Here is a full, edited transcript of HH 17th Karmapa’s moving and profound teaching on the root cause of peace and end to conflict on ‘Developing Loving Kindness’ that he gave on 10th July 2022, for Karma Triyana Dharmachakra centre. The video of the teaching in English and Tibetan is here.
“Good morning everybody, this time I was supposed to give a teaching in English but unfortunately, I got tested COVID positive, so until now I am still not fully recovered and teaching in English, needs more time and preparation. So maybe next time I will try my best to give new English teaching but not this time.
Over the last two or three years, all over the world there have been many big changes that have come one day after another, so I thought I might perhaps say a few words today about how in such a world situation. How we should face up to the changes and challenges. So, I will see if I can say a few words about that. I would like to say a few words about how we can improve our practice of loving kindness and compassion. As you all know, the last couple of years the world has faced many difficulties because of the Corona Virus. even before those difficulties have been completely resolved, war has broken out between Ukraine and Russia. This war is not affecting only Ukraine and Russia but also having a negative effect on neighbouring countries such as Poland. So, this crisis is an extremely large crisis and very complicated. So, I think it would be very difficult to explain it or understand it only a few minutes. I believe for myself I do not really feel that I can understand the whole situation but it is a fact that the difficulties are affecting us all. So, I thought that I would share a few ideas about how this relates to practice and perhaps it is possible that my thoughts might help you in a bit in the way you think about it.
In Ukraine, for example, the current war between Europe and Russia it seems when we look at it from one angle to be a conflict between two countries. But in actuality, it probably encompasses many different situations. In any case, the war is not quietening down and it seems difficult to bring about peace. So, this is the terrible situation we find ourselves in. In this situation, how should we think about it? In particular, many Ukrainians have had to flee, they have left their homeland. Likewise, many people have been killed or have been wounded. So, how should we who are outside of it think about this crisis? My own opinion, as I mentioned before on the surface it seems like a conflict between two countries but in actuality there must be many complicated factors. I do not really understand what they all are but it must involve many different countries and many different groups. Likewise, it must be related to the different advantages and the different conflicts between all the players. Particularly, it is extremely difficult for ordinary people such as myself to understand many of the internal factors and related situations. We can learn a fair amount about it from the news but it is difficult to know about it in full. In particular, these days with the news it is hard to know how accurate it is and what is true and what is false. From the perspective of dharma, until we have reached the level of a noble being for all of us our number one thought our greatest priority is our own individual advantage. That is normally our greatest priority.
So, in Buddhism we have the discussion of ego clinging right? We have strong ego-clinging and cherishing that is so tight, that no matter how hard we work it is basically always to bring ourselves financial gain, to get power, to gain status, to become wealthy, well known and so forth. Now that we find ourselves in this current international crisis, the leaders of the different countries, the politicians, military officials, business people and even the news media, all the people of the various groups are primarily considering their own profit and advantage they try to gain advantage for themselves and create opportunities for themselves. So, this is how it appears.
So, we have such a complicated crisis now that for us ordinary people it is difficult to know what is true and false, who is being straightforward and what the actual situation is. Many people lose their lives, many people’s homes and possessions are destroyed. So why do such terrible events occur when we think about it, we do not really see any reason why this has to happen. We cannot conceive of any reason why this is happening.
Also, when we watch the news instead of it making our minds clearer about the situation, it makes our minds even more distracted and restless than before. Our attachments and our aversions grow stronger and we feel more and more discontented within our minds. We cannot determine the actual situation only by watching the news. Also, we tend to pick and choose which aspects we think are right and wrong. We speak more and more in this way we have more and more attachments and diversions, and so instead of the situation calming down the situation gets even more difficult.
As I was saying, to speak about it from a dharma perspective we all have ego clinging and attachment. As long as we have that, our own advantage becomes the most important for us. We have more and more self-interest and because of that it is difficult for us to identify who is mistaken and who is confused. The reason is that we are all the same in having ego-clinging. So, all of us are primarily acting to bring ourselves benefit out of self-interest, so to speak about it from the perspective as Buddhist practitioners, we should not be speaking about it as to who should win or lose, nor as to whom is truthful or not. The reason is because in world history, there have been many people who have said truth is on our side and taking the truth as the pretext they’ve waged war against so many people. In many wars, people have said truth is on our side and used that as a pretext for killing many people and stealing a lot of things. This has led to many terrible events.
