Wake Up to the Revolution
by Thich Nhat Hanh

We can all experience a feeling of deep admiration and love when we see the great harmony, elegance, and beauty of the earth. A simple branch of cherry blossom, the shell of a snail, or the wing of a bat—all bear witness to the earth’s masterful creativity. Every advance in our scientific understanding deepens our admiration and love for this wondrous planet.

When we can truly see and understand the earth, love is born in our hearts. We feel connected. That is the meaning of love: to be at one. Only when we’ve fallen back in love with the earth will our actions spring from reverence and the insight of our interconnectedness.

Yet many of us have become alienated from the earth. We are lost, isolated, and lonely. We work too hard, our lives are too busy, and we are restless and distracted, losing ourselves in consumption. But the earth is always there for us, offering us everything we need for our nourishment and healing: the miraculous grain of corn, the refreshing stream, the fragrant forest, the majestic snow-capped mountain peak, and the joyful birdsong at dawn.

We need to consume in a way that keeps our compassion alive. Yet many of us consume in a way that is violent. Forests are cut down to raise cattle for beef or to grow grain for liquor while millions in the world are dying of starvation.

Reducing the amount of meat we eat and alcohol we consume by 50 percent is a true act of love for ourselves, for the earth, and for one another. Eating with compassion can already help transform the situation our planet is facing and restore balance.

There’s a revolution that needs to happen and it starts from inside each one of us. We need to wake up and fall in love with the earth.

Cannes - 'Buddha' Photocall

You don’t need to be an “excellent meditator” to start with. All you need to do is have your heart and mind make the following agreement: “Let’s rest. There is no reason right now to wander around following thoughts or worrying. Let’s be relaxed and open.” There is not even any need to shut down your thoughts. Just be there with them, but not overly concerned or engaged. Let there be total openness, and just relax within that.

— Dza Kilung Rinpoche












Just as he pulled the sinner out of the well when he was the monkey bodhisattva, so you too should guide evil people compassionately without expecting good in return, even to one’s detriment.

— Dharmaraksita

How to Transform Anger in 4 Steps
by Judy Lief

According to Buddhist psychology, anger is one of the six root kleshas, the conflicting emotions that cause our suffering. Its companions are greed, ignorance, passion, envy, and pride.

Anger can be white hot or freezing cold. Anger can be turned outward to other people, to a particular situation you are stuck with, or to life in general. It can be turned inward, in the form of self-hatred, resentment, or rejection of those parts of yourself that embarrass you or make you feel vulnerable. Anger can cause you to kill; it can lead you to commit suicide.

Anger is fuelled by the impulse to reject, to push away, to destroy. It is associated with the hell realm, a state of intense pain and claustrophobia. That quality of claustrophobia or being squeezed into a corner is also reflected in the origins of the English word anger, whose root means “narrow” or “constricted.”

Anger can be extremely energetic. You feel threatened and claustrophobic, and that painful feeling intensifies until you lash out like a cornered rat. Or it can manifest as a subtle simmering of resentment that you carry along with you always, like a chip on your shoulder.

Like the other kleshas, anger is a part of our makeup. We all have it, but we deal with it very differently, both as individuals and culturally.

Because the experience of anger is so potent, we usually try to get rid of it somehow. One way we try to get rid of it is to stuff it or suppress it, because we are embarrassed to acknowledge or accept that we could be feeling that way. Another way we try to get rid of our anger is by impulsively acting out through violent words or actions, but that only feeds more anger.

Since anger is a natural part of us, we cannot really get rid of it, no matter how hard we try. However, we can change how we relate to it. When we do, we begin to glimpse a quality hidden within this destructive force that is sane and valuable. We can save the baby while we throw out the bathwater.

In Buddhism there are many strategies and practices for dealing with anger. The overall approach is to start with meditation. In the context of formal sitting practice we can begin to understand the energy of anger, as well as the other kleshas, and to make a new relationship with it. On that basis, we can begin to apply this insight in the more challenging environment of day-to-day living.


The formal practice of mindfulness is the foundation for exploring the powerful energy of anger. It is hard to deal with anger once it has exploded, which is why meditation practice is such a helpful tool. By slowing down, and by refining our observational powers, we can catch the arising of anger at an earlier stage, before it has a chance to overtake us completely.

