Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple, Singapore
Golden Pagoda Buddhist Temple officially opened to the public on 1st January 2017 after it closed for reconstruction for a few years.
Many young people today have lost their identity. They have difficulty understanding who they are, so they try to identify with different roles, different ideas. But then, not finding their identity in any of these roles, they become lost. Disturbed, they lead meaningless lives doing whatever comes to mind, without much thought. Such things are happening in this world.
From the moment we were born until now, each of us has tried to emanate in many different ways. Many of us have emanated as hippies and movie stars or as terrorists or politicians, capitalists or communists. We have tried almost everything, only to discover in the end that whatever we have tried to identify with has turned out to be illusion, not reality.
These are good examples. You can see how your concrete concept of “me” tries to identify with some outer philosophical viewpoint, thinking, “I am this; I am this.” But then “this” is not what you find that you are. Instead, today you have discovered that you have loving kindness wisdom energy. You know you have this within you. You should trust this energy and identify with it instead of trusting outer projections. Your loving kindness wisdom energy must be cultivated, fertilised, protected, and tended well, like a garden. It can be nourished and developed and unified as the deity Gyalwa Gyatso.
We carry within us a heavy blanket of concepts and projections about ourselves. Over time we have constructed a kind of concentration camp within us, one iron bar, then another and another and another — so many concrete projections. In order to break through these projections, we need a profound vision of method and wisdom. We need to clothe ourselves in the very finest image: the union of great compassion and nonduality. This is your identity — your identity and your reality. You should wear this image in order to break through your limited, closed projections of who you are.
In our twentieth-century world there is so much hatred, disunity, and conflict. People are fighting for material possessions, are trying to conquer each other, never feeling love for one another. You can see this going on everywhere. It is incredible. Sometimes, even with a beloved friend, when you are both angry, you can’t feel your friend’s love and you can’t feel love for them. So we all understand how much the world needs peace and love — each individual and mankind as a whole. Therefore, we can easily see how logical and how worthwhile it is to practice such a profound yoga method. With this practice there is no need for hesitation; there can be no philosophical objections. It is very scientific, very down to earth.
When we talk about loving kindness, we are just using words. But mere words do not help. We may know the words, but if we don’t actively energise loving kindness in our nervous system, then we have achieved nothing. This yoga method unifies loving kindness with our nervous system. This is exactly what we need, and this is why I am requesting you not to waste the time and energy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We should put concentrated effort and dedication into our retreat, then at least we will have been telling the truth when we promised, during the initiation, to engage seriously in this practice. And, of course, we will be doing something worthwhile.
Love and compassion come in different forms. There is pure love and pure compassion, which manifest in the form of Gyalwa Gyatso. But there is also selfish love. If we think about it, we can see that selfish love can be either positive or negative. It has both qualities. On the one hand, selfish love and selfish motivation are based on mental projections that fixate on their objects, such as family, husband, wife, or nationality, as “mine.” While the love you feel is, in fact, selfish, at the same time because of it, you give and share something. You give to your brother, your sister, your husband or wife thinking, “Because they are my relatives, because we Italian people are the same, because we all eat pizza, I therefore have an obligation to give them what I can.”
Selfish love, although limited, does have a kind of manipulative power to give, to serve. It has power that can aid in transforming you into a better, warmer person. For example, many men say, “Oh, I am not a bad man. I take care of twenty children and my wife. I send them to school, I give them good food, and I love them. They have a good home, and I do everything I can for them. Because of this, when I die, I shall die happy and satisfied.” There is some satisfaction in this. Do you understand? The motivation may be selfish and limited, but one’s actions bring benefit to others, and as a result a kind of transformation takes place.
