Every action we take, mental, physical or emotional, follows a thought of ours. Nobody just gets up and runs. People first think, “I want to get up, I want to go. I have pain, I can’t sit. I have got to get up.” Some thought comes and following that thought you act. Let’s say you sense discomfort in your stomach. Then the thought comes, “I must go to the toilet.” Then you move and go there. I am sorry to use that as an example. You don’t all of a sudden run to the toilet, unless there is a cause for it. So for every single act, whether we recognize it or not, a thought or idea went before. We are acting on that idea.
So who provides that idea? Ourselves. I provide that idea for me. Then I follow it. So it is me who is doing it. So are you. That’s where you have a place and opportunity. That’s where you have a choice whether you want to torture yourself or whether you want to have it pleasant for yourself. The choice is yours, and this is the spot where you can choose. People do that. Some people are being physically tortured. And they can sometimes make the physical torture easier because of managing their mind. There are a number of stories from the Tibetans. Many were jailed by the Communist Chinese back in Tibet 20, 30 years ago. They were tortured. So every time the torture came they said it was a matter of how they chose to think. If you think, “I am going to be tortured, I am going to be killed; it is terrible” then you never have peace.
On the other hand, you can think in two ways, positive or negative. Both are ways to make it easier for yourself. The positive way is thinking, “I am here for democracy, for the benefit of the people and this and that.” The negative route is, “I have been caught by the enemy. They are going to torture me, but I am not going to give it to them. Let them do whatever. It’s because I was caught and overpowered.” With these thoughts your pain will be less. Both negative and positive thoughts can give relief to physical pain and torture. That’s because you can manage yourself – it’s not the positive blessing or the negative effect, it is your own mind that is making it. Knowing that; knowing that positive deeds bring positive results gives you the room to influence your mind – for your own benefit. You can develop positive thoughts like faith and love and compassion. If you keep adding up to that in your life, that will improve your life. Just as you can get addicted to negative emotions like anger, hatred and jealousy, you can also get addicted to love, compassion, faith. When you do that you shift your way of living from negative influences to positive influences.
When you do that your deeds will change, how you function, how you react, how you think. When that changes it effects your companion, your spouse, your kids, your mother-in-law. Everyone will feel that effect. When you feel that effect the reaction you get is better. There is a big surprise in life that you can get. This is nothing mystical. We always know that if we engage in violence that violence brings violence. Similarly, non-violence will bring non-violence. But it is harder to notice, because while you try to be non-violent, the other side will keep being violent for a while, because we are all addicted to that. We know nothing other than violence, honestly. Even though we are “committed” to human rights and environmental improvements and all that. But we always think deep down, “We will tell them, but if they don’t listen, we will attack them.” That’s what we have done everywhere. That’s how we are at war now in four places at least, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya. That’s what’s officially known. Unknown, you never know how many. Deeply, we are good person and are committed to helping. But then we think, “If they are not listening, we have to attack them.” That to me is violence. Also compared with the US administration a few years ago, today it is definitely much better. No doubt about it. But still, Obama tried to adjust and said, “If we don’t attack Libya today tomorrow they will kill 700,000 people.” That is a big excuse to me. Honestly. We are impatient. We just want to do it now and get it over with.
Look at our TV programs that are reporting on what’s happening in Libya. Immediately they look for a conclusive result. “Is Qaddafi down? Is he going to be kicked out or killed? We bombed his palace. Did we miss him? What happened?” The television shows us how impatient we are. We are addicted. We want instant result, because we are used to that through our entertainment. It is our own personal addiction. Impatience is not good. Patience is virtue.
Even Buddha said, “There is no such difficult negativity like hatred; there is no such difficult virtue as patience.” We don’t have patience. We want everything to happen yesterday.
This is how we are driving our lives. Recognize that and give yourself relief and move to a neutral place. Then get into a positive place. Yes, everybody likes compassion. That is a catchy word. A lot of Hollywood people talk about it. Fancy artists talk about it. It is the passion of us liberals. Compassion is something for liberals, not for conservatives. Sometimes that may not be true. Some conservative people have much more compassion than so-called liberals.
~ Gelek Rimpoche, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor, April 16, 2011