The practice of sitting still, breathing naturally, and looking attentively at one’s moment-by-moment experience is in and of itself an antidote to aggression. This is true because anger and other emotional outbursts thrive on being unseen. They thrive on the ability to lurk below the surface of our awareness and pop up whenever they please. So extending the boundary of your awareness takes away the natural habitat that sustains the kleshas.

Through meditation, we learn to tune in to what we are feeling and observe that experience with dispassion and sympathy. The more we can do that in formal mindfulness practice, the less under anger’s iron grip we will be. In turn, the more chance we will be able to transform our relationship to anger in the midst of daily life as well.

Where does anger arise? It is in the mind. So by taming the mind we can establish a strong base for understanding how anger arises in us and how we habitually respond to it. We can see how anger spreads and settles in our body, and how it triggers formulaic dramas about blame and hurt. We can expose our conceptual constructs about anger, our justifications, defensiveness, and cover-ups. On that basis we can go further using the following practice.


One traditional analogy for a progressive, step-by-step approach to dealing with anger and the other kleshas is the poison tree.

How do you deal with a poison tree? The first thing you might do is prune it, to keep it from getting too large or from spreading. But that just keeps it under control. The tree is still there.

However, once the tree is a more manageable size, it might be possible to dig it up and get rid of it completely, which seems to be a slightly better approach.

But just as you are about to do that, you may remember that a doctor once told you that this tree’s leaves and bark have medicinal qualities. You realise that it doesn’t make sense simply to get rid of that tree. It would be better to make use of it.

Finally, according to this story, a peacock comes along, notices the tree, and without further ado, happily gobbles it up. The peacock instantly converts that poison into food.


The first step is to refrain from speech and actions based on anger. When anger arises, it has usually already taken us over by the time we notice it. The intensity of the emotion and our reaction to it are so tied as to feel almost simultaneous. We are desperate to do something with this anger, either to feed it or to suppress it.

In this step, we refrain from doing anything, no matter how strong the urge to do so may be. The practice is to stay with the experience of anger. We begin on the boundary, with the second-thought level, where we are tempted to add fuel to the flame or try to stomp it out and get rid of it. The practice is to engage in neither of those two strategies. It is to be with our anger without interpreting it or strategising.

Our reactions tend to be so strong and immediate that initially we may not really get to the anger itself. But as our reactivity becomes less heavy-handed, a small, almost miniscule gap opens up between our anger and our reaction. In that gap it is possible for us to be with the anger and at the same time refrain from being caught up in it. We can relate to our anger more purely and simply, without second thoughts.


Once we are able to be with anger with more openness and less judgement, the second step is to look at it more precisely.

When anger arises, we examine it. We ask questions. To what do we attach the label “anger”? Is it a sense perception, a thought, or a feeling? How real is it? How invincible? Is it still? Is it moving? When we try to pin it down, does it slip away? Where does it come from? Where does it live? Where does it go? What are its qualities? Its texture? Its colour? Its shape? What gives anger its power over us?

In this step we examine anger as a simple phenomenon. Where is the anger coming from? What is it aimed at? Is it our fault or is it the fault of someone or something else?

Look as directly as you can. What are anger’s roots? What is feeding it? Go level by level, deeper and deeper. Can you find its root cause?


In the third step we contemplate what it is about anger that is harmful and what might be of benefit. How could anger possibly be a form of medicine? If we got rid of our anger what would be lost?

Here the practice is to discern the difference between harmful anger and anger that benefits in some way. Clearly, the mindless expression of anger through words or deeds leads us to harm others and suffer harm ourselves. Yet repressing our anger also causes harm. The anger doesn’t actually go away but shows up in devious ways, wearing a disguise. So is there another option?

According to Tibetan Buddhism, there is a flip side to anger: there is wisdom in it. Normally we are too caught up in our personal struggles to connect with this wisdom, but anger actually has an integrity and a sharpness. It is a messenger that something is wrong, that something needs to be addressed. Anger’s awakened energy is said to be crystal clear, like a perfect mirror. It tells it like it is with no dissembling. Anger clears the air. It is immediate, and it is abrupt, but it grabs our attention and gets the point across. Anger interrupts our complacency and mobilises us to take action.

