In 1999 it was Columbine; Fort Hood, 2009. The 2011 shootings in Tucson claimed six lives and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords almost became the seventh victim of that massacre. Now, Aurora.
It’s impossible to make sense of the senseless.
In his 2009 book, How to Practice – The Way to a Meaningful Life, His Holiness writes, “If your life is easy and everything is going smoothly, then you can maintain pretenses. However, when you face really desperate situations, there is not time to pretend; you have to deal with reality. Hard times build determination and inner strength. Through them we can also come to appreciate the uselessness of anger. Instead of getting angry, nurture a deep caring and respect for troublemakers because by creating such trying circumstances, they provide us with invaluable opportunities to practice tolerance and patience.”
That’s on paper. In expressing an example, His Holiness shared a story of “determination and inner strength” from one of his own Tibetan monks for my book, What Do You Stand For?- Stories About Principles that Matter as related to me by his translator and personal assistant the Venerable Lhakdor:
“[A] monk from Namgyal Monastery was in a Chinese prison for seventeen years. When he managed to leave Tibet and come to India, he met with His Holiness. One day, he mentioned to His Holiness that while he was in prison he faced danger on several occasions. His Holiness assumed that his life was in danger. But [the monk] continued, ‘I was in danger of losing compassion towards the Chinese.’ ”
From a small booklet written by His Holiness, Compassion and the Individual, we find this useful guidance:
“We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred. As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions, and they can overwhelm our entire mind…This is because anger eclipses the best part of our brain: its rationality. So the energy of anger is almost always unreliable. It can cause an immense amount of destructive, unfortunate behavior. Moreover, if anger increases to the extreme, one becomes like a mad person, acting in ways that are as damaging to oneself as they are to others.
“It is possible, however, to develop an equally forceful but far more controlled energy with which to handle difficult situations. This controlled energy comes not only from a compassionate attitude, but also from reason and patience. These are the most powerful antidotes to anger. Unfortunately, many people misjudge these qualities as signs of weakness. I believe the opposite to be true: that they are the true signs of inner strength. Compassion is by nature gentle, peaceful and soft, but it is very powerful. It is those who easily lose their patience who are insecure and unstable. Thus, to me, the arousal of anger is a direct sign of weakness.
“So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand. This, however, should be done with compassion, and if it is necessary to express your views and take strong countermeasures, do so without anger or ill intent.
“You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves. In order to check your own selfish impulse to retaliate, you should recall your desire to practice compassion and assume responsibility for helping prevent the other person from suffering the consequences of his or her acts.
“Thus, because the measures you employ have been calmly chosen, they will be more effective, more accurate and more forceful. Retaliation based on the blind energy of anger seldom hits the target.
“So anger and hatred are always harmful, and unless we train our minds and work to reduce their negative force, they will continue to disturb us and disrupt our attempts to develop a calm mind. Anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary ‘enemies’ who appear intermittently throughout life.
“For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind!”
Easier said than done; which is why His Holiness always stresses: Practice!