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Verse 34: The most evil of all beings in the world

Verse 34: The most evil of all beings in the world

Part of a series of talks on Gems of Wisdom, a poem by the Seventh Dalai Lama.

  • Having strength and power is a karmic result of virtuous actions in the past
  • When we feel powerless, consider it is a result of our own past actions
  • We all have some strength or power in our area, and we should use it wisely

Gems of Wisdom: Verse 34 (download)

Verse 34:

Who are the most evil of all beings in the world?
Those who use their strength and power as a means of harming others.

True, isn’t it? The things is that having strength and power is, in general, a result of virtuous karma created in previous lives. If, experiencing that result, then turn around and misuse it we’re harming sentient beings now and we’re also creating the cause for ourselves in the future to be born as somebody without power, without any kind of strength.

It could be physical strength, or political strength, or emotional strength, or whatever kind of strength. But whenever any kind of strength or power is abused it creates the karma to be reborn without that. And to be in a state where you’re under somebody else’s power.

When we feel that we lack freedom and we’re under somebody else’s power it’s good to remember that that’s a result of our own harmful karma from previous lives. That doesn’t mean that we go along with it, and it doesn’t mean that we go along with social systems that persecute or oppress people, but it does mean when we’re on the side of being oppressed to remember that this is a result of our own actions, and therefore to not oppress others in the future.

What so often happens is when people are oppressed, when they’re persecuted or when they’re abused, later on when their situation changes then they often become the aggressor, the persecutor, the oppressor, the abuser. And so psychologically I think when you’re the underdog, when you finally get a little bit of power you your tendency is, “Well, let’s really go gung-ho with it now because usually I’ve been on the opposite side.” But that kind of attitude only harms ourselves, not to mention harming others.

We may often think in our lives, well, I don’t have any strength or power. But we all have some strength. It may not be physical strength, it may be another kind of strength. We all have some kind of power. We may not have the power of a political leader or a CEO or a wealthy person. But within our own social group we have some power. Within our own family we have some power. Over insects and animals we have power. So it’s not that we’re ever entirely powerless and can never abuse our power. But you can see somebody who may not have much power with other human beings, but they have power with animals and they use it to really abuse animals, which is an awful thing to do.

(It’s important) to recognize that we all have some power and not to go around feeling like, “Blah…. Poor me.” But instead to use whatever strength and power we have to benefit others. Because if we do use it that way then it can become really, really a wonderful thing. And that’s why one of the traits of a special precious human rebirth is having strength and power. Because that gives you the ability, if you use it properly and with good motivation, to really be of great benefit to sentient beings.

Again, we may not have great power in society as a whole, or whatever, but in whatever area we are in, where our strength comes through or our power, then to use it wisely and to benefit all the people involved.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.