With Bodhimind, Political Season A Good Time To Work With Negative Emotions

Audience: These afflictive emotions I feel all the time, particularly anger, whenever I open a newspaper in this political season. These negative emotions get provoked, for good reason. What antidotes can we apply? What do I do when I hear that a drone strike paid for by our tax dollars has just killed men, women and children in Pakistan? I feel so much rage and shame. What antidote can I apply? Is tonglen breath enough?

Rimpoche: Thank you for the question. Tonglen is give and take. It is giving your virtues and joys to others and taking their sufferings and pain on yourself. This question is very important. Give and take is great, however, it is not enough. What you really need is powerful compassion. Without compassion, it is very difficult.

A lot of people think that to purify our negativities we have to say the Vajrasattva recitation. A lot of American Buddhists think that way. Yes, it is true. The Vajrasattva recitation is meant for purification. However, compassion and bodhimind is much more powerful than that. Shantideva himself said:

Dik pa tob chen shin tu mi se pa
De ne dzok pai jang chub sem min pe
De zhin kang gi se kyen mi par gyur

Such a powerful negativity as this,
Who else can destroy it except bodhimind?

The question here is: what is bodhimind? It is ultimate, unconditional love-compassion combined together. That is the answer to your question. You had another point about the political season and that one has to get upset about it rightly for the right reasons. Very true. But there is a trick to learn how to do this. The trick is this: you can participate and be engaged in the argument, take the opposite view and all of this. When the majority is supporting Obama, you can take the side of Mitt Romney, or vice versa and engage in it. That is playing theater. In the theater, you are playing. You fully participate and your face is getting red, you can shout and scream, yet your pure mind is neither influenced by anger, nor by [other negative emotions]. This is a great opportunity for us to play on that playground. That is how people should look at it. Fully participate and shout and scream and do whatever, but do not waver in your mind.

It is also good entertainment and a good subject of talk. Maybe I am being a little silly goat, but that is how you can play with this. If you do that, you will learn how to handle your anger, your hatred and jealousy and all of them. There is great opportunity to learn that by participating. It is not going to change anything. I am not going to change your mind. You are not going to change my mind. But you can argue and play around. But remember, while you are doing that you are playing. You have to remember that very often, otherwise you can get completely stuck in there and that’s not right. But then also do whatever you think is best. So, the political season gives us this type of opportunity to learn how to play with the negative emotions.

It is supposed to be about positive emotions. According to my understanding the forefathers, when they held elections, it was about positive emotions and good deeds and so forth. Today it has changed into negative emotions. It is also easy to see – not so much the presidential elections, but other things. Many of them will be decided by the public based on 30 second sound bites. So you can really see how human mind works, how human beings pursue this. It is a beautiful thing, honestly. The political season is a beautiful opportunity for us to exercise the handling of our negative emotions. That’s how I always like to take the side of whoever is losing. So my candidates never get elected. (laughs) I think that’s how we handle this. Thanks for the question.


~ Gelek Rimpoche, Garrison Institute, New York, May 27, 2012


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