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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 113 passion, aggression, and ignorance, and how they relate to our emotional lives. “Anger is part of our nature,” the Dalai Lama told the students. “In order to sur- vive we need two elements emotionally: one to attract things that are favorable to our survival and another to repel obsta- cles. Anger is supposed to repel obstacles, but in reality there are no absolutes. If obstacles were something permanent or absolute, then maybe it would be right to repel them. And if there were things that were permanently, absolutely positive, maybe attachment would be OK. “But that’s not the reality,” he explained. “Today’s obstacles may become favorable or positive factors in the future. Today’s en- emy may in the future be your best friend. Things that are obstacles in one way may not be obstacles in another way. Generally our tendency is that when we confront situations, whether they are obstructive or positive, we tend to relate to them as if they were absolute and completely determined in themselves, and on the basis of that we react in a very disproportionate way, either through attachment or anger. The reality is that these are not absolutes, so our men- tal responses should also be like that.” His Holiness’ final exchange with the stu- dents allowed him to return to the central theme of unbiased (and effective) compas- sion, as panelist Vinnie Locsin asked him, “Why does it seem that tragedies need to occur before we feel compassion?” “This touches on the very definition of what we mean by compassion,” the Dalai Lama replied. “At the heart of compassion is our response to someone else’s suffering. The first point is their immediate suffering, and at another level is the causes or condi- tions of the suffering. Maybe it is wiser to develop compassion toward people who are creating the causes of their future suf- fering. That’s wiser, because compassion can bring preventive measures. Immediate suffering has already happened—we feel a sense of concern, but sometimes nothing can be done. Maybe our efforts should be to prevent these kinds of things in the future.” Not a man of extreme positions, the Dalai Lama had said earlier that there are circumstances in which the use of force is necessary, as he had said that a little bit of anger is OK. Here he said that the prob- lem is not self-interest, but narrow, short- sighted selfishness. If anything, he said, what we need is a larger sense of self. “Extreme self-centeredness is a mis- take, it’s dangerous,” he said. “But being self-centered is also reality. At the center of the whole universe is myself. When we use the expression ‘our galaxy,’ we are do- ing it from the point of view of ourselves. Then we say it’s our planet, our continent, my country, my district, my town, my family, then, ultimately, me. “The self is the center of our whole uni- verse; that is reality. The problem is that my interest, my future with this physical body, depends on the other. So the whole planet should be considered part of your- self. It is the basis of your future.” What about compassion for ourselves? he was asked. “The basis of compassion for others is compassion for oneself,” he said. “If you don’t have the natural wish to be freed from your own suffering, you won’t be able to empathize with others’ experience of suffering. Therefore, the basis is com- passion for oneself.” Finally, student-moderator Steven Boles asked, “How do we encourage young people to be compassionate to someone who looks or acts different from them?” The answer, said the Dalai Lama, was to “consider them like another human being, like a brother or sister. There are difficulties due to different religious or social back- grounds or races, but these are really arti- ficial differences. We have to have a wider perspective, a deeper way of thinking. “Education is the key factor. Some- times, unfortunately, people try to pro- mote hatred through education. That kind of education isolates you and is harmful. I think we need to educate people in today’s reality. First, we are all the same human being, mentally, emotionally, physically. We all have same right to happiness. On that basis we will naturally have a sense of concern and respect for others.” Brains grow love or love grows brains— either way, we hold the world’s future in our hearts. ♦ $15.95 paperback Wise and witty, heartfelt and profound, this third volume in an annual series brings together the year’s most notable prose and verse, inspired by the power and insight of Buddhist practice. Compiled by the editors of the Shambhala Sun, the collection includes contributors from fa- miliar favorites as well as some surprising voices who will delight and enlighten. Contributors include: Katy Butler Charles R. Johnson H. H. the Dalai Lama Dzigar Kongtrül Norman Fischer Anne Cushman Sakyong Mipham Pema Chödrön Thich Nhat Hanh John Welwood Andmore... The BesT BuddhisT WriTing 2006 Edited by Melvin McLeod Shambhala Publications Visit www.shambhala.com to receive a 20% discount on this and many other great books!