Antidote to Anger: Cultivating Patience and Effort
by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

The Key in Busy Lives

This idea that only formal sitting, doing prostrations, going to the temple, listening to Dharma teachings, and reading religious books constitute practice, and the rest of the day is so much ballast, can cause us to feel very frustrated with our lives.

We may end up resenting our families and our work, always dreaming of a time when we will be free to do “actual practice”. We might spend the best part of our lives resenting those very circumstances which could provide us with the most profound means of progressing on the spiritual path.

Actually, everything we do, if done with total awareness, is spiritual activity. On the other hand, if we perform an action distractedly, with only half our attention, it becomes just another worldly activity. One could be a great master meditating upon a high throne, but unless one is present and conscious in the moment, it is meaningless to sit there. On the other hand, one might be sweeping leaves, chopping vegetables or cleaning toilets, and provided one maintains complete attention, all these activities become spiritual practices.

And therein lies the key for those of us who have busy lives. We can convert actions we normally regard as routine, dull and spiritually meaningless into karma practice, and transform our entire lives in the process.

There are two separate aspects to bringing about this transformation, although they do converge. One is to create inner space. This is an inner centredness, inner silence, inner clarity, which enables us to begin seeing things more as they really are and not how we normally interpret them. The other aspect is learning to open up our hearts.

Practice Starts With Our Family

It’s relatively easy to sit on our cushion and think, “May all sentient beings be well and happy,” and send out thoughts of loving-kindness to all those little sentient beings out there on the horizon somewhere! Then somebody comes in and tells us there is a telephone call and we answer crossly, “Go away. I’m doing my loving-kindness meditation.”

The best place for us to begin our Dharma practice is with our family. We have the strongest karmic connections with family members; therefore, we have a great responsibility for developing our relationships with them. If we cannot develop loving-kindness towards our family, why even talk about other beings?

If we really want to open up our heart, it has to start with those directly connected to us, such as our partners, children, parents and siblings. This is always a difficult task, because we need to overcome deeply entrenched behavioural patterns.

I think this can be especially challenging with couples. He says this, she says that, every time, and each time the responses are so unskilful. They get locked into a pattern. They cause pain to themselves and to those around them, including their children, and they can’t get out. Putting loving-kindness into practice really helps loosen the tight patterns we have developed over many years. It’s sometimes a very good idea to just close our eyes, then open them and look at the person in front of us — especially if it’s someone we know very well, like our partner, our child or our parents — and really try to see them as if for the first time. This may help us to appreciate their good qualities, which will then aid us in developing loving-kindness for them.

Patience: The Antidote to Anger

Patience is the antidote to anger. From a Dharma perspective, patience is considered extremely important. The Buddha praised it as the greatest austerity. We must develop this wonderful, wide, expansive quality. It has nothing to do with suppressing or repressing or anything like that; rather, it’s about developing an open heart. In order to develop this, we need to have contact with people who annoy us. You see, when people are being loving and kind towards us, saying the things we want to hear and doing all the things we want them to do, it may feel great but we don’t learn anything. It’s very easy to love people who are lovable. The real test comes with people who are being absolutely obnoxious!

Shantideva, the seventh-century Indian scholar, wrote that the earth is full of pebbles, sharp rocks and thistles. So how can we avoid stubbing our toes? Are we going to carpet the whole earth? No one is rich enough to carpet the entire earth wall to wall. But if we take a piece of leather and apply it to the bottom of our soles as sandals or shoes, we can walk everywhere.

We don’t need to change the whole world and all the people in it to our specifications. There are billions of people out there but only one “me” How can I expect them all to do exactly what I want? But we don’t need that. All we need do is change our attitude.

Once when I was in South India, I went to see an astrologer and told him, “I have two choices. Either I can go back into retreat or I can start a nunnery. What should I do?” He looked at me and said, “If you go back into retreat, it will be very peaceful, very harmonious, very successful, and everything will be fine. If you start a nunnery, there will be lots of conflicts, lots of problems, lots of difficulties, but both are good, so you decide.” I thought, “Back into retreat, quick!” Then I met a Catholic priest and mentioned it to him. He said, “It’s obvious. You start the nunnery. What is the use of always seeking tranquillity and avoiding challenges?’” He said we are like rough pieces of wood. Trying to smooth our ragged edges down with velvet and silk won’t work. We need sandpaper.