So, if we speak about it from the perspective of someone who practices loving kindness and compassion, we cannot take worldly measures of true and false, good and bad as our basis. The most important thing for us is to have the hope that not even one person need die or be wounded. Thinking, wouldn’t that be best if that never happened again? If everyone gave up their old resentments and could make harmonious connections with each other, if everyone could think more about the benefit of other sentient beings, that is the most important thing that could happen. That must begin with ourselves. If we, within our own minds have a strong fixation on which country is winning or which country is losing, and which country is right and wrong and if you have a strong fixation and are unable to let go of it. If you’re unable to stop dividing people into some people are bad and some people are good and put them into two groups, and think of them with attachment and aversion, unless we are unable to stop doing that, we will be unable to ever put an end to all the problems we face in our own lives. So, it is extremely important that we absolutely must be able to put a stop to all those strong thoughts of attachment and aversion and all of that strong fixation in our minds.
We might want to increase our loving kindness and compassion and might think that we want to be able to do something to benefit to others, whether the other person is good or bad makes no difference. Even if the other person is thoroughly evil, there is no difference, you need to take all of them as people for whom we can develop loving kindness and compassion. We need to feel concerned for all of them and have acceptance of all of them. This is the aim of our practice. The reason that is that all sentient beings are the same in having feelings of pain and suffering and wish to be happy. They think ‘I wish I could be happy and I wish I could avoid pain’. That is why they make the choices and why they act. When we think of it in those terms, we cannot distinguish between friend and enemy or good and bad.
So, this is a time when everyone feels discomfort in their minds, their minds are disturbed and their affections and hatreds grow much stronger. So, in a time like this thinking about loving kindness and compassion is crucial. In particular, in many of the crises that affect the world, we do not always know the full facts of the situation, and since we do not know them, there is no point in just continuing to get upset. Instead, we should just let our minds relax and see what we can do to make our minds more peaceful, gentle, and supple. See what we need to do to make our minds peaceful. If we hope to decrease the hatred and greed in others’ minds, if that is what we want to do, then the most important place where peace must start is in all our own minds. That the place where the peace must start is in all our own minds, we must begin with ourselves. If we hope to bring peace to others’ minds, while our own minds are bristling with hatred and anger, that will not work. Before we can hope to bring others’ peace and decrease the hatred they feel in their minds. First of all, we must put out the fires of hatred in our own minds and bring peace to our own mind. If that is our hope then only will we have some sort of a reason and have some ability.
Actually, when we are happy or comfortable, or things are going well it is difficult to develop loving kindness and compassion. When things are bad, when we are suffering and others are also suffering, we have more opportunities to develop loving kindness and compassion. The reason for this is that loving kindness is the thought that ‘would it not be great if all sentient beings are happy?’ Compassion is the thought that ‘would it not be wonderful if they are free of suffering?’ If there were no situations in the world where people suffer and were deprived of happiness, there would be not much point or reason to have such thoughts or arouse such intentions. So, that being the case we should direct our loving kindness, our compassion towards both those who are suffering and to those who cause the suffering. So, it is important, that from the bottom of our hearts, without any bias toward any beings, we must pray that everyone may have happiness and comfort and that they may achieve lasting happiness. In brief, whether we develop loving kindness or compassion or not, depends upon each of our own individual mind streams.
These days, our societies have been become very complicated there is a lot of conflict and this is a time when everyone feels mental pain and holds a lot of resentment. So, from this perspective, from one perspective, this is a bad time this is not a good time but it is the best opportunity for developing loving kindness and compassion. To do this, we should not put our hopes on someone else and look outside of ourselves. It is important for us to turn our minds inwards and think about it that way. Once we have found that within ourselves, we need to increase it so that we will be able to share that good character with all the people around us and influence all of them. That is all I have to say for today. It is possible that this has been beneficial for you and I hope that it has been. I pray that the entire world may be happy and peaceful and, the conflict in Ukraine may soon end and that all the suffering and fear caused by conflict not just in Ukraine, but all over the world, may soon be brought to an end. Thank you.”
Written and edited by Adele Tomlin, 20th July 2022.