When we encounter injustice being done to another, when we see violence inflicted on innocent beings, when we see the ways that humans justify almost any crazy act of violence, it is heartbreaking and makes us angry. So anger could be the catalyst that causes us to act with courage and compassion to address violence, injustice, and entrenched ignorance. And the more clearly we see such tendencies in the world around us, the more we come to recognise within us traces of these same tendencies to violence and dissembling. So anger has the power to strip the screens from our eyes, to cut through our ignorance and avoidance of harsh realities.

The destructive force of anger is real and apparent. In addressing its destructive force, we practised restraint in the first step and we began to see through anger’s apparent solidity in the second. Now we are working with the wisdom potential of anger.

In fact, it may not be the anger itself but our tendency to hold on to our anger and its accompanying story line and self-absorption that is so harmful. When anger awakens us to a real problem that must be addressed, we can respond by wallowing in the anger and feeling good about ourselves for doing so. Or we can actually listen to whatever message that anger is bringing to us, while at the same time dropping the messenger. Then we can deal with what has been exposed to us by anger’s clear mirror.


The final step is not actually a further practice, but more the result or fruition of mastering the other three steps. We continue to practice refraining from impulsive displays of anger, seeing through the apparent solidity of anger, and opening to the messages anger brings without clinging to the messenger. When we can do all that with ease, we may finally begin to be able to make use of anger as a tool or skillful means. If anger is called for and would be useful, we are not afraid to apply it. And when destructive anger does arise, we are not seduced, nor do we run away from it. We gobble it up on the spot. Not a trace remains.

Lotus 202.

When you realise emptiness, it would be absurd to do anything negative. When you realise emptiness, compassion arises with it simultaneously.

— Mahasiddha Padampa Sangye



















以上佛种发芽成长的四个必备条件中,第一条佛法环境属于前生的修积,其余三条(亲师、发愿、行善)都包括在“皈依”“发心”二法中。因此,《佛性论》指出“皈依三宝”是佛种萌发的首要条件。我不知那些不讲皈依、不行善积德、缺乏营养的禅所生的“开悟”是什么样的“开悟”,在佛经中从来没有这种开悟。偏禅、外道的所谓“开悟”,和佛法中的“开悟”名称相同,实质上并不相同。因为那类偏禅的所谓开悟,既不要学法,也不要持戒、 行善积德,单凭某个所谓开悟的禅师的一半句什么“话头”,就能一步踏到彼岸世界,多么神奇啊!说佛法是不管用的语文般若,反而不如狂僧的一句话头,更有甚者烧佛像、谤佛毁法、杀生斩猫,已严重违背了皈依戒规。这种行为若能成佛,就没有成不了佛的人。所以说,他们的这种“开悟”和“成佛”与佛法中所说的“开悟”“成佛”,绝不是一回事。


Next, to meditate the spirit of enlightenment, while meditating the master-deity on your head, reflect in the following manner: If I ask myself whether I now have the ability to establish all sentient beings in complete and perfect Buddhahood, I will have to admit that I do not have the ability to establish so much as a single sentient being in a state of complete and perfect Buddhahood. Moreover, even if I attained one of the two kinds of arhatship, my work for others’ welfare would be partial and I would lack the ability to lead all sentient beings to Buddhahood. Who has that ability? Complete and perfect buddhas do…. In brief since only buddhas possess every kind of good quality and are free of every kind of fault, to complete both my own goals and others’, I must attain Buddhahood. For the sake of all sentient beings, my mothers, by all means, I will quickly, very quickly, realise complete, perfect and precious Buddhahood. Master-deity, please bless me so that I may be able to do so.

— 4th Panchen Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen

How Sad Is Your Love?
by Mu Soeng

A phrase in one of the Korean liturgical chants has always seemed to me to be a gateway to a deeper understanding of compassion in the Buddhist tradition. The chant is called the Morning Bell Chant, and, as the name indicates, it is chanted in early morning hours, at all Korean temples and monasteries. Typically, one of the monks sits by a large hanging bell and hits it at periodic intervals in a prescribed manner. This protocol is followed whether the liturgy is done in the mountains of Korea or in a Los Angeles neighbourhood. The monk also chants in a traditional manner and, at periodic and indicated intervals, the congregation joins him in chanting the phrase, Namu Amita Bul, “Homage to Buddha Amitabha.”

