward an entire group of people or animosity toward the entire human race. It’s not uncommon for a few experiences of being hurt to block all flow of tenderness from a person’s inherently warm heart.
If you shut down your heart because of past injuries, life becomes a painful ordeal. Even if you hold a grudge against just one person, anytime you think of them or recall the time you were hurt, you will suffer. Since you have no control over when these thoughts will arise in your mind, you will always be susceptible to sudden pain. And if you resent many people, whole groups of people, or humanity at large, you will be that much more susceptible. There is no peace in such an existence, no matter how good your life may look from the outside.
To let go of our grudges, we must understand that we are not stuck with them. We have two choices. The habitual option is to keep holding on—to keep depriving ourselves of the oxygen of tsewa. The other way is to make whatever effort it takes to let go and thereby restore the naturally exuberant flow of love to our heart. We may believe we’re protecting our heart by shutting it down, but that is a confused way of thinking. Trying to protect ourselves in this way ends up being what harms us the most. There is a classic analogy: If an arrow wounds you, you can blame the one who shot the arrow for your injury. But if you then take that arrow and grind it deeper and deeper into your wound, that is your own doing.
The past is important, but not as important as the present and the future. The past has already been lived. It doesn’t have to be relived. To sacrifice the present and the future by reliving past injuries is not the way of the sages. When we find ourselves caught in a grudge, we should notice how we are perpetuating the past. Something has happened, and we have put together a whole story around it that we repeat to ourselves over and over like a broken record. And we tend to be so stubborn about these stories: “This is what happened, and there’s no other way of looking at it.” In this way, we continue to grind the arrow into the wound. Our mind and heart are frozen around this issue. How can we breathe our oxygen of tsewa in such a state?
The past has already been lived. It doesn’t have to be relived.
Closing our heart because of a grudge doesn’t harm only ourselves. Our negativity affects the people around us, such as our family and friends and those who depend on us. It makes it harder for them to be close to us, to feel relaxed in our presence. Though we may not act out with physical and mental abuse, our internal unhappy state distresses others, especially our children, who can perceive us in a less conceptual, more energetic way. On the other hand, overcoming our resentments and fully reclaiming our innate tsewa—our birthright to feel love and tenderness toward all—brings tremendous benefit to others. In the present, those around us feel our warmth, which in turn induces their own tsewa to flow. And in the long term, our tender heart is the seed of realizing our full potential to benefit others by attaining enlightenment.
Some grudges are easy to overcome, but with others, it may seem almost impossible to let go. Perhaps someone has let us down again and again. Perhaps someone we were kind to has hurt us badly. Perhaps someone has been cruel to us and shown no remorse. But whoever these individuals are and whatever they did, we have to keep in mind the bigger picture of what’s at stake: our wish-fulfilling jewel of tsewa. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to overcome resentment, but we are capable of doing that work as long as we are motivated. And we will be motivated as long as we understand there’s no good alternative.
Keeping your heart closed toward others who have hurt you is the natural result of perpetuating your negative story lines. It can seem like a satisfying way of repaying the injury. Perhaps unconsciously, you are thinking, “This person did this to me, so I’m going to get him back by maintaining a cold grudge in my heart.” Maybe your negative thoughts will make your enemy suffer. Maybe he will even come to you and beg for forgiveness on his knees! But even if your “best-case scenario” miraculously occurs, will it restore the mental and emotional balance you’ve lost while depriving yourself of tsewa? Will it bring you the peace and joy you long for every moment of your existence? Or will you have just caused yourself a lot of extra suffering that continues to disturb you like a hangover? And if the improbable desired outcome of your story never happens, how long are you willing to keep grinding the arrow into your wound?
These are questions you must ask yourself in your darkest hour, sincerely and objectively. Being objective will require you to step aside from your emotions and prejudices and look at the bigger picture. If you have observed the glories of the tender heart in your own experience, how does the possibility of fulfilling your story line compare? How does it compare to watering the seed of tsewa and watching it grow and grow until you realize your potential to become a buddha? Would you really prefer to collapse into your small, contracted self and its relatively minor concerns? Would you like that to be the dominant habit of your mind and heart?