The people who annoy us are our sandpaper. They are going to make us smooth. If we regard those who are extremely irritating as our greatest helpers on the path, we can learn a lot. They cease to be our problems and instead become our challenges.

A tenth-century Bengali pandita named Palden Atisha reintroduced Buddhism into Tibet. He had a servant who was really awful. He was abusive to Atisha, disobedient, and generally a big problem. The Tibetans asked Atisha what he was doing with such an awful guy who was so completely obnoxious. They said, “Send him back. We’ll take care of you.” Atisha replied, “What are you talking about? He is my greatest teacher of patience. He is the most precious person around me!”

Patience does not mean suppression, and it doesn’t mean bottling up our anger or turning it in on ourselves in the form of self-blame. It means having a mind which sees everything that happens as the result of causes and conditions we have set in motion at some time in this or past lives. Who knows what our relationship has been with someone who is causing us difficulties now? Who knows what we may have done to him in another life! If we respond to such people with retaliation, we are just locking ourselves into that same cycle. We are going to have to keep replaying this part of the movie again and again in this and future lifetimes. The only way to break out of the cycle is by changing our attitude.

I met a Tibetan monk who had been imprisoned for 25 years in labour camps. He had been tortured and treated badly, and his body was pretty much a wreck. But his mind! When you looked into his eyes, far from seeing bitterness, brokenness, or hatred in them, you could see that they were glowing. He looked as though he had just spent 25 years in retreat! All he talked about was his gratitude to his captors. They had really helped him develop overwhelming love and compassion towards those who caused him harm. He said, “Without them I would have just continued mouthing platitudes.” But because of his imprisonment, he had had to draw on his inner strength. In such circumstances, you either go under or you surmount. When he emerged from prison, he felt nothing but love and understanding towards his captors.

Once I read a book by Jack London. I can’t remember the title. It was called something about the stars. It was a story about a college professor who had murdered his wife and was in San Quentin prison. The prison guards did not like this guy at all. He was too intelligent. So they did everything they could to harass him. One of the things they did was to bind people in very rigid canvas sacking and pull it tight so that they could hardly move or breathe, and their whole body would feel crushed. If anyone stayed in this for more than forty-eight hours, they died. They would continually put the professor in this for twenty-four or thirty hours at a time. While he was wrapped up like this, because the pain was unendurable, he began to have out-of-body experiences. Eventually he began to go through past lives. Then he saw his interrelationships in past lives with the people who were tormenting him. At the end of the book he was about to be hanged, but he felt nothing but love and understanding towards his tormentors. He really understood why they were doing what they were doing. He felt their inner unhappiness, confusion and anger which were creating the scenario.

In our own modest way, we too must develop the ability to transform negative occurrences and take them on the path. We learn much more from our pain than from our pleasures. This doesn’t mean we have to go out and look for pain — far from it. But when pain comes to us, in whatever form, instead of resenting it and creating more pain, we can see it as a great opportunity to grow — to get out of our normal thinking patterns, such as, “He doesn’t like me, so I’m not going to like him.” We can begin to transcend all that and use this method to open up the heart.

Applying the Four Efforts

Applying the four efforts — the effort to prevent the unwholesome from arising, the effort to discard that unwholesomeness which has already arisen, the effort to create the wholesome which has not yet arisen, and the effort to cultivate and maintain that wholesomeness which has arisen — is another way.

Cultivating wholesomeness, sometimes also translated as skilfulness, means developing states of mind such as understanding, love, generosity and openness of heart which create within us and around us a state of harmony and peace. This is in contrast to the unwholesome, or unskilful, states of mind such as ignorance, greed and aversion which create within us and without us states of conflict.

So, part of maintaining our awareness is to be aware of the states of our mind and where they are coming from. We must have discernment. We have to recognise those thoughts and emotions that are rooted in the negative factors. It’s not a matter of suppression; it’s a matter of recognising them, accepting them and letting them go. We don’t maintain them, and we don’t follow them.

