Phakyab Rinpoche: compassion in action at all times

- through Henry Oudin

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“Our enemies are our greatest masters,” says Buddhism. When forgiveness, love and compassion replace anger and hate.

You say you have forgiven your torturers et that you even feel gratitude and compassion towards them. How do you do ?

Developing love and compassion is really at the forefront of Buddhist practice on a daily basis. When these qualities manifest strongly in the mind, they work by eliminating disturbing emotions like pride, jealousy, anger, competitive spirit. This leaves more room for compassion. It is thanks to the training that I had received and practiced during my years of study that I was able to experience positive emotions vis-à-vis my executioners and their forgive. Patience, compassion, and love don't just show up by saying, "I am compassionate" or "I love others." This is possible through what is called "mind training", a process based on deep reasoning and meditation. We start with a logical approach that consists of examining the qualities and defects of emotions. Anger, pride and jealousy, for example, have the effect of bringing me nothing but trouble. While positive emotions like compassion and love provide happiness.

“In Buddhist societies, we are told about love, compassion, since we were very young. We hear it, meditate on it and practice it daily. Those who live in the West in a consumerist way of life have not had this education. »

Then, we base ourselves on reasoning, on logic. If a person I have never met tortures me or causes me great harm, I tell myself that he is acting under the influence of disturbing emotions, that he is their slave when they manifest themselves in his mind; that by behaving thus, he accumulates negative karmas which will undoubtedly cause great suffering in this life and the following ones. She is like a child who does not know what he is doing. And I apply this law of causality to myself. I tell myself that what is happening is the result of acts that I have accumulated and which are now reaching maturity. These various lines of reasoning help to develop patience and bring out compassion. They also lead me to practice Tong-len (1).

In prison, did you experience feelings of injustice, anger, doubt and, if so, how did you overcome them?

I am extremely grateful to Buddhist teaching. Without him and the methods he offers to transform our mind, I would never have been able to overcome these circumstances and eliminate negative emotions such as anger or irritation. Sometimes, perhaps, forms of irritation or doubts can still appear in me, but very quickly. Through reflection and practice, they disappear.

Qhat would you like to say today to the people who tortured you?

If I meet them, I will not feel anger. My mind will be calm like that of an ordinary day. If they show irritation towards me, it will only strengthen my compassion towards them, thinking of their disturbed state. They are part of the prayers in which I express the wish that all beings be delivered from suffering and the causes of their suffering.

What teachings might help us who lead more ordinary lives?

Just because I'm a monk or a lama doesn't mean it's easy for me. You, like me, must observe what is going on in our minds, with vigilance and attention. The goal is to see what our states of mind are and, when they are negative, to work to remove them. The other work is to give more space to positive emotions and establish the foundations of stable compassion and love. It is by gradually eliminating the negative aspects and developing the positives that we come to feel more and more love and compassion. The Buddha was like us. By working on his mind, he succeeded in putting aside all these disturbances which are pride, jealousy, malevolence, irritation, etc. If we practice like this, we will feel at peace. The body will be healthier and we will also be able to help the beings around us. 

Many Westerners who have chosen to be Buddhists find it difficult to practice and persevere on this path, even though their conditions are a priori less painful than those you have experienced. How do you explain it?

I don't see it that way. In Buddhist societies, we are told about love, compassion, since we are very young. We hear it, meditate on it and practice it daily. Those who live in the West in a consumerist way of life have not had this education. The current way of life in this modern industrial society may not be very balanced for the mind. That said, with effort and determination, everyone can gradually develop these same positive aspects. So, by comparing our state of mind each year with that of previous years, we see that we have succeeded in stabilizing certain qualities, that we are less angry, and so on. We can see our progress and rejoice.

Translation from Tibetan to French: Nadia Ninio

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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