6.5 mins read.
According to some surveys, as well as a casual glance at the internet, the world is the angriest it’s ever been. We do seem to be living in a time of rapidly escalating tension, polarization, and discord; but at the same time people are still good at heart, and no one presumably is enjoying this? Recognizing we may have an anger problem is the first step to doing something about it, starting with ourselves. And the advice Buddha gave transcends all politics.
Carrying straight on from this article on the three objects, three poisons, and three virtuous roots.
Transforming objects of hatred into objects of non-hatred
Whenever we encounter undesirable situations or people, instead of getting angry or annoyed we can intensify our patience or compassion. This is called non-hatred. (By the way, hatred is quite a strong word, but it includes all variations of aversion from mild irritation to genocidal rage.)
Most of us probably have several opportunities to try this out most days! This may seem especially the case in a polarized world but, even if we were surrounded by perfect saints, provided we still had the habits of anger in our minds we would still be bumping into objects of anger. People will seem difficult and annoying wherever we go if we have a mind to be annoyed; that’s pretty much guaranteed.
Of course, not giving into our tendency to blame others is easier said than done; but what’s the alternative? If we keep becoming irritated and upset by even the smallest things, we spoil our lives. Buddha’s method works very well for staying calm, if we want it enough. It can help our world enormously.
A friend of mine texted me 20 minutes ago to say that her jeep had been broken into and thieves took her keys, credit cards, health insurance, and social security card (not to mention her lucky green sweater).
And this was supposed to be my b’day outing 🤦🏻♀️
However, after a bit of time to think this through, she just texted again to say how this is karma and giving her the chance to practice patience, purification, and giving, and “that makes me happy actually 🙅🏻”; plus she also feels grateful to her bank for acting swiftly to cancel her cards. She has to sort out the boring practicalities of course, but she is laughing again: “🤣”
I was soooo grumpy before and now I feel better. 🙏🏼🙏🏼
When people don’t cooperate …
It’s not just when people don’t cooperate with our own wishes — non-hatred can also come in handy when the people we care about are not cooperating with our wishes to help them (or is that just me?!) Instead of getting annoyed or discouraged, we can use their recalcitrance to increase our humility and supreme good heart, motivating us to attain enlightenment even more quickly for their sake.
The three nons
These “three nons” — as I shall henceforth refer to non-attachment, non-hatred, and non-ignorance — are a huge practice. They are the direct antidote to our three principal delusions, the “three poisons”; and, as all delusions stem from these three, they are indirectly an antidote to all that ails us.
And this practice is very important because it means that no day, however impossible, need ever be wasted – in fact the more bombarded we are with distractions and/or upsetting people and even health problems, the more opportunity we have to solve our actual inner problems. Every day brings us a sense of achievement.
Transforming objects of ignorance into objects of non-ignorance
Here with the third: whenever we encounter objects of ignorance, instead of assenting to the appearance of things as fixed, real, and outside our mind, we let these seemingly solid objects remind us that in fact everything is dreamlike or like a reflection in a lake, not outside our mind. This is called non-ignorance. How great it would be if we and everyone else could live in the deep mental peace that comes from wisdom!
Applying non-ignorance to our own fixed self-image
Just a quick example of how we can practice non-ignorance when it comes to self-loathing (because I was talking about that a lot recently.) We can learn to see every manifestation of an unlikeable self as an incentive to practice both patient acceptance with ourself as described in these articles AND to practice wisdom.
Whenever that painful limited fixed ME rears its ugly head, we can think, “Great! Now I’ve got you where I can see you. And that means I can see that you are a fake self, not me at all, and I am going to let you go.”
The other day someone accused me of not liking her. Considering I do like her very much, and 95% of the time she knows this, this said far more about her own self-image than about me. Moreover, as expected, as soon as her bad mood lifted we were friends again.
In those instances, even if at that moment we feel so sure of something, it is still worth checking: What version of my self am I relating to right now? (Ans: An unlikeable one.) And does it even exist? (Ans: No.) We can dissolve that limited self away and identify with our potential. Only then can we say we are clear about what is going on.
Where are the reflections in a lake?
If things are empty and cannot be found when we search for them with wisdom (as described here for example), how do they exist? As mere appearance to mind, as the nature of mind, like things in a dream or reflections in a lake. As it says in the Mahamudra teachings:
All appearances are the nature of mind.
A lake doesn’t have to go out to its objects; and in truth there are no objects for our mind to go out to either. I was thinking about this just two days ago, while sitting on this bench next to this rather nice lake.
Just to go back to the definition of mind for a moment. Our mind is clarity, which means that it is something that is empty like space, can never possess form, and is the basis for perceiving objects. Our mind or awareness is like a medium that is clearer than the clearest thing ever, clear enough to know objects, to hold them. And an object is just that which is “known by mind”.
