Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
August 4 1991
I would like to go through the ten non virtues and the effective ways to deal with the negative energy we sometimes experience.
Non virtues from the Buddhist perspective is not a sin. Rather is is a negative imprint or a non virtuous action, the definition being that which causes harm to another or one's self. In harm, for example if you undertake a religious fast such as for two weeks eating only every other day and did spiritual exercises such as prayer and prostrations, in that you might harm yourself but that is not considered non virtue. Because the intention is to accomplish purification or something like that. So the definition of causing harm to oneself means causing harm where one is left with negative imprints which will reactivate itself and make you respond again in a negative habit pattern.
The negative activities of the body refer to such things of killing where one cuts the life of a sentient being, activities of stealing where one takes possession of things not freely offered, and adultery which is having relationships with someone who is not free or involved in another relationship.
The four negative activities of speech are to lie or say something which is untrue, to be abusive verbally, slander where one causes division between one group of people or another, and gossip which is involvement with frivolous speech. The three non virtues of mind are allowing one's mind to become caught up in attachment, to be caught up with ill will or wish of harm to another, and to allow one's mind to remain completely ignorant, defined in various ways from being insensitive to not wishing to improve one's understanding, and to the ultimate nature of reality.
I want to repeat them with all of the little contradictions because many things arise which can be difficult to deal with. For example, if one's house becomes invaded by carpenter ants or fleas! Or if one has livestock and dogs or wolves become a problem. How does a Buddhist deal with it? It is said one should try in various other ways to remove the problem such as fencing in livestock. Or to make the carpenter ants uncomfortable so they move out. If one actually has to do something about it, then it is appropriate to kill the animal, but one should try to do it with compassion. Not our of hatred and attachment to one's possessions so one's profits will remain constant so to speak. Rather, one should out of compassion try to kill quickly and pray for that animal to take a better rebirth with a compassionate mind. Regarding insects, mostly, I have my own rational dealing with it. I walk through the house and tell them to get out, that they are going to be exterminated shortly if they do not move out, and then I apply whatever means to kill the little buggers. And you try not to do it maliciously, but as compassionately as one can spray DDT as possible.
Because you are going to come up with these things in your lifetime. And what are you going to do about it? For example, one monastery in Tibet was over run by rats. I believe it was abandoned and left to the rats which would be the more appropriate thing to do! If you could be completely unattached, you could just move out! But in our society it would difficult.
Sometimes lit is suitable to lie. For example, if a hunter asked you which direction his prey had ran off in, it would be considered suitable to give them the wrong direction and considered not to be a non virtue.
Non virtues of the mind are considered unchangeable because if you have any of those three, your actions are polluted and there is no virtue in any of those three. It is said activities of the body and of the speech can appear negative yet be positive due to the nature of the mind which activates the activity even though it may appear negative or violent.
I want to move into when we have non virtue acting through us, the strongest one is anger which causes us to say and do abusive, slanderous things, and maybe score some points in hurting the other person by speaking or acting in a particular way. Anger is easy to come out of us and cause us harm. It harms us because we validate that acting in a negative manner was good because we got revenge, and it is harmful to the other person because it hurts the other person. Therefore anger and expressions of anger through various non virtues is something which we deal with. And I think of all the non virtues, we deal with that one more than other types of non virtues.
The other type of non virtue is attachment. Attachment in this sense is clinging and grasping to a particular phenomena such as food, activity, lifestyle, friends and such. If we have strong attachment, it becomes non virtuous in the way we act. We slander to the person about others because we want that person isolated from the people we feel threatened in our relationship, also we lie very easily because we always want to be winning. We do not want to loose with our attachments, and so for example, if we want money, we might lie and say we did not steal when we did or some such thing like that. Maybe we are attached to our own name or prestige. Again we would lie when someone asked us if we did that action. Because our self esteem or attachment is too great, we would lie. If we were more honest, we would admit to the truth.
So attachment has various ways of manifesting. Attachment of the body when it manifests, comes out, adultery is very blatant. Stealing is a version of attachment, I want more possessions or money, more objects, and if I can't get them legally, I will get them illegally. And killing is also motivated by attachment. For example killing animals for their meat or for their hide or some product which comes from their bodies. So there are activities manifested out of attachment which causes a lot of pain in the world around us. So attachment is a non virtue when you start to become more conscious of how it manifests from the mind into activity.
In dealing with the law of cause and effect is to be conscious that one has established a habit. One might come into a new activity, but most of the activities we are caught up with are variations on particular themes. What I want to have around me in various possessions, what I want to have around me as personal objects for my own personal being.
In regards to those objects we act in negative ways to get what we want for ourselves. And so in that way, negative karma is setting up a habit pattern of saying this negative activity is beneficial for me. It always gets what I want. But we do not see what it produces for us as a character. For example, a person is very manipulative so they will always have power, prestige and money. Initially they might seem very nice, but after some time people will start to see through that and see who they really are and become very disenchanted and can actually end up hating that person. And that person will become quite a negative person themselves, they will turn into a horrible person because they relied on their negative motivations to get power, prestige money and such things. So, they harm themselves and others around them.