The Morning Bell Chant is a curious commingling of three disparate Buddhist traditions that are all inherited from China: Huayen, Pure Land, and Zen. In the Morning Bell Chant, elements of these traditions are blended in a single sonic narrative that’s unique to Korean Buddhism. When and why this chant came to be adopted in its present form is a subject of many debates and interpretations among Korean Buddhists.

The phrase in the chant that has always captivated me is dae ja, dae bi, popularly translated as “great love, great compassion.” The Bodhisattva of compassion is a profound iconic presence in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Buddhism and, not surprisingly, provides the context for this phrase in the Morning Bell Chant. The Bodhisattva of compassion is called Avalokiteshvara in Indian Mahayana Buddhism; Kwan Se Um Bosal in Korean; Kuan Yin in Chinese; and Kannon in Japanese. In the Korean usage Kwan means perceive; Se means world; Um means sound; and Bosal means Bodhisattva; hence, “the Bodhisattva who perceives (hears) the sounds (cries) of the world.” The Sanskrit term Avalokiteshvara, while literally meaning “The Lord Who Looks Down,” is traditionally understood in Mahayana Buddhism as “He Who Hears the Sounds (Outcries) of the World.”

The Bodhisattva of compassion transformed from a male figure in Indian Buddhism to a female figure in China, Japan, Korea, and Tibet; this transformation remains one of the great mysteries of the Mahayana Buddhism that developed in North and East Asia. In traditional patriarchal societies, male archetypes were associated with the roles of priest, warrior, and merchant, and religious and social hierarchies flowed from this role-playing. These same societies associated compassion and caring with feminine qualities and assigned them to female deities in the religious pantheon. It is likely that as Buddhism evolved in early medieval China, the Taoist model of harmonising the two polar energies of yin and yang (yin as the feminine, compassionate, soft, nurturing, yielding, receptive, and yang as masculine, energetic, proactive, hard, unyielding) may have played a pivotal role in providing a complementary background for the Mahayana’s balance of wisdom and compassion.

Why was this balance needed? The early Mahayana practitioners in India may have felt that the extraordinary emphasis on wisdom in the earlier Pali Nikaya tradition caused or could cause one-sidedness in understanding the Buddha’s teachings. Although compassion is present in the Pali Nikayas as a quality to be cultivated, its role in these texts is secondary to the cultivation of wisdom. The innovation in Mahayana Buddhism was to raise compassion to equal standing, to somehow balance the shocking intensity of the wisdom of emptiness with a leavening of healing and helping through compassion.

A deeper consideration of the phrase dae ja, dae bi offers a stimulating perspective for understanding the subtle nuances of “great love” and “great compassion” beyond the conventional meanings of these terms. Dae means “big, great, strong, and respected”; ja generally means “love.” But this “love” has a particular character to it. It is not erotic love; it is not sentimental love; it is not attachment love. It has a strong connotation of the kind of care given by a mother to her child; the implication here is that the nature of this care supersedes any love based on attachment. In other words, this experience of love is not needy or greedy. It emerges naturally and dynamically in response to the causes and conditions of the child’s needs and development, and is not an expression of neurotic symptoms. Of course what is being described here is an ideal of a mother’s love, and it may not be how each and every mother has experienced it.

The care and love given by a mother to a child is easy to associate with the Bodhisattva of compassion as a female archetype (Kuan Yin or Kannon or Kwan Se Um Bosal). In folk Buddhism throughout China, Japan, and Korea, this female figure is represented as having a thousand eyes and arms, through which she is able to help all those who seek her help. What seems to emerge in these narratives is the quality of care the supplicant expects to find in seeking a refuge in the Bodhisattva of compassion.

We can come to a similar kind of understanding when we consider that bi in the Morning Bell Chant, while popularly translated as “compassion,” has in its historical roots a nuance of meaning that is much closer to “sadness.” This nuance has more to do with a state of mind or a feeling-tone. Thus, the etymological nuances of both ja and bi are much closer to states of mind or feeling-tones rather than idea or concepts.