Do look at this lake for a moment … can you separate out the clouds from the lake? The clouds appear, and they have shape and color and so on; but they are just the nature of the lake. In the same way, objects appear with form and so on, but they are just the nature of formless awareness, clarity.
Two approaches to understanding reality
There are two ways to approach this understanding of the actual relationship between our awareness and its objects and to gain deep personal experience of it. One way is through meditating on our own mind, as explained so clearly for example in The Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra. As Venerable Geshe Kelsang said in his Mahamudra teachings in 2000:
Using the root mind as our object of meditation — always trying to perceive the general image of our mind – means that we realize the subject mind very well, and understand the relationship between mind and its objects. The huge mistaken understanding that objects are there and the subject mind is here – that between them there is a large gap – will cease, and we will gain the correct understanding of how things really exist. If we clearly understand the real nature and function of mind, then we also understand how things really exist.
The second way is through searching with wisdom for objects outside the mind. This is a bit like looking for reflections outside of the lake — they cannot be found. Which brings us back to a deeper understanding that they must be the nature of the mind, mere appearances of mind.
I think that some people find their way into reality primarily through meditating on their mind, and some find their way into it primarily through meditating on emptiness – at least at first. However, we end up at the same place and using both methods – which are two sides of the same coin and constantly deepening one another.
International Fall Festival
This week, people from all around the world will be converging on the brand new temple for world peace near the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Many are on their way as we speak — safe travels if you are one of them! One reason Kadampa Buddhist Festivals are really inspiring, I find, is because they are a living demonstration of what happens when thousands of people are practicing Buddha’s teachings both in and out of the meditation sessions. It’s hard to describe, actually, so I won’t. But perhaps I’ll see some of you there. (Update Oct 2020: it was sooooo incredibly good, and also feels like a bygone era. But we’ll be back.)
One more article on this subject of the three nons here: Detoxing our daily life. Meantime, over to you for your feedback, please, on how you like to practice them.
Thank you so much for sharing this article. Our teacher asked us once if we had a meaningful day. This question has haunted me so much with guilt of having days that were not meaningful. But your article suggests that if we are working on non-attachment, non-anger and non-ignorance, then we are making progress! Thank you. It is a bit of a relief.
I love the way you point out that as long as we have anger we will find ourselves getting irritated by people, even if those people are complete saints. Maybe it’s even their utter saintliness that we would find just so really annoying!!! (Obviously, it’s better to rejoice in their virtue and try to emulate that ourselves.)
Once again thank you for sharing your most valuable insights Luna particularly when my youngest son is so very Ill again. Bless you and thanks Kelsang Dra-ma x
So sorry to hear he is ill again, I will keep Ian in my prayers. Much love to you both.
Love it Luna!Thank you.
Are we unlikable people?No.Are we blissful people?Yes,the clearest of the clearest blissful people 😊❤️💙🌈
Thank you for your interesting comments on the three poisons and others. I have been around NKT teachings for many years (22) – i had a break from teachings from 2014 – 2018 – not to ‘abandon dharma’ but to practise what i had learned in my daily life also there were a lot of political issues pervading space at that time. I attended some weekly sessions on Tibetan Buddhism and meditation which i found helpful but not spacial. I have since lost my beloved Mom and four years later my Dad. I used alcohol to help with the pain, but when i realised my dependence i went to AA and have abstained for over seven years. I now practise dharma on a much deeper level. I am recalling a multitude if childhood traumas and practise trying to become detached (watching, feeling and moving painful thoughts away like moving clouds in the sky). This is not an easy tool to manage, but trust in dharma helps me to manoeuvre thro painful thoughts which lead to painful feelings. Incredibly i am – not exactly sailing – but managing to wade thro many traumatic memories. Writing this has helped me to dedicate my efforts to all the virtuous Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Blessings, love and peace. 💜
I remember someone bringing up “compassion fatigue” in one of your articles that I am unable to locate. Asking it here, hope that’s okay!
I saw this research on empathy fatigue vs compassion and would love your thoughts on it. I believe it says (and I could be wrong) that empathy can lead to pain if not immediately followed up with genuine compassion. How does that contrast with Buddhist instructions on empathy, that is, how does one not fall into the trap of going into a painful place while training in but not yet having genuine compassion?
Thank you! See you at the festival and post festival retreat in Phoenix!
Thank you Luna. At first, I thought this is about being productive at work but I see how its being productive as a practitioner which is all the more important! I find it challenging sometimes to do both together, that is, consciously train in dharma at work. I am able to be a productive employee, take a break to make an effort to think about dharma, and get back to being productive at work while forgetting about dharma. Do you have any advice on how to do both together? Thanks!
Fantastic, thank you. So practical 🙂
Great! That was the idea, but I can’t always tell — so I’m glad you find it practical 😊