If we ask ourselves these questions, we will inevitably conclude that keeping our heart closed is an unproductive way of working with our stories. A more intelligent way is to put the story in a bigger context. What is the one fact about every sentient being that never changes? It is our constant wish to be happy and free from suffering. The infinite differences in how we appear and how we behave are all temporary because they come from temporary conditions. Almost all of these conditions are beyond our control. They are based on other temporary conditions, which are based on more conditions, and so on. But underneath this limitless display of interdependence, we are all the same. No one is permanently one way or another—good or bad, right or wrong, for us or against us. When we hold a grudge, however, we see everything through the lens of that resentment. We see other beings, who are equal to us at the core, as intrinsically selfish, inconsiderate, or just plain bad. They can even appear to us as permanent enemies.
Right now we may be having a lot of turmoil around one particular person. If so, we should ask ourselves, “Has it always been this way with them? If not, then what has changed? Have they really changed at the core? Or is it that temporary conditions have changed? Will it always be this way in the future, or does that also depend on temporary conditions?”
We will quickly realize that people and our relationships with them are always changing. There is no malevolent, unchanging person who has always been and will always be against us. So if the conditions are responsible for what has gone wrong, does it make sense to hold on to blame? The object of our grudge is, in fact, quite innocent, like a child. He or she only wants to be happy and free from suffering but unfortunately sabotages these desires out of ignorance. If we were under the same conditions, we would be acting in the same confused way. In fact, we ourselves, though we may be well educated in the dharma, also can’t help harming others from time to time because of our own conditions. No sentient being is exempt from wrongdoing. But no one is intrinsically bad either. This is how we can understand things when we’re not blinded by our resentment.
If our aim is enlightenment—or at least some form of spiritual growth—then any time we are hurt, we can view it as an opportunity. Now we have a chance to look at things in a different way, which is based on wisdom. We can choose not to see the story with ourselves in the role of intrinsic victim and the other person in the role of intrinsic culprit. Both of us have the wish-fulfilling jewel of the tender heart, which gives us the potential to attain the ultimate state of happiness. But both of us, perhaps to different degrees, have let our jewel go to waste because of our ignorance. Either we haven’t recognized our tsewa, we haven’t appreciated it, or we’ve failed to take advantage of it because we continually get swept away by our habits. So far, our impediments have gotten the best of us. That is why we keep hurting one another. But now that we’ve encountered the Buddha’s wisdom and skillful means, we can finally learn to open our heart to all, including those who have hurt us in this life. As we gain confidence in the power of our tsewa, we can even hold a special place in our heart for the former objects of our grudges. We can be grateful that they have helped to open our eyes to the cyclic nature of suffering and motivated us to expand our mind and try a different approach. And if they are continuing to hurt others out of the suffering of a closed heart, we can feel compassion for them. In this way, the pain we have gone through can be transformed from an impediment into a warm rain that nourishes our precious seed of tsewa.
To be continued next week—Part Two.
Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas
The Kalamas of Kesaputta ask for guidance from the Buddha
The Kalamas who were inhabitants of Kesaputta asked the Blessed One: “There are some monks and brahmans, venerable sir, who visit Kesaputta. They expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Some other monks and brahmans too, venerable sir, come to Kesaputta. They also expound and explain only their own doctrines; the doctrines of others they despise, revile, and pull to pieces. Venerable sir, there is doubt, there is uncertainty in us concerning them. Which of these reverend monks and brahmans spoke the truth and which falsehood?”
The criterion for rejection
“It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain; uncertainty has arisen in you about what is doubtful. Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them.
Greed, hate, and delusion
“What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed, hate and delusion appear in a person for his benefit or harm?”
— “For his harm, venerable sir.”
“Kalamas, being given to greed, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by greed, this person takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his harm and ill?”
— “Yes, venerable sir.”
“What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?”
— “Bad, venerable sir”
— “Blamable or not blamable?”
— “Blamable, venerable sir.”
— “Censured or praised by the wise?”
— “Censured, venerable sir.”
— “Undertaken and observed, do these things lead to harm and ill, or not? Or how does it strike you?”
— “Undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill. Thus it strikes us here.”
“Therefore Kalamas, do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.” Kalamas, when you yourselves know: “These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,” abandon them.’
The criterion for acceptance
“Come, Kalamas. Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias toward a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another’s seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, ‘The monk is our teacher.’ Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.
Absence of greed, hate, and delusion
“What do you think, Kalamas? Does absence of greed, hate and delusion appear in a person for his benefit or harm?”
— “For his benefit, venerable sir.”
— “Kalamas, being not given to greed, and being not overwhelmed and not vanquished mentally by greed, this person does not take life, does not steal, does not commit adultery, and does not tell lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his benefit and happiness?”
— “Yes, venerable sir.”
“What do you think, Kalamas? Are these things good or bad?”
— “Good, venerable sir.”
— “Blamable or not blamable?”
— “Not blamable, venerable sir.”
— “Censured or praised by the wise?”
— “Praised, venerable sir.”
— “Undertaken and observed, do these things lead to benefit and happiness, or not? Or how does it strike you?”
— “Undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness. Thus it strikes us here.”
FROM THE ITIVUTTAKA, SUTTA 27
(SPOKEN BY THE BUDDHA)
Whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.
Just as whatever light there is of stars, all is not worth one sixteenth part of the moon’s; in shining and beaming and radiance the moon’s light far excels it; and just as in the last month of the Rains, in the Autumn when the heavens are clear, the sun as it climbs the heavens drives all darkness from the sky with its shining and beaming and radiance; and just as, when night is turning to dawn, the morning star is shining and beaming and radiating; so too, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.
Discourse on Advantages of Loving-kindness
Thus have I heard:
The Blessed One spoke as follows:
“Eleven advantages are to be expected from the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (metta), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?
1. “He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.
“These eleven advantages are to be expected from the release of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness, by cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice and by establishing them.”
Loving-kindness and its Rewards
FROM THE MAJJHIMA NIKAYA, SUTTA 21
(SPOKEN BY THE BUDDHA)
So there are these five modes of speech that others may use when they address you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, for good or for harm, and may be accompanied by thoughts of loving-kindness or by inner hate. Now this is how you should train yourselves here: “Our minds will remain unaffected, we shall utter no bad words, we shall abide friendly and compassionate, with thoughts of loving-kindness and no inner hate. We shall abide with loving-kindness in our hearts extending to that person, and we shall dwell extending it to the entire world as our object, with our hearts abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will.” That is how you should train yourselves.
Even were bandits savagely to sever you limb from limb with a
two-handled saw, he who entertaineth hate on that account in his heart would not be one who carried out my teaching.
You should keep this instruction on the Simile of the Saw constantly in mind.
– The Buddha
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.
Purification of Mind
– Bhikkhu Bodhi
An ancient maxim found in the Dhammapada sums up the practice of the Buddha’s teaching in three simple guidelines to training: to abstain from all evil, to cultivate good, and to purify one’s mind. These three principles form a graded sequence of steps progressing from the outward and preparatory to the inward and essential. Each step leads naturally into the one that follows it, and the culmination of the three in purification of mind makes it plain that the heart of Buddhist practice is to be found here.
Purification of mind as understood in the Buddha’s teaching is the sustained endeavor to cleanse the mind of defilements, those dark unwholesome mental forces which run beneath the surface stream of consciousness vitiating our thinking, values, attitudes, and actions. The chief among the defilements are the three that the Buddha has termed the “roots of evil” — greed, hatred, and delusion — from which emerge their numerous offshoots and variants: anger and cruelty, avarice and envy, conceit and arrogance, hypocrisy and vanity, the multitude of erroneous views.
Contemporary attitudes do not look favorably upon such notions as defilement and purity, and on first encounter they may strike us as throwbacks to an outdated moralism, valid perhaps in an era when prudery and taboo were dominant, but having no claims upon us emancipated torchbearers of modernity. Admittedly, we do not all wallow in the mire of gross materialism and many among us seek our enlightenments and spiritual highs, but we want them on our own terms, and as heirs of the new freedom we believe they are to be won through an unbridled quest for experience without any special need for introspection, personal change, or self-control.
However, in the Buddha’s teaching the criterion of genuine enlightenment lies precisely in purity of mind. The purpose of all insight and enlightened understanding is to liberate the mind from the defilements, and Nibbana itself, the goal of the teaching, is defined quite clearly as freedom from greed, hatred, and delusion. From the perspective of the Dhamma defilement and purity are not mere postulates of a rigid authoritarian moralism but real and solid facts essential to a correct understanding of the human situation in the world.
As facts of lived experience, defilement and purity pose a vital distinction having a crucial significance for those who seek deliverance from suffering. They represent the two points between which the path to liberation unfolds — the former its problematic and starting point, the latter its resolution and end. The defilements, the Buddha declares, lie at the bottom of all human suffering. Burning within as lust and craving, as rage and resentment, they lay to waste hearts, lives, hopes, and civilizations, and drive us blind and thirsty through the round of birth and death. The Buddha describes the defilements as bonds, fetters, hindrances, and knots; thence the path to unbonding, release, and liberation, to untying the knots, is at the same time a discipline aimed at inward cleansing.
The work of purification must be undertaken in the same place where the defilements arise, in the mind itself, and the main method the Dhamma offers for purifying the mind is meditation. Meditation, in the Buddhist training, is neither a quest for self-effusive ecstasies nor a technique of home-applied psychotherapy, but a carefully devised method of mental development — theoretically precise and practically efficient — for attaining inner purity and spiritual freedom. The principal tools of Buddhist meditation are the core wholesome mental factors of energy, mindfulness, concentration, and understanding. But in the systematic practice of meditation, these are strengthened and yoked together in a program of self-purification which aims at extirpating the defilements root and branch so that not even the subtlest unwholesome stirrings remain.
Since all defiled states of consciousness are born from ignorance, the most deeply embedded defilement, the final and ultimate purification of mind is to be accomplished through the instrumentality of wisdom, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. Wisdom, however, does not arise through chance or random good intentions, but only in a purified mind. Thus in order for wisdom to come forth and accomplish the ultimate purification through the eradication of defilements, we first have to create a space for it by developing a provisional purification of mind — a purification which, though temporary and vulnerable, is still indispensable as a foundation for the emergence of all liberative insight.
The achievement of this preparatory purification of mind begins with the challenge of self-understanding. To eliminate defilements we must first learn to know them, to detect them at work infiltrating and dominating our everyday thoughts and lives. For countless eons we have acted on the spur of greed, hatred, and delusion, and thus the work of self-purification cannot be executed hastily, in obedience to our demand for quick results. The task requires patience, care, and persistence — and the Buddha’s crystal clear instructions. For every defilement the Buddha in his compassion has given us the antidote, the method to emerge from it and vanquish it. By learning these principles and applying them properly, we can gradually wear away the most stubborn inner ingrained patterns and reach the end of suffering, the “stainless liberation of the mind.”
Freeing the Mind (excerpt from A Simple Guide to Life)
– Robert Bogoda. Born 1918. Native of Sri Lanka.
