The Dalai Lama on Taking Responsibility for Negativity

Book coverBlaming our friends, enemies, circumstances, or even spirits for our troubles is not helpful, says HH the Dalai Lama in this excerpt from The Union of Bliss and Emptiness.

If one is not able to revolt against defilements and negative actions and overcome them, the most harmful factors, then one is not really a human being. If instead one preserves them within oneself and always puts the blame on external harmful spirits and thinks of them as one’s worst enemies, this is actually quite contradictory to the practice of bodhichitta. If I were a harmful spirit and someone pointed his finger at me and said, “You are a harmful spirit,” I would be happy because that shows that my accuser has not been able to identify his own enemy, and hence is vulnerable to my harms. If one actually practices bodhichitta properly and views all beings as friends, then harmful spirits will not harm one, for one will be invulnerable.

The emotional afflictions such as attachment are termed the “arrows of flowers,” because, like flower arrows, they cannot pierce anything violently, yet they influence us in a kind of gentle way. Defilements are very harmful. When we have them in an obvious and manifest way we forget about their destructive nature. If, under the influence of these harmful factors you indulge in negative actions, it is definite that you will have to experience the consequences. So, being sick, for example, is actually the consequence of your own past actions. It is possible that there might be slight harm from others such as external spirits, but mainly it is the consequence of your own actions. In the same way, the happiness that you experience is basically the consequence of your own actions; the dharmapalas might provide circumstantial assistance that could lead to an earlier fruition of the actions, and then take the whole credit for it! As a result they are rewarded with torma offerings!

Book cover
When anger arises, reactions like shouting at people and insulting them and so forth naturally follow; it is very spontaneous, and you will indulge in negative actions. Uncomfortable consequences are actually experienced right at that moment. At that instant even your facial expression changes and you feel very uncomfortable and uptight; that is just the beginning of the suffering. As a result, when one indulges in a negative action it leaves an imprint on the consciousness. When we talk of the base on which the imprints on the consciousness are left, it is of two types: the enduring base which is the mere I, and the temporary base which is the consciousness. These lines of a prayer written by the First Dalai Lama, Gedun Drubpa, help a lot:

Reflect upon the kindness of all beings in general,
And cultivate respect toward spiritual persons in particular.

So long as the defilements are not extinguished, one can never overcome suffering completely; therefore, until such a stage is attained, suffering remains infinite. I think that among the practitioners of lamrim, the graduated spiritual path, there are those who have strong faith in the dharma. For those who have strong faith but do not have much understanding, it is good to be guided beginning with the contemplation on the rarity of the precious human form. But there are certain types of people whom it is better to guide on the basis of the four noble truths, even though, seen from a superficial view, it may seem that they are being led on the middling scope before the small scope. Such guidance will give them a very comprehensive understanding, because when someone is guided according to that sequence it is natural that he or she will see the potential of the precious human form and its value.

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