As our awareness grows, we become more acutely conscious of our mental states and are able to see, for instance, when aversion or anger creeps into our mind. We can recognise it. We can even name it and say, “This is anger.” But we don’t identify with it. We just see that this is an angry state of mind. We accept that is what it is. But knowing that it’s not a helpful state of mind, we can also drop it. On the other hand, when positive states of mind come, we can recognise them, we can acknowledge them and we can try to help them remain, to grow, to be appreciated. So, it’s not just a matter of blaming ourselves for all our negative thoughts. There’s no blame here. It’s recognising what is there and being able to let go. And when it’s positive, it’s recognising it and encouraging it. It’s dealing with knowing, knowing what is in the mind, without getting caught in our conflicts.

Mastering the Mind

It’s not our emotions, even our negative emotions, which are the problem. The problem is whether they control us or we control them. The best way to control is through seeing, and the best way to see is through developing awareness. Once we are conscious and aware of our emotions, of our motivations, then we have the wish-fulfilling gem in our hands and everything can be transformed. As long as we are unknowing, as long as we identify with our thoughts and emotions, as long as we are controlled by our thoughts and emotions, we are slaves. So it’s a matter of learning how to master the mind. Who is going to be in control here — our emotions or us? (Whatever ‘us’ may be — we’re talking on a relative level here!)

Most of us are complete slaves to our emotions and thoughts. When we are angry, we are the anger. When we are jealous, we are the jealousy. When we are depressed, we are the depression. We are complete slaves to our desires, our anger, our aversions, our jealousies, our hopes and our fears. We’re not in control at all.

First, we have to learn to be in control of our own minds. After all, our mind is the closest thing we have; it’s how we perceive everything. External circumstances are nothing compared to the internal circumstances of our mind. So if we want to benefit ourselves and others, we have to master our minds. The easiest and quickest way to do that is to develop this moment-to-moment awareness of the mind. By doing this we can find the space to see what is happening within us and to select that which is helpful. That which is not helpful, we can drop. All our Dharma practices are directed towards attaining this mastery and understanding. First we have to understand. Then, through that understanding, we can gain mastery.

The Buddha said that someone who kills a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield is nothing compared with one who is master of himself. He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior. So we have to learn to conquer ourselves. But we don’t conquer ourselves by creating an inner battlefield; we conquer ourselves through developing understanding, insight and awareness. This takes enormous effort because the inertia of our mind is so deep, so entrenched.

Emptying Ourselves First

Our layers upon layers of opinions, interpretations, elaborations and memories distance us from what is actually happening, who is actually in front of us, what is actually occurring inside ourselves.

A great Thai master was once asked what his main problem was with people who came to him for instruction. He said that the main problem with them was that they were already so full of their own ideas and opinions, they were like a cup filled to the brim with dirty water. You can’t pour anything on top because if you do, it will just become dirty too. First, you have to empty out the cup and clean it, and then you can pour in the ambrosia. And so, for us too, we need to clear out; we don’t need to add more at this time. We need to start peeling off all our opinions, all our ideas, and all our cleverness and just remain very naked, in the moment, just seeing things as they are, like a small child.

If we do that, then it gives some space for the innate intelligence to which we all have to surface. And with that intelligence comes a genuine openness of the heart. But if we try to do all these practices on top of all the junk which we already harboured in our mind, nothing is ever affected. We just distort; no real transformation will take place.

Seeing As If For the First Time

Sometimes people ask me what I gained from living for so many years in a cave. I say, “It’s not what I gained, it’s what I lost.” I think that in Dharma practice it is very important first to really have a period of dropping rather than building up. This is why a practice like Shamatha, just quietly sitting, can be so very, very beneficial because it gives us space to begin to peel off and empty out.

Also, during the day, as much as you can, try to bring the mind back into the present and try to see things as if one is seeing them for the very first time. This is especially valuable with people we are very connected to — our spouse, our children, our colleagues at work. Try to look at them as if seeing them for the very first time with completely fresh, new eyes.

