How Buddhists Treat Negative Emotion

A Conversation between Gyalwai Nyugu and Two Travelers from Spain
Date: March 14, 2010
Place: Yachen Gar
ycg-mtgEvery year, Gyalwai Nyugu would receive visitors from all over the world. A young Spanish couple had travelled extensively throughout Africa, North and South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia. While staying at an inn in Ganze, someone gave the couple a photo of Gyalwai Nyugu. They journeyed up to Yachen Gar and, after showing the photo to a number of monks, were eventually directed to Gyalwai Nyugu’s residence. They were very excited to meet Gyalwai Nyugu and asked him many questions, all of which he answered with great patience. Below are some excerpts of their extended exchange.

 

 

 

RoseTravelers:

Could you say something about negative emotion?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Negative emotion is always the cause of conflicts. The conflicts between people to people and between country to country, religion to religion. Everybody’s mind in this world, before systematic training and transformation, contains negative feelings from time by time. Unless we are converted by compassion, such negative emotion can harm others. It doesn’t matter if a person or an organization even includes some religions, one whose heart has not gone through a process of transforming is capable of hateful acts. Religious people who hurt others have not understood and applied the true message of their religion.

As Buddhists, our first, most basic responsibility is to avoid harming any living being. Buddhism requires its practitioners to do battle with the enemies inside their own body. If our internal demons could be conquered, the world would change. If one can overcome the negative emotion inside the heart, then one can remove the source of all conflicts between individuals, families, religions, and nations.

Buddha Dharma cannot be separated from daily life. If the wisdom of Buddhism is absent from our lives, negative emotions will take over our minds. If you lack the wisdom to deal with afflictive emotions, your life will be characterized by suffering. The more negative emotions you have, the more you will suffer. Therefore it is said, “Compassion is without enemies; wisdom is without afflictions.” Human beings are somehow like this camera of yours. Our eyes on the world are like the lens. Our mind is like the focus control in the back — it determines what we see. All the suffering and happiness in the world is shaped by the mind. So we must learn how to control our minds.

Travelers:
How can we spread the message of love? How can Buddhism be brought to those people who don’t know that much of it?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
It is not as though you can learn a few Buddhist ideas and immediately go out to share them with others. You must first use the methods of Buddhism to transform your own mind. Once you have gone through this process, you will have the wisdom to instruct others. Otherwise you won’t really know what to teach. You will be like a person who has never tasted candy trying to tell others how delicious it is. This is a key difference between spiritual and secular knowledge. If you gain a little worldly information, you can immediately share it with others. But when it comes to a spiritual teaching like Buddhism, you must practice it until you have succeeded in transcending yourself. Then and only then are you qualified to teach.

Travelers:
So Buddhism maintains that only those with self-knowledge can teach?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Exactly. Otherwise you’re a hypocrite. You’re a blind man leading the blind.

Travelers:
In America, Europe and other developed nations, there is material wealth, but many people are “so poor that all they have left is money.” On the other hand, the lack of material wealth in Africa makes the people suffer greatly.

Gyalwai Nyugu:
As I see it, the suffering of the rich in America and the poor in Africa is one and the same. Externally they seem to be experiencing two different types of suffering, but the root and essence of their affliction is identical. Many people would disagree, but this is what I believe.

Materially the world is developing greatly, but that growth must be accompanied by spiritual growth if the planet is to benefit. Our bodily health requires the development of our physical environment, but our spiritual health requires the development of our spiritual environment — our wisdom.

Buddhism helps others through wisdom and compassion that are not theoretical, but living and breathing. Wisdom and compassion have been realized in the body, speech, and mind of the teacher. Therefore not everyone can expound the Dharma. The teacher must complete his study and practice. He cannot share this insight with you today, that insight with you tomorrow. He or she must study for many years, and, using this learning as the basis, practice for many years.

Furthermore, the fruit of his practice must be verified by a Dharma master. In Tibet, the prospective teacher’s levels of wisdom and compassion are subject to the strictest evaluation. So it is not as though you can develop a little compassion and immediately go out and teach.

tian-zhangTravelers:
Can you please tell us something about death?
Gyalwai Nyugu :
We are constantly walking towards death. Every day we get closer to our final destination. Our hair gets white, wrinkles form. We don’t know when we will die. Our bodies could disappear in the blink of an eye. But this fact does not seem to sink in. Every day we do what we do, eat our fill…but in the end we will have to die. We will be lying there on the bed while before our very eyes everything we’ve ever known slips away—our family, our friends, our money, our house.

Death is the supreme dilemma. Yet it can be resolved. There have been countless cases. For example, at Yachen Gar we often have monks and nuns whose bodies shrink, excrete red and white Bodhi liquid, give off a rainbow light, or who die experiencing great freedom and happiness. But to die like that requires preparation. If we practice diligently, we will not die with the suffering that accompanies the usual death. Sadhana can resolve problems of the mind and body. I’m not bragging about Buddhism, I’m simply telling you about what has been witnessed. Last year here at Yachen, for instance, a very tall lama named Qinghai died and shrank to the size of a doll. What does this prove? That the purer one’s mind, the more harmony the body will experience at death. Everyone has the ability to die like this; we just don’t know the method. Everyone possesses Buddha nature; we simply haven’t recognized it.

Travelers:
In Europe many people are afraid of death. When my mother approached death, she said, full of fear, “I’m about to die. Where will I go?” This is a question that everyone has in his or her heart. I often ask myself what I would do if my wife or child died. Thinking about this scares me. Buddhism says we can shrink ourselves, other religions talk about heaven, but what I want to know is who will take my wife and children into the next realm?

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Death is something that everyone is in the process of experiencing. Death is not in the future, it’s happening as we speak. Like a shadow, death is always with you. You say you are afraid of death. Well then, you should find a method to put an end to that fear. You can’t resolve the problem of death without a method.

Everyone fears death, even ants. If you have no fear of death, you don’t have to do spiritual practice. Those with wisdom will find a method, those who are ignorant will just be consumed by their fear and not do anything about it. Buddhism doesn’t claim that God or any saint will come and take you to heaven. It’s not like that.

Travelers:
I see.

Gyalwai Nyugu:
If God or the Buddhas have that ability, they should come and get us now.

Travelers:
Right.

Gyalwai Nyugu:
That’s not the way it is. You can and must deal with death on your own. This is an ability all humans innately possess. Buddha just gave us the methods, it is up to us to practice and utilize them. Buddha is like the doctor. He gives us medicine, but if we don’t take it we won’t get better. In this example, the key point is that we are the ones who actually take the medicine. The doctor doesn’t cure us; we cure ourselves. If God or Buddha had the ability to save us directly, wouldn’t they also be able to do something about all the suffering in the world? The Buddhas and bodhisattvas are immensely compassionate, but they cannot just fly us on their backs up to heaven. That is simply not the way the universe works. How did these beings become Buddhas in the first place? By working to transform their minds. Buddhas don’t come out of the clear blue sky, they come out of the rainbows — the light within the heart and mind. If the love, compassion, and bodhichitta we have inside expands to the ultimate degree, we too will become Buddhas. But to achieve this, we require the guidance of a teacher with true wisdom, otherwise we cannot hope to achieve such an indescribably lofty goal.

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Our meeting today was determined by your auspicious karma. I have great respect for you, so I was happy to answer your questions.

Travelers:
Yes, you’ve answered so many questions for us. Thank you so much.

Gyalwai Nyugu:
Even though we just met, I feel we are one. At the heart level, I feel no unfamiliarity, no difference. My hope and prayer is that you will seriously engage in spiritual practice, that you will find a path that enables you to forget your fear of death. You have been many places and seen much misery. The poor suffer the pains of poverty; the rich suffer the pains of wealth. Having seen and heard about all the myriad sufferings in the world, you must find a way to avoid falling victim to them yourself. Liberate yourself, and then you will have the ability to liberate others. You’ve seen many paths to suffering, my dear traveller friends, don’t take them. Take a different path.

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