Even though selfish love does have these positive attributes, it is clear that pure love and pure compassion serve in a much more profound, more dedicated way and bring about far more profound and far-reaching results. By practicing the profound highest yoga tantra method of Gyalwa Gyatso — the pure vision of the Dalai Lama — we are engaging in a mental exercise to eliminate the selfish mind completely. Through this profound practice of transformation, we can develop pure limitless love and compassion and thus experience directly their effectiveness in our own lives. We can experience this pure vision for ourselves. Because we so often see each other as objects of anger and hatred due to our mental projections, we are sorely in need of this pure vision. It is genuinely worthwhile and, happily, there is no doubt at all that we can achieve it.
What seems to be external, the domain of the grasped, is pure. What seems to be internal, the grasping mind, is empty. What seems to lie in between is luminosity. May I recognise it! Joyful Buddhas of the three times, look upon me with compassion. Bless beings such as me with liberation.
— Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche
Emptiness is form. Because of emptiness, therefore form exists. Because form is empty, therefore form exists. Emptiness is other than form. It explains the union of the two truths. Emptiness is the ultimate truth and form is the conventional existing object. This bring us to dependent origination. The conclusion of dependent arising is that all phenomena are the union of these two truths. They are empty and they arise out of causes and conditions.
— 4th Zong Rinpoche, Tenzin Wangdak
Losar Message from His Holiness Karmapa (Tibetan with English subtitles)
Dalai Lama’s Losar Wishes and Messages for Tibetan People
Is anger an empowering and appropriate response to suffering and injustice, or does it only cause more conflict? Is it skillful or unskillful? Does it help or hurt?
With so many bad things happening in the world these days, there’s a lot of debate about the proper role of anger. The answer may lie in the fundamental distinction Buddhism makes between anger and aggression.
According to Buddhism, aggression is one of the “three poisons” that drive our suffering. Even a brief moment of reflection on our own lives, our society, and human history will confirm that aggression is the greatest cause of destruction and suffering.
As with the other two poisons — ignorance and passion — what defines aggression is ego. Aggression is the energy of anger in the service of all we define as “self,” ready to attack anyone and anything we deem a threat. But when anger is released from its service to ego, it ceases to be aggression and simply becomes energy. The pure energy of anger has wisdom and power. It can even be enlightened.
THE BUDDHAS ARE ANGRY
The buddhas are not just the love-and-light people we like to think they are. Of course, their enlightened mind is grounded in total peace, but in that open space compassion spontaneously arises. It has many manifestations. One is the pure energy of anger.
Anger is the power to say no. This is our natural reaction whenever we see someone suffer — we want to stop it. The buddhas say no to the three poisons that drive injustice. They are angry about our suffering and they will happily destroy its causes. They aren’t angry at us. They’re angry for us.
Traditionally, it is said that the buddhas’ compassion expresses itself through four types of energy. These are called skillful means, the different ways wisdom and compassion go into action to relieve suffering.
First, the buddhas can pacify, helping suffering beings quench the flames of aggression, passion, and ignorance. The calm and pacifying buddha is the one we’re most familiar with, whose image brings a feeling of peace to millions around the world.
But sometimes more is needed. So the buddhas can enrich us, pointing out the wealth of resources we possess as human beings and healing our inner sense of impoverishment. Then, if need be, they can magnetise us, seducing us away from the suffering of ego to the joy of our inherent enlightened nature.
Finally, there are times when the compassionate thing is to destroy. To say “Stop!” to suffering. To say “Wake up!” to the ways people deceive themselves. To use the energy of anger to say “No!” to all that is selfish, exploitive, and unjust.
In its pure, awakened form, when it is not driven by ego, anger brings good to the world. In our personal lives, it helps us be honest about our own foibles and have the courage to help others see how they are damaging themselves. On a bigger scale, anger is the energy that inspires great movements for freedom and social justice, which we need so badly now. It is a vital part of every spiritual path, for before we can say yes to enlightenment, we must say no to the three poisons.
The energy of anger is an inherent part of our nature — we can no more have yes without no than light without dark. So we need a way to work with the energy of anger so it doesn’t manifest as aggression, as well as methods to tap its inherent wisdom. We need a profound understanding of where aggression comes from, how it differs from anger, and a practical path to work with it. That path begins where all healing begins.