When the Bodhisattva of compassion looks down with her thousand eyes at the beings caught in the sea of suffering, she feels an enormous sadness for their situation. This sadness is not pity or pathos or commiseration. It is a response to the entire human condition. From the perspective of the Bodhisattva, human beings don’t learn much; they keep going around and around within the same grooves of samsara — greed, hatred, and delusion — in a never-ending cycle. The feedback loop of this cycle is dynamic, but it also remains self-enclosed and keeps itself in place over aeons and aeons. The Bodhisattva feels deep sadness that things are this way, just as a mother feels great sadness when her child goes through physical or psychological agony. The mother of the universe — as the Bodhisattva of compassion is depicted iconographically — does not personalise this sadness. She has seen this phenomenon of numberless beings caught in the web of their own creation for countless aeons. She reaches out with her thousand arms to these beings and helps them in whatever way she can. But this sadness and the resultant compassion and willingness to help are universal rather than personal.

We might understand how the derivation of bi lends itself to the emotion of sadness a little better if we look at our experience in a meditation retreat. During longer retreats especially, the space of personal experience opens up in a periodic up welling of sadness. When looked at closely, this sadness may be the culmination of earlier emotions like anger, rage, frustration, and so on that bubble forth, particularly during the earlier phase of a long retreat. These layered emotions resurface as a manifestation of deeply suppressed intuitions that one’s life has not worked out the way one had wanted it to. But these emotions, after they manifest themselves quite vividly, also spend themselves out. What’s left is a generalised feeling-tone of sadness, which is personal and yet not personal. One feels sad for the turns one has missed in one’s own life through the workings of greed, hatred, and delusion. This particular sadness is not regret and it is not quite sorrow as we generally experience sorrow. It’s something more subtle and finely attuned than sorrow or regret.

Within this sadness one also recognises a certain universal pattern — that one’s life is a microcosm of all human lives that have ever been lived. In recognising one’s own samsaric feedback loop, one also recognises how each and every person who has ever lived has been similarly caught up in the working of samsara. The feeling of sadness for the personal-yet-not-personal is understood as sadness for the fundamental nature of the human condition. One of the healthy outgrowths of this sadness is that one takes responsibility for all the mistakes one has made in one’s life rather than blaming them on someone else, or even blaming ourselves. Sadness is thus a process of growth and maturation.

Sadness for those mistakes and a non-blaming acceptance of their costs provide the essential ingredients for further insights to develop. With sadness as a backdrop, one resolves to care diligently for one’s actions from now on, so that one does not again harm oneself or others. This care or watchful concern is not an overt or covert scheme of “self-improvement” but a deep insight that the samsaric web we are weaving through our thoughts and actions have karmic consequences that ripple out endlessly. As one cares for one’s own being in an authentic way, one also has the sense of somehow being of some assistance to the rest of creation.

It may not be possible to precisely outline the details of this assistance, but one has the general sense of helpfulness. The aspiration implicit in the first great vow of the Zen tradition, “All beings, one body, I vow to liberate,” somehow becomes alive in one’s caring for oneself. An up welling of sadness toward one’s mistakes in life and the cumulative mistakes of all humanity helps serve as a backdrop to the arising of compassion. Our authentic experience evokes our authentic motivation, like the first musical note struck on a string instrument. How the other notes follow becomes a matter of great and delicate care.

Thus, a Mahayana understanding of Bodhisattvahood would mean that authentic practice is forever bound up with this palpable sense of care and sadness — the dae ja, dae bi of the Morning Bell Chant. It is not about an ideological insistence on upholding the paradigm of the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva paradigm is a feeling-tone; the doctrine that accompanies it is merely there to explain or amplify. It has no significance without the feeling-tone of care and sadness. And yet there’s nothing neurotic, sentimental, or self-indulgent about this feeling-tone. It is grounded in an awareness that, just as one has come to a place of sadness and care in one’s own situation, it is possible for others to come to the same place of reckoning. If this reckoning is cultivated deeply, the boundaries between self and the other dissolve and will continue to dissolve when constant vigilance to care and sadness is maintained. This is the promise of practice.

Lotus 177..jpg

Realisation is not knowledge about the universe, but the living experience of the nature of the universe. Until we have such living experience, we remain dependent on examples, and subject to their limits.

— Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche