The Power of Compassion

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Selangor, Malaysia (Archive #1552)

A seminar on how to develop compassion and offer perfect service to others, given by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kasih Hospice, Selangor, Malaysia, on May 14, 2006. Edited by Sandra Smith.

Click on the chapter links to read the edited transcripts. You can listen to the audio recording for Chapter 2 or view this part of the talk on our YouTube channel, in a series of four videos commencing with The Best Attitude for Work.

Portrait of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, 2010. Photo: Ven. Roger Kunsang.
Subduing Anger Brings Peace

Good evening. Sorry. Good afternoon. My time got mixed up. I would like to thank everyone very much for coming here.

You are here to learn about compassion and to help the world. There is incredible urgency, there is a great need to help the sentient beings who are devoid of happiness and who are constantly suffering. They have a great need for your help. Thank you very much for coming here, with that intention to benefit others [and to learn about] that service.

I must apologize for my habit of again being late. Everybody has been waiting a long time.

First I would like to mention what’s been read, what I heard, about the world being filled with disasters or suffering, so many problems, whether with compassion we can do something [to help.] That’s what I heard. I would like to mention this to start with. So this is very logical. This is very logical.

It is said in A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life1 by the great Indian saint, Shantideva, that if you’re going to cover the whole world with leather—if you’re going to cover all the thorn bushes that grow in the world—there won’t be enough leather to cover the whole world where the thorn bushes are growing so that when you walk around the thorns don’t go through your feet.

If you try to cover the whole world with leather, there won’t be enough leather to cover it. But if you wear leather shoes, then wherever you go, any part of the world that you go to, the thorn bush, the thorns can’t go into your feet. [Rinpoche laughs] I don’t mean the whole entire thorn bushes can’t go in the feet. I don’t mean that, but the thorns. This way, if you wear leather shoes—your feet are small, so if you wear shoes which have leather soles—this is an example of how the thorns can’t go through that. Wherever you go, the thorns can’t go through.

If your mind is subdued, is tamed—the anger, the ignorance, the attachment, the desire, the dissatisfied mind, these obscuring, disturbing negative attitudes, once these are destroyed—then there’s no enemy outside, you can’t find the enemy outside. Once the anger, the delusion, the obscuring, disturbing negative attitude, is destroyed, eliminated, you cannot find an enemy in this world. You can’t find the enemy outside. There’s nowhere you can find the enemy.

Without taming your mind by practicing the good heart, compassion for others, then of course, anger arises. Without taming the mind, with this delusion, then it doesn’t matter how many outer enemies you kill, it never finishes. There’s no end, no end.

Basically, if you kill one person who harms you, then his friends will become your enemies. They become enemies to you. Then their friends will become enemies to you. Then starting like that, the whole society, hundreds, tens of thousands of people, then the population of the whole country becomes your enemy.

Normally in wars many hundreds of thousands of people get killed, although it normally started [with conflict] between two people.

This is just talking about this life, in this life. The effect you get from killing your outside enemies is that it doesn’t get better. You want to have more and more peace, but you receive more and more harm from others. Even if you don’t receive harm now, this year, you will receive it later, in other years. They will keep your harm in their heart. They will have a grudge and you will receive harm later.

That’s just talking about this life. Now, as there’s continuity of the consciousness, even if the body has disintegrated, stopped, there’s a continuity of consciousness. We can remember what we did yesterday—we can remember today what yesterday’s life was—because there’s continuity of consciousness from yesterday until today. From last year until today, there’s continuity of consciousness. Last year’s consciousness continued and today’s consciousness is a continuity of that.

That’s why we can remember last year and our childhood time. Some people can even remember their birth, coming from the mother’s womb. Some people who have a very clear mind can even remember from their birth. Most people can’t remember that, but some people can remember even their birth, coming from their mother’s womb.

Some people can remember even being in the mother’s womb—those people who have a very clear mind, who weren’t affected by much pollution, who didn’t receive much pollution and those who have a very highly developed mind. Those who have a clear and highly developed mind, a higher potential, can remember even the conception in the mother’s womb. They remember being in the mother’s womb, their own experience.

Like that, they remember the past life before this. Before the consciousness took place in mother’s womb, they remember. They remember where they were and what they were doing in the past. Those who have a very clear mind, less pollution, less defilements—those who have clairvoyance or a highly developed mind with less obscurations—can see the past and the future, not only their own, but also that of others.

However, [without subduing anger] we will receive continual harm from others in the life after this. What we did in this life, the consequences, there’s a long, long consequence which we will experience in the life after this, and in the life after that. In hundreds, thousands and thousands of lifetimes, we will experience receiving harm from others.

Even just thinking about this one life, we won’t have peace at all, at all. Then there’s something [else]. We will have guilt. Even if we don’t receive harm from others, but we want peace. We want to have inner peace and happiness, but we have this guilt, this very unhappy mind and a very unhappy life. In this life normally, and especially when the death comes, we are very unhappy and we have a very miserable life, like that.

The great saint Shantideva used this example. Once our mind is tamed, subdued by developing compassion, this good heart, by patience—when anger is subdued, when we have destroyed this delusion, this inner enemy, delusion, it’s like having destroyed all the outside enemies all at once, altogether.

This can be an example for us to think about. The enemy is made by our mind. The enemy is made by our mind, he comes from our mind. He is made by our mind, the label “enemy” comes from our anger. When we get angry, the label “enemy” comes from that.

When anger arises, we see the person as enemy. But the minute the anger goes away, when we’re practicing, we’re meditating on compassion, generating compassion, patience, to that person, the minute we do that, the anger is gone. [Rinpoche snaps fingers] That person is no longer the enemy, we don’t see that person as the enemy, we don’t see that person as the enemy the next minute. With patience, we see that person is so kind, the most precious one, the most kind one. We feel that person is unbelievably precious in our life.

Even a nonbeliever in reincarnation or karma, in these phenomena, in these life experiences; even someone who is a nonbeliever can see how the kindness of the enemy is unbelievably precious.

The person who harms us, who has anger toward us, by practicing patience, tolerance, the good heart of compassion, by training our mind with this person that we call enemy, then we’re able to reduce our anger and develop more patience, more compassion.

There’s less anger toward our companion, toward our family members, by training our mind with that person whom we call enemy, who has anger toward us. We are developing patience, developing compassion.

Then toward our family, our husband or wife, our children, we are able to develop more compassion, more patience with them. We are able to make our anger less and less. It will be less this year, much less next year, and much less in the third year and fourth years. Like that, after six or seven years, we will very rarely get angry. Even if anger arises, it lasts only two or three seconds and goes away. It doesn’t last a long time, like before. It very rarely arises and it doesn’t last. It arises for a few seconds, then it disappears, it stops.

We have very good relationships, there’s so much harmony, so many harmonious, good relationships, so much peace in our family life, in our relationship with our companion. There’s so much peace and happiness.

We don’t get angry with others. Instead of getting angry with them, we have patience and positive thoughts, happy thoughts. We have a healthy mind, a peaceful and happy mind. [We have] patience, the good qualities of the human mind, we generate that, we develop that, so it’s compassion.

Not only do we not harm others, but we benefit them. There’s a positive mind, so patience, compassion arises, especially compassion arises. Not only do we not harm others, but with compassion we help them. We do the total opposite. Instead of harming others, we help, we benefit them.

This is what happens. We bring so much peace and happiness to our family. And because we don’t get angry, we don’t harm others, they don’t get angry with us. We don’t cause them to get angry with us, we don’t cause them to harm us. We don’t cause them to create negative karma because of us, toward us.

Like that, we bring so much peace and happiness to our lives. We bring so much peace and happiness to the lives of our family members, our husband or wife or children or whoever.

Of course, everybody wants that. We all want our family to love us, to be happy with us. We don’t want anybody to get angry with us, to harm us, to treat us badly or criticize us. We don’t want that. We don’t want our family to be unhappy, to have negative thoughts, to be angry toward us and engage in negative karma, for which they would have to suffer the consequences, the result. All the suffering they would have to suffer, we don’t want that to happen.

Not only that, the rest of the human beings in the country where we are, we don’t get angry with them, we don’t harm them. With the good heart, patience, all those millions and millions of people in our country receive so much peace and happiness from us, from our patience, from our compassion. All those billions of people, all those human beings in this world, and all those other beings, including the animals, because we don’t have anger toward them, we have patience, a positive mind, a healthy, pure mind and especially compassion, they don’t receive harm. All those living beings don’t receive harm from us. They receive so much peace and happiness from us. The absence of harm is peace.

Even if we’re not engaged in additional service or bringing benefit to others, if we just don’t get angry, if we don’t harm others, the absence of that is the peace and happiness they will receive from us.

All the animals and all the human beings in this world, all those living beings who are in this world, and of course, if we think from life-to-life, if we go beyond this life, and think about life-to-life. There are numberless other living beings, there are numberless universes not only mentioned in Buddhism, but scientifically explained. Scientists explain that there are numberless universes, so all those beings. We will be born in all those different universes—not only in this universe but in many other universes, we will be born, we will be reincarnated.

If we go beyond this life, the numberless other living beings don’t receive harm from us by developing patience and having no anger, and especially by having compassion. If we just stop harming others by developing the mind in patience and compassion, then from life-to-life, numberless other living beings will receive peace and happiness from us.

Of course, with compassion if we can do additional service for others, not only in this life, but from life-to-life, they will receive so much peace and happiness from us.

Therefore, all this peace and happiness that we can cause, starting with our family, then our country, this world and all living beings in all the universes. We’re able to offer this because we’re able to practice patience, compassion.

This particular person who has anger toward us, who harms us, by training our mind like this, then we can destroy or eliminate our anger, by developing patience and also compassion.

Who helps us to develop this incredible, priceless quality within us, this patience, this compassion, this priceless quality within us? Who helps us to develop this, to generate this, and to give peace and happiness to all living beings? It is this person who has anger toward us, who abuses us, who harms us.

This person gives us the opportunity and helps us to generate this priceless quality in the mind, thus we can offer all this peace and happiness to numberless other living beings from life-to-life. Therefore this person is so precious, unbelievable precious. There are no words to thank him for that, no words to thank him. He is precious.

Without talking about the life after this, just in this life we can offer so much peace and happiness with patience and compassion, to our family and the country and the whole world. We can bring so much peace and happiness. We can bring that to them. That’s unbelievable. That’s accomplishing our purpose in life. That’s the real meaning of life, it makes the life so worthwhile.

That’s by the kindness of this person who has anger to us, who harms us. Because of this person’s anger and the action of harming us, this gives us the opportunity to train our mind, to practice patience and compassion. So we’re able to offer so much peace and happiness to the world, to numberless living beings, and we see this as so kind, so precious.

We can see that even for nonbelievers—without believing in reincarnation or karma or the life after this—we can see the kindness of that person.

This is what our compassion can do, not only for our family, but for everyone in this world including animals, insects, everyone. It brings so much peace and happiness.

I said before that the absence of harm itself is peace and happiness. Then additionally, we’re offering service to others, so there is additional happiness, peace. This is all due to the kindness of this person [our enemy.] Therefore training the mind with this person helps us to have so much peace and happiness in our family and in our life. We are nice to the other person, to our other companion—our husband or wife—and to our children.

All this is the answer. This is what we can do to help the world. It comes from our side, to not harm the world first. The very first thing from our side is to not harm the world, to not harm other human beings. Start one-by-one, with one human being or with the animals who are nearest to us. Like this, we’re able to develop more and more, to bring happiness to others, to not harm others and to bring them happiness.

To do that, we need to change our mind. We need to change our attitude from anger into patience, into compassion for others. What Shantideva, the great Indian saint said, that’s very true.

If we don’t have anger, wherever we go—East or West, at home or outside, in the office, wherever we go—we cannot find the enemy, we are without anger. But if we have anger, we will find the enemy wherever we are. Even at the meditation center, even in a monastery, even in a cave, we will find the enemy.

As I was saying before, when we have anger toward someone, we see that person as very undesirable. We dislike that person; she is somebody that we don’t want to see.

But the next minute, when we think of the kindness of that person from whom we’re able to develop the precious qualities of the human mind—patience and compassion, these things—we’re able to bring so much peace and happiness, not only in our life, but for all our family members, in their lives, and for the country, for the whole world and for all living beings. By destroying anger, ceasing anger, and developing patience and compassion, we see this person in a totally opposite way than before.

This person was unwanted before, we didn’t want to see her. She was unwanted. Now here, she is a most precious, most kind one. There are no words, not enough words to thank her for this kindness. We feel the kindness deep down in our heart, much more than if somebody gave us a billion dollars or a million dollars. It’s different, the kindness is different. This kindness is something we feel very deep in our heart.

We feel this person is somebody that we should have in our life. Before, with anger, we didn’t want that. She was somebody we didn’t want to see. She was undesirable. Now, she is so precious, and she is someone we must have in our life. We feel totally different.

Now we can see that no enemy exists; there’s no inherently existent enemy. The other person did not change. We changed our mind, but the other person didn’t change. Still that person’s anger is there. Otherwise, we would have no opportunity to practice patience if the person had no anger. If the other person’s mind changed toward us, if she stopped anger toward us, then we would have no opportunity to develop our patience.

The other person didn’t change. She is the same as before, but we changed our mind. Here, with the view of our patience, our compassion, our view of the person is totally different. [We see her as] something very precious.

We can see from this, we can get idea from this, what the great saint Shantideva said, what the Buddha said. If the inner enemy, the delusion, this anger is destroyed, then all the outside enemies are destroyed at the same time. It’s like that. We have no enemies anywhere.

The other thing is, just as the great Indian saint, the great bodhisattva Shantideva, said this, it’s the same as what the Omniscient One said. The buddhas, the great saints, the bodhisattvas, those holy beings don’t have anger toward us, therefore we don’t have the opportunity to develop the good quality of a human being—this priceless quality, patience—toward them.

Our friends have no anger toward us. Our friends all love us, they don’t have anger toward us, so we have no opportunity to practice patience with them.

All the living beings come in three [ways]: either as friend, enemy or stranger. The numberless living beings are either enemies or strangers or friends.

With strangers, they too have no anger toward us, so there is no opportunity to practice, to train our mind in patience and to pacify anger.

Think, “In this country, in this world, among the numberless living beings—enlightened beings and unenlightened beings, those who are free from suffering and those who are not free from suffering, ordinary beings—among these, this is the only person, the only living being who has anger toward me. This is the only person who gives me the opportunity to develop my mind, and make my life the most beneficial, most fruitful, the happiest, to benefit all living beings in the whole world. This is the only person with whom I can tame my mind.”

Here, this person becomes so precious, unbelievably precious.

When we see the kindness of the enemy, we don’t want the enemy to suffer and we want to help free the enemy from suffering. Compassion arises for our enemy. This is how compassion arises for our enemy. This is just one example.

If we can develop compassion for our enemy, then it’s easy to develop it for a stranger or for a friend. It’s very easy to develop compassion for them. The most difficult one is developing compassion for the enemy.

So tea-break. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.

[Applause]

Notes

1 Ch. 5, v. 13. [Return to text]