Monday, June 11, 2012

First Steps Toward Compassion - His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Already having formal education in both the Anglican and Catholic faiths, this summer I'm doing independent reading on Buddhism in an effort to study how the faiths. 

In My Own Words - An Introduction to My Teachings and Philosophy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama examines the first steps toward compassion:

Dedication: This book is dedicated to all sentient beings that we may be free from suffering and to the great teachers of all traditions who teach us how.

Excerpt from Chapter 1 On Happiness:  

The First Steps Toward Compassion

          We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions, and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled. If, however, they are not, these negative emotions will plague us-with no extra effort on their part!- and impede our quest for the happiness of a loving mind.
          So, for a start, it is useful to investigate whether or not anger is of value. Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence, and determination. Here, though, we must examine out mental state carefully. While it is true that anger brings extra energy, if we explore the nature of this energy, we discover that it is blind; we cannot be sure whether its result will be positive or negative. This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So, the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others.

Front Cover of "In My Own Words" By His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Book checked out from the City of Austin Public Library.
Photo taken by Donna Welles 06/11/12

         It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy from which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as a sign of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: They are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful, and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness.
         So, when a problem arises, try to remain humble, maintain a sincere attitude, and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, other may try to take advantage of you, and if by remaining detached you only encourage unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand. This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill intent.
         You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion, and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts. Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate, and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits its target.

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