Mind occupies the pre-eminent place in Buddhism, for everything that one says or does first arises in the mind as a thought. To have a well-trained mind is indeed to possess a treasure. When a person trains the mind, turns inward to examine and cleanse his own mind, he will find therein a vast storehouse of happiness. Real happiness is a quality of the mind which has to be sought and found in the mind. The Buddha teaches that non-attachment to worldly pleasures is a greater happiness than the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Nibbana is the highest happiness, the happiness of relief from suffering and from repeated birth, and this happiness is only to be attained by freeing the mind from its defilements.
The misguided worldling thinks otherwise. In his view the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is the only real happiness. He forgets, however, that sensual happiness arises merely from the gratification of desire, and thus that this happiness must fade when the desired object is obtained. Nor will the multiplication of desires make sensual pleasure permanent, for there is no permanence in the passing. The pursuit of sensual pleasures ends only in restlessness and dissatisfaction.
The aim of Buddhist mental culture is to gain direct intuitive knowledge of the real nature of existence by systematic training of the mind through meditation. This practice issues in detachment and thus frees the mind from its delusions. Meditation leads the mind from the pain-laden things of the world to the sorrowless, transcendent state of deliverance, Nibbana. The basic cause of rebirth and suffering is ignorance of the true nature of life. We consider what is passing, unsatisfactory, and empty to be permanent, a source of true happiness, and substantial. This delusion sustains the craving for more existence and leads to the accumulation of kamma. Meditation is designed to lead step-by-step to the dissolution of these delusions and thereby to freedom from the grip of craving.
There are two kinds of meditation recognized in Buddhism: the development of tranquillity (samatha-bhavana), which emphasizes concentration, and the development of insight (vipassana-bhavana), which emphasizes wisdom. These two types of meditation respectively correspond to the second and third groups of the Noble Eightfold Path, the concentration group and the wisdom group. Concentration means one-pointedness of the mind, the ability to fix the mind on a single object to the exclusion of all else. Concentration is not an end in itself, but to be developed primarily because it is the foundation for wisdom, the ability to see things exactly as they are. It is this wisdom that frees the mind from bondage.
To train the mind is not at all easy, for the mind has long been accustomed to flow in the channels of greed, hatred, and delusion; through ages we have relished sense pleasures, raged with anger, wallowed in torpor, fidgeted restlessly, and vacillated with doubt. Such habits are indeed difficult to break. Moreover, it is the very nature of the untrained mind to wander from one idea to another. Thus when the meditator sits down to begin the practice, strange thoughts may dance before his mind. .
At the outset meditation will be a continual effort to pull the mind back whenever it strays from the subject of meditation. It will seem impossible to focus the attention on the selected subject for more than a few seconds at a stretch. With continued practice, however, one will refine one’s skills until one can keep the mind focused steadily and calmly on the chosen topic for increasingly longer periods. Then the practice becomes more engaging, more rewarding, and also less tiring. Eventually one’s efforts will culminate in one-pointedness of mind, samadhi.
With the attainment of the one-pointed mind, the meditator turns this pure, steady, clear mind to the contemplation of existence itself. This marks the beginning of vipassana-bhavana, the meditative development of insight. The meditator mindfully investigates his own compound of the “five aggregates.” He sees that the body, or form, is made up of changing physical qualities, while mind itself consists of fleeting mental factors: feeling, perception, mental formations (intentions, emotions, thoughts, desires, etc.), and consciousness. He sees that these all occur in mutual dependence, all in a flow. There is no substantial self to be called “I” or “mine.” As the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness, and the “not self” nature of the five aggregates become manifest to the meditator, one realizes that clingng to the conditioned is unsatisfactory, for everything conditioned is fleeting and changing, and in the fleeting it is impossible to find stable happiness. This is pañña, wisdom, the third and final stage in the Noble Eightfold Path.
With the development of wisdom, ignorance ceases in all its forms and shades. Craving and kamma, the fuel for becoming, are exhausted. Hence the conditions for existence cease for lack of fuel. When such a person who has reached this realization, one day passes away, this person no longer takes rebirth in any realm of becoming. This one has attained release, Nibbana, the deathless.