So we have activities which create suffering for ourselves and for others. And karma in this sense is negative habit patterns. So when we have a negative habit pattern functioning within us, how do we stop it? How do we get out of it? It is not that we have sins, abut we have a strong habit which kicks into particular activities and makes us act out our non virtue. There are two beneficial ways to deal with non virtue which break up the habit pattern. The first is the awareness of impermanence and death. It is very powerful because it is real reality. It is reality that one day we will have to die. In this sense, you want to bring into awareness, if I was to die, my negativity in home or work or relationships, whatever, would I really resolve the issue, or would I have it there again in potential the next time I come back up. If I resolve issues by violence, and I win this time, the next time the situation comes up I have to use violence again/. This is not a skillful way to do it because at some point someone is going to exert violence against you! So there is no resolution of the problem, just a reliance on an old habit pattern which is negative and violent. So bring to awareness, one day I am going to die and I have never been able to go beyond this karmic level. I have just relied on violence, and because I have relied on violence, I have enacted it out time and time again. But dies it really ever help me go beyond this level?
Personally, I think if you have any self motivation, we like to think of ourselves as getting better and improving. Certainly if you are all in this room, there is some aspiration towards personal improvement. In that sense, if you sat down and thought, One day I am going to die. Do I want to keep acting on the level I am acting on right now? In doing that, bring to mind's awareness that if I don't work it out now in a positive constructive manner, all I am stuck with is the same old habit pattern. And if you have belief in a future lifetime, you can think that you are going to curse the future lifetime continuum with this low level karmic activity, making myself miserable and others miserable.
Whereas, if I could hold onto those principles or ideals which help me become a better person, instead of violence I could establish dialogue and work it through. Not just fly into anger but rather sit aback and think about what they want, what I want. And work it through. If you do that, there is positive energy into it. It is not that I am going to go into violence or run away. Rather, I am going to work on it. And as the issue moves forward, you can come to some good conclusions. And low and behold, you have broken an old habit pattern. You have moved into a newer level of karmic activity. And that is the whole point of the law of cause and effect. And that is the point of purification. And there is a very real principle to use. I am going to die one day, if I was going to die right now or within the next twenty four hours, do I want to be left with all this old garbage or do I want to be able to say I nave moved beyond it. So awareness of personal death is very good that way.
It works also with attachment. When we have attachment we say we normally act out this way to get my object of attachment. Get things set up the way I like them. Because attachment has a lot to do with having things the way we want them to be. And when things do not conform to our expectations, then we feel miserable and unhappy and then act out of attachment to have our expectations made or met, and we act out that way and try to establish them. Again we can think, I am going to die one day. Do I want to be left on this level? Like being highly attached to my spouse and doing all the activities I do for them to do this and that. Or do I want to be a better person? Do I want to get out of my old habit pattern energy and move into a new way. For example, in attachment, normally jealousy is a thing which causes a lot of problems. So do I want to stay in the old habit pattern of jealousy, or do I want to go beyond it? Became a better person? In that way, realize I am going to die one day, do I want to stay at this level?
It comes down to making decisions within oneself. And personal impermanence is a terrifically powerful way to do it. It really brings it back home to, if you do not resolve it in one way or another, your stuck at that level. And if it is a heavy delusion like violence, anger or attachment, then you have to ask if you want to be stuck at that level? Then bring your mind into awareness and say no, I really don't. I would like to be a nicer person. Thus you can stop delusion acting itself out by being aware of personal impermanence. Then you can make yourself to a little higher level. But it has to rely on real awareness of what it means if I were to die now. What I would be left with? What karmic imprint I would be left with? SAnd in that you then have some way to judge how you would like to improve my lot, the karma, the type of relationships I have and such.
The first way to deal with karma deals with one's personal delusions manifesting. The second way to deal with karma deals with someone elses delusions acting out on me. Someone beats me up. Someone steals my possessions, hassles me in some way or another. In having someone else doing the activity, you have to regain balance. You have to come up with a reason which can validate it and say it is alright what they are doing. I can understand why they are doing it. This comes from realizing Just as I want to be happy and don't want to suffer, so everyone else is exactly the same.
Look at it in this way. When I want something, what do I do to get it? Don't I lie a little? Bend the truth a little? Don't I try to deceive people a little? Don't I try to set it up so it looks like I am right and everyone else is wrong? This is the way I do it when I want to get something I want. When someone gets in the way of what I want, don't I try to eliminate them in whatever way I can? Don't I maybe be rude to them? We do all sorts of things to eliminate the people we want to to get what we want.
If you can get in touch with your own wishes for happiness, and what you have done, in your mind you realize that you did that negative activity. I thought that was the way to be happy. That was the way I could not be unhappy. So then when you have someone else manifesting heavy duty delusion on you, you can realize that it is alright. You can understand what being deluded is all about because I have touched base with my own delusions. And so when that person dumps on me, tries to hurt me, abuses me, whatever, you can have acceptance to that. You do not have to like it, but you can accept it. Because you can understand, that person is motivated by delusion. They want to be happy. They think if they harm me, they are going to be happier. And that is the resolution of their problems.
Now it is totally deluded, but at least you can understand the dynamic there. And then you can accept it better. You do not have to get angry back at them, rather you could be upset with the fact that they are highly deluded. And somehow try to point out that they are highly deluded! If that is not possible, at least you can accept what is happening to you in a way of understanding it, you can actually feel from your heart compassion go out to them and say, I understand how deluded that position can be and understand how that person can do such a deluded activity. I don't agree with it. I don't particularly like it. I would like to see it better than that, but it is not me and I know delusions are thick, so I can accept it.
So you have a way to not throw yourself into a negative pattern of lashing back. All we are talking about is the law of cause and effect and a technique to stop us clicking into negative habit patterns. Trying to work in positive ways where we get it more together. We work things out better.
So there is working with personal impermanence and secondly learning how to accept others dumping on you by understanding just ass you don't want suffering and what happiness, so do others. And right now, they are deluded and think this the way to avoid suffering and the path to happiness. You can therefore have acceptance. And if you are more realized in that subject, you can have a areal empathic compassion, not pity.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
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