Moment to moment, we are. After a while, we become so heavily habituated we don’t see any more. All we see are our own ideas, impressions and memories. It’s very important that we should practise now so that at the time of our death we can think, “Well, I tried. I did the best I could and so I can die without regrets.”

Like a treasure found at home, enriching me without fatigue, enemies are helpers in the Bodhisattva life. They should be a pleasure and a joy to me.

— Shantideva

Buddha-Nature and Ignorance
by Venerable Sheng Yen

Buddha-nature is pure and unchanging. However, we may ask, if sentient beings are originally Buddhas, how did we become impure and how did we fall into ignorance? When we say that sentient beings are originally Buddhas we are stating a universal principle that everyone has the potential to discover their innate Buddha-nature. We often hear the saying, “Anyone can become president of the United States.” This means that any native-born citizen of the United States has the potential to become president. But that does not mean everyone is president. Similarly every sentient being is capable of becoming a Buddha, but not every sentient being has realised Buddhahood.

How did sentient beings originate in the first place? No religion or philosophy has yet answered this question to everyone’s satisfaction. Certainly it would be nice if we began as Buddhas and did not suffer vexation. But Buddhism does not address these questions of origin, and will say only that there is no fixed point in time when sentient beings were created. If we say that God made sentient beings, then many questions arise: Why did He create heaven and hell? Why did He create suffering? Why do sentient beings do evil? Buddhism does not seek to answer these questions; it only tries to answer the question of why sentient beings suffer, and how suffering can be alleviated.

In one of the sutras, the Buddha tells the story of a man wounded by a poison arrow. This man begins to ask all kinds of questions about how he came to be wounded by a poison arrow. The Buddha said that it would be wiser for the man to remove the arrow and begin healing, rather than ask a lot of questions about what kind of poison was used, the lineage of the man who shot him, and so on. Similarly, Buddhism tries to cure the disease of suffering, not to answer philosophical questions.

As to why we do not now have the purity of a Buddha, it is because over countless lifetimes, we have accumulated karma, doubts, and vexations that have clouded our minds with ignorance, or in Sanskrit, avidya. Our inability to recognise our own original Buddha-nature is a result of this ignorance. What then is avidya? Buddhism regards phenomena as occurring in time and space, impermanent, and changing. These qualities are interdependent. For example, a movement in space takes place over time, and both conditions result in a change to our physical and psychological environment. Something that is universal and eternal, however, is unchanging. It is impossible for it to exist “here” and not “there.” Thus, when we say that sentient beings are originally Buddhas, we are referring to their unchanging Buddha-nature, not the local, temporary, and changing vexations that manifest as experience.

Let’s use the analogy of space: space is originally unchanging but when enclosed by a container — round or square, large or small — the space seems to take on the shape of the container — it becomes round or square, large or small. Actually, the space itself remains unchanged; it just temporarily takes on the appearance of the container. Similarly, when the ordinary mind responds to a stimulus in the environment, its mental content changes accordingly and there is a potential for vexation to arise. This is avidya, a mental state of moment-to-moment change, which remains ignorant of the real nature of phenomena.

Ignorance has been present since time without beginning, causing sentient beings to continue the cycle of birth and death. But ignorance itself is not eternal, universal, or permanent. It is a space-time phenomenon that is continually in flux. When we use our practice to bring our minds to an unmoving state, avidya — in the form of greed, hatred, and ignorance — will not have a chance to arise. In this state, our unchanging Buddha-nature has a chance to be revealed. When our minds are not excited or tempted by the environment, ignorance does not exist for us. There is only Buddha-nature.

Until we completely remove all ignorance, we continue to discriminate and use a mind limited by avidya to contain that which has no limits. When ignorance and its containers are removed, only the universal, unchanging Buddha-nature, also called tathagata, remains. Ignorance, on the other hand, has no original existence; it can only exist conditionally. If it had true existence, it would not be in a state of constant change.

The analogy of water and waves is used in the sutras to illustrate this point. In the absence of wind, water is still and calm but when the wind blows, waves form. The waves are the same substance as the water, but originally they did not exist. In this same way ignorance did not originally exist, until blown by the winds of the individual’s karma. In this analogy, water is the ever-existing tathagata; waves are ignorance. Water can exist without waves but waves must have water to exist.

As I said earlier, when we say that sentient beings are originally Buddhas, we are speaking in terms of principle and potential. If we say that Shakyamuni was the Buddha, and he died twenty-five hundred years ago, we are speaking of the historical Buddha who took on the appearance of ignorance to help sentient beings. The real Buddha, the tathagata, is eternal. He never came, and he never left. The Buddha took a human form so that he could speak on the level of the sentient beings. Free from avidya, the Buddha only reflects the ignorance of sentient beings.

To reach the universal, eternal and unchanging requires a great deal of faith and practice. On the basis of faith, people can say that they have met the Buddha. This is also true when we have gained some benefit from practice. However, when most people make such a statement, they only have an intellectual understanding of what it means to meet the Buddha. Unless your religious convictions are strong, you won’t be able to directly experience Buddha-nature. Most Buddhists seek a spiritual life but don’t necessarily want to see the Buddha. Those who want understanding will only see the Buddha as light or sound. Those whose religious faith is strong will definitely see the Buddha.












Most wondrous is this opportunity found but once, this foundation with eight freedoms and ten endowments. Yet it is impermanent, like a rainbow, for who can be certain that even today consciousness will not leave his body? We die, young and old alike, and in the end, who meets not with death?

— His Holiness the 7th Dalai Lama

A Simple Sense of Delight
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

I recently asked a Tibetan lama friend, “Who seems happier — the nomads in Tibet or the people you have met in America?” He told me that since America is famous for its wealth and technology, in the beginning he was sure that he would find happier, more cheerful people here. But after the initial phase of simple awe for what the West has accomplished, he began to see people as people, and he had no doubt that the simple nomads of Tibet are happier and more cheerful.

Tibetans do, as a people, seem very cheerful. Is their cheer due to living in a rural culture, or do they owe it to practicing the Buddhist teachings of meditation? In either case, I think their cheerfulness has something to do with simplicity. Simplicity allows us to experience our mind in a raw and naked state. In my own experience, one of the most welcome and important aspects of practicing and studying the Buddhist teachings is that we begin to trust our mind and discover the inherent goodness in it. The result is feeling cheerful.

Most of us think of cheerfulness as a mood that shows up in our life for random reasons — a nice day, a birthday party or the simple pleasure of being with friends. Even though we don’t always experience it as the river running throughout our life, we appreciate cheerfulness and enjoy it when it happens.

Certainly our culture encourages us to put on a cheerful face. It may feel like we are forcing it, which nobody likes. We smear ourselves with cheerfulness and hope that nobody — including ourselves — notices that we aren’t happy. Then we crave more. For example, we eat until our stomach hurts, or become so attached to our friend that the relationship falls apart. Because it isn’t genuine, this kind of cheerfulness is difficult to maintain, as if we’re covering up a deep wound.

On the other hand, sometimes we abstain from cheerfulness. We think that this will save us from feeling tricked or foolish when our cheerfulness comes to its inevitable end. We’re convinced that it’s better to be on the defence: life will always raise its painful, ugly head. When someone tells us to cheer up and we don’t want to cheer up, it just makes us feel angrier.

Under such conditions, and because our moods change constantly, we might not understand that cheerfulness is in fact an inherent quality of mind. Within the meditative tradition, cheerfulness is considered to be the natural, harmonious and wholesome expression of our truest self. In Tibetan it is known as dekyi — blissful, happy energy. Somebody who is cheerful in an unforced way seems to have an air of possibility, a light and fresh approach. This kind of cheerfulness helps the mind to move forward, beyond the distortion and torment of emotions.

Cheerfulness comes naturally with meditation. It is a quality of space created within the mind. When there’s space in the mind, the mind relaxes, and we feel a simple sense of delight. We experience the possibility of living a life in which we aren’t continuously bombarded by emotions, discursiveness and concepts about the nature of things.

Lack of genuine cheerfulness is a result of claustrophobia in our mind and heart. There is simply too much going on; we feel overwhelmed and speedy. We were somehow under the impression that life was meant to be happy, and now we’re getting the short end of the stick. The harder we try to contort reality into our fantasy of happiness, the less happy we are, and the more chaotic our mind seems.

On the path of meditation we take into account the harshness of life, and perpetually temper that with cheerfulness — not out of ignorance, but out of wisdom. Contemplating the truth of pain and suffering does not lead to depression. Rather, it helps us appreciate what we have, which is buddhanature. All of us are naturally buddha, “awake.” Knowing that we are all naturally awake brings delight.

In dark times like these when we feel even more burdened and insecure, we should be contemplating our true nature more than ever. It can cheer us up on any day. Despite all the ups and downs of our life, we are fundamentally awake individuals who have a natural ability to become compassionate and wise. Our nature is to be cheerful. This cheerfulness is deeper than temporary conditions. The day does not have to be sunny for us to be cheerful.

We can depend on random experiences to remind us of these truths, or we can go about it in a systematic way by engaging in a daily meditation practice. When we practice meditation, we are encouraging this natural state of cheerfulness. We don’t have to regard meditating as a somber activity; we can think of it as sitting there and being cheerful. We are using a technique to build clarity, strength and flexibility of mind. In training our mind in pliability and power, we’re learning to relax, to loosen up, so that we can change our attitude on a dime. Strength of mind and pliancy are the causes and result of cheerfulness.

When we rise from our meditation seat, we can continue the practice of cheerfulness as we bring it forth into our day. When we’re about to sink into a depression or indulge in discursiveness, we can entertain the notion that cheerfulness is an endless possibility, one that gives us the option of moving forward in any situation, instead of being oppressed by it.

“Always maintain only a joyful mind” is a famous slogan by a great Buddhist practitioner named Atisha, who developed many slogans for mind training. Even back in the eleventh century, being cheerful was a meditative path. This path and this training need to be rooted in reality. The reality is that underneath all the flickers of desire and all the dreams we use to fool ourselves into seeking temporary forms of happiness, our mind is clear and cheerful.

It’s not that we always need to be cheerful, for there are times when cheerfulness in relationship to what’s happening isn’t appropriate. Obviously if somebody is hurt or sick, we would be insensitive to respond with cheerfulness.

Nor does cheerfulness require us to be constant cheerleaders. We can delight in just sitting there doing nothing. Going for a walk or eating a piece of fruit can be fulfilling experiences. We do not need to prove our cheerfulness again and again; it arises simply and naturally. We’re happy to be alive. Having more money or more food is never going to replace that basic sense of delight.

In Tibet they say, “The joy of a king is no greater than the joy of a beggar.” It isn’t what we possess — it’s what we enjoy. This means the experience of genuine cheerfulness cannot be bought or sold. What makes it genuinely cheerful is that we are free from fixation and attachment. We are free of having to depend on something else to make us happy. We can bask freely in the natural radiance of our mind. This is the equanimity of true cheerfulness — nothing more, nothing less.


— 廣欽老和尚




四生的类别;谓:胎以情有。卵以想生。(如鱼之比目,母鸡之孜孜不息的孵雏。)湿以气合。(由寒热之气和合而生,如昆虫之依湿而受形者。)化以利应。(无所依托,唯依业力而忽起者,如诸天与地狱及劫初众生,皆由化生而致。据佛典云:劫初之人,男女未分,皆为化生。其后因发情欲,始有男女异性之分。)至于胎生,因情而有,一切动物,莫不皆然。盖情包括色情、爱情、感情、范围最广。而人类在胎生中,称为万物之灵。则有胎内五位及胎外五位之分。胎内五位,说明生育之次第,胎外之五位,记录生命之历程。胎内五位:(1) 羯罗蓝位:译曰和合成秽杂,或凝滑膜。(2) 琐部昙位:译曰疱。经二七日渐渐增长为疮鼓形之位。(3) 闭尸位:译曰血肉。经三七日渐为血肉之位。 (4) 健南位:译曰坚肉。凝厚肉团,经四七日渐至肉坚之位。(5) 钵罗奢法位:译曰支节形位,五支经五七日渐具六根之位。即完具胎儿之驱体也。(见俱舍论及同光记九。)及其出生之后,又分为胎外五位;即 (1) 婴孩、(2) 童子、(3) 少年、(4) 中年、(5) 老年。以至于老死。(见俱舍论十五)可见人生之过程,无时无刻不在变化中。吾人学佛贵能由人而修成罗汉、菩萨,来化度一切众生。切不可由人的本位,这样难得人身,而再退化变为其他胎生、卵生、湿身等等下等生物,或更坠落于三途恶趣,那就很对不起自己的性灵了。但是要希望向上不退,必须要趁现生的时候,发学佛的大乘心,就会发大愿力,就有坚固的意志与力量,来保障上进的前程。这是任何人必须及时把握自己,策励自己的一桩重要的大事。

Sentient beings are buddha in their true nature. However, (their true nature) has been covered by adventitious obscurations. When their obscurations are cleared, they are the very Buddha.

— The Buddha

Good Heart: Four Immeasurables
by Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche

Your spiritual practice cannot function without realisation and meditation as well as a good heart. Human beings have many good thoughts, ideas, emotions, and beliefs. But the most positive, extraordinary feeling or emotion is a good heart.

A good heart is a feeling of tenderness. We refer to it as a good heart, but it is more complex than a single emotion. There are four qualities or components of a good heart. The first is love, the second is compassion, the third is joy and the fourth is impartiality. These are sometimes called the Four Boundless Attitudes or the Four Immeasurables.


Once you really understand and recognise that all people, your friends, family, the rest of humanity, all beings are just like you, once you understand and recognise that, love is sincerely wishing happiness and the conditions of happiness for them. Love is sincerely wishing happiness and conditions that support happiness for all whom you have contact with, or are connected with, and for all others. That wish, that wanting happiness and conditions for happiness for others is truly love.


Compassion is the next of these four aspects of a good heart. It’s the complementary element to the quality of love. People often think that compassion is something that we feel only for someone who is critically injured, very sick or in a horrible condition of some kind. People think of compassion as what we feel when someone is undergoing serious difficulty and we think, “Oh I feel so sorry for that person.” That is one dimension or form of compassion, but the compassion that is meant here is something we can feel for everyone.

You can have compassion for someone who is not sick, who is healthy, who is mentally and physically well. You can have compassion for that person because, as long as they live in this world they will undergo physical, mental, and emotional discomfort at various times. They experience disappointment and sadness, anger, aggression, and a whole array of undesirable circumstances. You can wish for them to be free from all these problems and unwanted circumstances and the conditions of these, the circumstances that cause these. Nominally they may be fine, but they are still subject to all these problems and unwanted circumstances.


Once you have the understanding that everyone is just like you, then when others are doing well and they are happy, when they are successful, when they are materially and spiritually flourishing, then when you look at that person without envy or jealousy you appreciate their happiness, you acknowledge and rejoice in that, and you genuinely feel happy for them. This is the joyous aspect of a good heart. Being happy and celebrating another individual’s or country’s or group’s success is a form of good heart.

Once you have this joy, then their happiness and success makes you happy. Their success and happiness don’t make you envious, but make you happy. We already have the tendency to rejoice. The more we think clearly, the more we rejoice in others’ good fortune.


The fourth component of a good heart is impartiality, which is that your love, compassion, and joy toward others is impartial. Your good heart is not subject to any kind of restriction to a group or category or species or race or people who belong to a certain religion, but it is for all equally.

Impartiality means not taking sides, not having some kind of personal bias or prejudice regarding other beings. When your love, your compassion, and your joy are for everyone equally, that is impartiality. Impartiality influences all of the other aspects of a good heart that we’ve described. Impartiality means that our love, compassion, and joy toward everyone is equal, is impartial, without any bias.

The truth is that everybody is the same. Understanding that everybody is the same is a proper understanding of reality. Everybody is like you. Why would you want happiness but other people not want that? Why would you want to avoid suffering but other people not want that? The world doesn’t exist only for you. The world exists for all of us. That attitude is the source of a good heart. Once you understand this truth, then that slowly leads to the thought that everyone should be treated well.