FIRST, DO NOT HARM
Most of us aren’t physically violent, but almost all of us hurt other people with aggressive words and harsh emotions. The sad part is that it’s usually the people we love most whom we hurt. We can also acquiesce in or implicitly support social evils and injustice through our silence, investments, or consumption habits.
Buddhism, like all religions, offers guidelines to help us restrain ourselves. We may not like rules and limitations, but the morals, ethics, and decorum taught directly by the Buddha are guides to doing no harm.
The principle of right conduct applies to acts of body, speech, and mind. Guided by the inner attitudes of gentleness and awareness, we monitor what arises in the mind moment by moment and choose the wholesome, like peace, over the unwholesome, like aggression.
Buddhism teaches helpful meditation techniques so we are not swept away by the force of conflicting emotions like aggression. These techniques allow us to take advantage of the brief gap in the mind between impulse and action. Through the practice of mindfulness, we become aware of impulses arising and allow a space in which we can consider whether and how we want to act. We, not our emotions, are in control.
I’M IN PAIN, YOU’RE IN PAIN
Without excusing or ignoring anything, it’s helpful to recognise that aggression is usually someone’s maladapted response to their own suffering. That includes us and our aggression. So caring for ourselves and cultivating compassion for others are two of the best ways to short-circuit aggression.
We are suffering beings, and we don’t handle it well. We try to ease our pain and only make it worse. The practices of mindfulness and self-care give us the strength and space to experience our suffering without losing our stability and lashing out. And when we are targets of aggression ourselves, knowing it may come out of the other person’s pain helps us respond skillfully.
WITHOUT SUPPRESSING OR ACTING OUT
Fear and shame distort the basic energy of anger and create suffering. We fear that intense emotions like anger will overwhelm us and make us lose control. We’re ashamed that such “negative” emotions are part of our makeup at all. So we protect ourselves against the energy of anger by either suppressing it or acting it out. Both are ways to avoid experiencing the full intensity of emotion. Both are harmful to ourselves and others.
What we need is the courage to rest in the full intensity of the energy inside us without suppressing or releasing it. This the key to the Buddhist approach to working with anger. When we have the courage to remain present with our anger, we can look directly at it. We can feel its texture and understand its qualities. We can investigate and understand it.
What we discover is that we are not actually threatened by this energy. We can separate the anger from our ego and storyline. We realise that anger’s basic energy is useful, even enlightened. For in its essence, our anger is the same as the buddhas’.
DISCOVERING THE WISDOM OF ANGER
We have the same power to say no that the buddhas do. Traditionally, it is said that the enlightened energy of anger is the wisdom of clarity. It is sharp, accurate, and penetrating insight. It sees what is wholesome and unwholesome, what is just and unjust, what is enlightenment and what is ignorance. Seeing clearly, we lay the ground for action.
We all experience the wisdom of anger when we see how society mistreats people. When we have an honest insight into our own neuroses and vow to change. When we are inspired to say no to injustice and fight for something better. This wisdom is a source of strength, fearlessness, and solidarity. It can drive positive change.
If Buddhism offers us one piece of good news it is this: in our basic nature, we are enlightened and our anger is really wisdom. The confused and misdirected aggression that causes such suffering is just temporary and insubstantial.
When the energy of anger serves ego, it is aggression. When it serves to ease others’ suffering and make the world a better place, it is wisdom. We have the freedom to choose which. We have the power to transform aggression into the wisdom of anger. There is no greater victory, for us and for the world.
Auspicious – the bliss where adherence to the senses is abandoned, that bliss which, arising from space, pervades space completely, as non-referential compassion, Buddha Nature good in that way, may its auspiciousness bring peace to you today!
Auspicious – what has knower and known as a single body, the pure form of the three realms free of birth and death, Kalachakra Buddha Nature good in that way, may its auspiciousness bring peace to you today!
— Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen