Understanding anger

Shantideva’s “Engaging in the Bodhisattva’s Deeds,” Chapter 6, Verses 22-34

A series of teachings given at various venues in Mexico in April 2015. The teachings are in English with Spanish translation. This talk took place at Yeshe Gyaltsen Center in Cozumel.

  • Applying the Dharma to our present situation
  • Review on the fortitude of enduring physical suffering
  • Verses on the fortitude of practicing the Dharma (22 to 26)
    • Working with anger towards inanimate objects
    • Reflecting on others’ conditioning to awaken our compassion for them
    • Understanding the causes of anger
    • How daily practice stops the conditions for anger
    • Overcoming self-criticism by being aware of our buddha nature
  • Summary of verses refuting the tenets of non-Buddhist systems (27-31)
  • Keeping a happy mind influences our environment positively
  • Questions and answers
    • Relating responsibly to our past conditioning
    • Why we have different levels of tolerance towards others
    • Our misplaced expectations towards intelligent people

Let’s cultivate our motivation for listening to teachings, especially the motivation that sees the disadvantages of anger and hatred and wants to overcome it. Let’s generate very strong compassion for ourselves and all others that suffer from anger and make a strong determination to gain the wisdom that will overcome anger. We’ll do this for the benefit of all sentient beings, especially barking dogs. [laughter]

I included the part about the barking dogs as a way of indicating how to apply the Dharma to our present situation. It’s very easy to think, “I’m meditating for the benefit of all sentient beings, but these dogs are disturbing my meditation on compassion. Why don’t they just shut up!” It’s very easy for our practice to become quite intellectual whereas it’s extremely important to make it very real with what’s happening in front of our faces. It’s true, isn’t it? It’s so easy to think of having so much compassion for all the people in Africa, but the person who cuts us off on the highway, there’s no compassion for that person. We have to practice equanimity and apply our compassion to everybody.

Two stories about fortitude

Regarding what they call “road rage,” one time some years ago, I was with a friend who was in labor having a baby, and she was going to have a home birth but she wasn’t dilating enough. The midwife said she had to go to the hospital, so we put her in the car as she’s in labor having contractions, and clearly the driver of the car wanted to get to the hospital quickly. He might have cut off a few people while he was driving, but it was for the benefit of the mother and the baby, not because he was mean or inconsiderate. Now whenever people cut somebody off, it makes me think that we don’t know the situation of the people in that car. They may be having a baby in the car, because it’s happened. Or somebody might be very ill; we don’t know.

If somebody really feels the need to go ahead of us in traffic, let them go ahead and wish them well. We don’t have to have a big ego about this, saying, “They disrespected me. They cut in front of me.” Because if we get angry when we’re driving and seek revenge, it can actually be dangerous for us and the people we love. One young man told me a story about being in a car with his fiance, and somebody cutting him off on the highway. It made him furious, so he gunned the car ahead, cut off the other guy, and then lost control of his car. He wound up in a ditch and went across four lanes of highway. Do you know what would have happened if one car had been in one of those four lanes? He told me afterwards that it really shook him up because he realized he could have killed his fiance, and that’s the disadvantages of anger.

We are now on verse 22, right? Before, we were talking about one type of fortitude, which is the fortitude of facing suffering. So, we talked about pain and so forth. I just remember a story I should tell you. [laughter] In one course I was leading, a woman came up and told me the story of a health situation where she was quite ill and in pain and discomfort. She was a young woman in her thirties, and she went to the doctor, and the doctor gave her the diagnosis of something quite serious that was going to be terminal. She kind of freaked out: “I’m so young, and I have a terminal diagnosis now.” 

In that kind of situation, the tendency to get angry is very big, isn’t it?  Because someone could very easily think, “This isn’t fair. Other people get to live a very long time. I’m so young; why do I have to die?” She started to go down that road, but then she thought, “What would the Dalai Lama do in this situation of being terminally ill? What would His Holiness do?” Three words came to her: just be kind.

So, she took that as her practice, to just be kind. It was her practice to be kind to the doctors, to the nurses, to the technicians, to the orderlies, to her family, to the pharmacists. She thought, “This is my practice. However, long I live, I will be kind to the people around me.” She made that her practice and did that. Some months went by and she had another test and the doctor said that he had misdiagnosed her illness. [laughter] It wasn’t terminal after all. I can’t help but think that maybe her positive state of mind stopped the negative karma from ripening. I don’t know, but it’s a thought.

The fortitude of practicing the Dharma

Now we’re going to talk about the second kind of fortitude: the fortitude of practicing the Dharma. It’s a fortitude of definitely thinking about the Dharma, and what this specifically means is the fortitude of thinking about emptiness and dependent arising. These are very tough topics, so we need a strong mind. 

This section goes into looking at conditionality: how suffering arises due to conditions and how our anger also arises due to conditions. Anything that is produced by causes and conditions is impermanent, transient; it doesn’t exist exactly the same in the very next moment. In addition, anything that is dependent on causes and conditions does not have its own inherent nature. It doesn’t have some essence that we can point to and say, “This is what it is.”

We tend automatically, due to our innate ignorance, to think that things have their own essential mode of existence. But anything that arose due to its own power would be some kind of self-enclosed entity that would be independent of everything else. Clearly, things exist in relationship to other factors. They arise due to causes and conditions, so they don’t have any inherent nature. 

Verse 22 says:

As long as I do not become angry at great sources of suffering, such as vile disease or hepatitis, then why be angry at those with mind? They, too, are provoked by conditions

We usually don’t get angry at something that is inanimate. We usually get mad at people, don’t we? Although I can think of some examples from my life where I got mad at inanimate objects. [laughter] I’m going to go off on a tangent here. [laughter] I think the stories break up the philosophy a little bit. [laughter] 

When I went to University, I had to work to pay for tuition and everything. So, I got a job in two different psychological research projects. This was in the late sixties or early seventies, and so both of these projects were marijuana research. One of the projects gave people marijuana to smoke and then marijuana in liquid form and then alcohol and then a placebo. And then we would measure their responses to different perceptual and cognitive abilities. We had to get these people in various states of intoxication. There was one machine, a little booth, with little dots that appeared in different places. The people had to push levers as soon as they saw the dots. 

This machine sometimes didn’t work, and we had to make it work because these people were there and loaded, and we needed to test them. [laughter] So, my fellow assistant and I had a technique where we would kick the machine, and it worked! [laughter] The machine, after we kicked it, would work. So, sometimes we do get angry at inanimate things, like machines. Shantideva wrote before machines. Sometimes you get mad at your computer, don’t you? Because right when you have to do something important, it freezes. So, sometimes we have to practice patience and fortitude with our computers. But Shantideva is not aware of that kind of anger because he has us pinned in about every other way that we get angry.

In any case, we seldom get mad at inanimate objects. And mostly we get mad at people. So, why don’t we get mad at inanimate objects? It’s because we basically feel like they don’t have any motivation to harm. It’s just a machine; it’s just whatever it is. So, there’s no motivation to harm, and screaming at it won’t make it change. Throwing it across the room doesn’t do any good either. [laughter]

Here, in this verse, Shantideva is saying, “Why do we get mad at people with minds when we don’t get mad at inanimate objects?” Because the inanimate objects, like a disease, causes suffering due to causes and conditions, and people also create harm due to causes and conditions. So, they are both equal. Why do we get mad at one and not the other? It’s a good argument, isn’t it? You may say, “Well, that person, he really intended to harm me.” But then sometimes you have to look at why that person is doing what they’re doing, and you can see that they are influenced by causes and conditions. It isn’t like they were inherently some kind of evil person.

We’re all conditioned

I do prison work in the US. I write to inmates, send them Dharma materials, and visit them in different prisons. And I always ask the people to tell me about their history and background. When you hear the story of some of their lives, you know why they are in prison now. The conditions they faced as young children are things that no child should ever have to experience. And when children grow up in extreme poverty, when there’s domestic violence in the home, when there’s marital discord and one or both parents disappear, those are conditions that will affect that child and will affect their behavior as adults.

It’s not like those children thought, “I want to grow up and be a criminal.” They grew up in a horrible environment, and in their own confusion as adults, they were trying to do something they thought would bring them happiness. Some of the people who grew up as children in poor and abusive environments have no vision of the positive future they could have. They look at the adults in their community, especially in the US that has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and they have no vision of how to have a better life than their parents and other adults they see. If you can make a good living selling drugs, that’s what they do. And then that often leads to involvement with guns and violence. So, what I’m getting at here is rather than looking at people and saying, “Oh, this peson is inherently bad,” we should instead recognize that they are conditioned by causes and conditions and the environment around them.

Just as material things, inanimate things, are activated by causes and conditions, so are people. So, seeing other people like this can often help us to calm down and not get so angry at them. We see that they are only doing what they’re doing due to causes and conditions. And it’s very humbling to think that if we had been born in the situation that they experienced, we would experience the same causes and conditions, and we may have grown up to act in a similar way. Because it’s not like our minds are different natures; all of us have the Buddhanature, the pure nature of the mind, and all of us have the clouds of ignorance, anger and attachment. We’re all the same in that way.

Sometimes it can be very helpful, when you see situations in the world, like when we read about chaotic things in the news where it seems like every person and group involved is just making the situation worse instead of solving it, it can be helpful to remember that if we were born in that environment and conditioned through the life experiences those involved had, we might be acting the same way. It’s kind of horrible to think like that, but it’s true, isn’t it? So, that humbles us and makes us more open to having compassion for other people.

Then verse 23 says:

For example, although they are not wished for, these sicknesses arise. Likewise, although they are not wished for, these afflictions forcibly arise.

In the same way that sicknesses arise due to causes and conditions, afflictions—ignorance, anger, attachment, pride and jealousy and all the other afflicitons—all arise due to conditions, too. So, just as we don’t wish for disease but it arises when the conditions are present, we don’t wish for our afflicitons to arise, but when the conditions are present they do. Similarly, when we’re dealing with another person whose mind is overwhelmed with afflictions, their afflictions arise due to other causes and conditions, not because the afflictions think, “I want to arise in somebody’s mind and torment that person.” [laughter] And it’s not because the person says, “Oh, I want an affliction to arise in my mind so that I can be a jerk.”

Verse 24 says:

Without thinking, “I shall be angry,” people become angry with no resistance. And without thinking, “I shall arise,” likewise, anger arises.

This is what I was just talking about. People become angry simply because the causes of anger are there. That refers to us and also to people who get angry at us, or people who get angry at someone else.

The seed of anger

What are some of the causes of anger? One of the most serious is the seed of anger in our mind. What the “seed of anger” means is, for example, that right now I’m not angry, but the possiblity of me getting angry still exists inside my mind. And sometime in the future that seed of anger may arise as actual anger. The seed is what connects one instance of anger, through a long time when you may not have anger, to getting angry again. The seed of anger is especially pernicious. As long as we have the seed of anger in our mind, we will find someone or something to get mad at.

It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be the way somebody looks at me. If I’m in a bad mood, I’ll get mad at it. It’s because the seed of anger exists in me. Lots of times we get angry in situations where absolutely no one is trying to harm us. But due to the seed of anger and due to the inappropriate attention that we talked about yesterday—the part of our mind that makes up a story about it and misinterprets something—when they come together, in relationship to even the smallest thing, we explode in anger. Do you see that in yourself? 

I love this example: let’s say that every morning you sit down at breakfast with your spouse or partner, and every morning you have bananas. One morning you sit down and there’s no bananas. And you go, “Honey, there’s no bananas.” [laughter] Your husband goes, “Yeah, I know.” And so you say, “But it was your day to do the shopping.” He responds, “I don’t think so,” but you say, “It was your day to do the shopping, and you know I like bananas for breakfast. I think you did this deliberately.” [laughter] “You’re just making up an excuse that it wasn’t your day to go shopping or you forgot about it or something. This is the same passive aggressive behavior that you always have towards me.” [laughter] “I am so loving towards you, but you pretend to be nice and then you do these rotten things like forgetting to buy the bananas. And we’ve been married twenty seven years, and this has been the pattern all these twenty-seven years. And I am totally fed up! If you’re going to be passive aggressive, forget it! This marriage is over!” [laughter] “I want a divorce, and then you can eat your bananas with somebody else.” 

Do you have fights with your spouse about teeny, tiny things like this? The initial problem is some miniscule thing, the mind blows it up, and then pretty soon you’re getting a divorce. [laughter] This is the seed of anger inside of us plus some small external circumstance and some big inappropriate attention. This is a situation that doesn’t actually call for anger, and we’re furious. So, imagine what happens in a situation where someone else is really angry at us. You still have an external situation, but then our inappropriate attention really goes to town. These are some of the causes and conditions.

Media as a cause and condition

Also, the media can be a cause and condition for the arisal of our anger. If you watch a lot of movies where people quarrel and where there’s violence, this incites our own anger and rage. It always amazes me how they need to fund psychological studies that cost millions of dollars to figure out that playing violent video games makes anger arise in your mind. We need to be very careful how we related to the media because it can really influence us adversely.

Especially with movies, news and all these things, they want to give you the worst aspects of a situation, because that sells more newspapers, gets more clicks, or it sells more movie tickets at the theater. So, we’re constantly bombarded with these images of people’s bad sides. And then that gives us impetus to act in the same way, because we copy what we see. The seed of anger, inappropriate attention, some external object like the media, and then also habit is another cause for our anger to arise.

If we just give in to our anger all the time and develop the habit of getting angry, and we never try and restrain our anger, then anger arises very easily again and again. Thinking about the causes of anger, whether it be our own or someone else’s anger, helps us see that anger isn’t some inherently existent, solid thing that has to be there. It only exists because the causes and conditions for it exist. So, it’s a lot more malleable than we usually think. 

Afflictions have no self-nature

Verse 25 says:

All misdeeds there are and all the various kinds of negativities arise through the force of conditions. They do not have self-power.

Be it our bad behavior or other people’s bad behavior, all those bad behaviors arise due to afflictions in the mind. Again, it’s not because somebody is bad or evil and wants to really harm us. It’s not because the anger itself says, “I want to manifest.” It’s just when the causes and conditions are there then anger, bad behavior, suffering show up. When we can stop the conditions then it helps us stop the anger and the bad behavior. That’s why I said to be very careful about your relationship to the media.

If you make a new habit of thinking about all these antidotes to anger, by practicing on a daily basis and reflecting on all these verses, then that will stop the conditions for anger arising and stabilize the conditions for fortitude. We need to do the practice. You can hire people to mow your lawn or to cook your lunch, but you can’t hire somebody to sleep for you or to eat for you. You have to do those yourself. Similarly, we have to practice the Dharma ourselves. It’s not that I can hire you to do the meditations on fortitude and then I’ll have fortitude as the result. [laughter] I have to do the meditations myself.

Regarding that, if you have the text, you can read each verse and then contemplate it, applying it to your life and making examples of your own experience so that you can practice generating fortitude based on bad experiences you’ve had in the past. But you have to do that; I can’t do it for you. [laughter]

Verse 26 says:

These conditions that assemble together have no intention “I shall arise,” and neither does that produced by them have the intention “I will be produced.” 

Again, the external situations that may trigger our anger do not have the intention “I will arise as an external condition and provoke somebody’s anger.” Instead, they arise due to their own causes and conditions. Similarly, whatever is produced—the external situation or our own anger, whatever it is—doesn’t think, “Oh, I want to arise in somebody’s mind,” but when the causes and conditions are there, it arises.

We can eliminate the causes for anger

Seeing that gives us the ability to not be so judgemental when somebody is angry. Because they’re usually not thinking, “I want to be angry.” Similarly, when we get angry ourselves, this helps us not to be so judgemental of ourselves for getting angry. We can just say, “This is due to causes and conditions; it’s not because I’m a horrible person that I’m getting angry. And when I work to change these causes and conditions, then the anger will stop. So, I don’t need to tell myself I’m so horrible because I’m angry.” That judgemental, critical mind, when we turn it on ourselves, becomes a very big hindrance to Dharma practice. And we can spend a long time with a lot of very negative self-talk: “I’m so bad. I’m so horrible. Look what I just did. I’m so overwhelmed with guild. No wonder nobody loves me. I destroy everything.”

This way of talking to ourselves is unrealistic, and it creates a lot of obstacles for our spiritual growth. Unfortunately, we’re taught to think like this when we were little. And unfortunately, some of that came from the religion that we grew up with that told us we were sinners. Then we adopt the identity of a “sinner,” and we think, “Oh, I’m hopeless. I can’t do anything to change this situation. I have evil inside me; I am evil. I’m guilty.” What kind of self-identity is that? Buddhism does not teach us to think that way about ourselves. Rather, the Buddha said, “Okay, there are conditioning factors that make the afflictions arise, but these afflcitions are not embedded in our very nature. They are simply conditioned factors. When you change the conditions these things change.”

And our anger can be completely eliminated from our mindstream because the basic nature of our mind is something pure, and the affllictions have not entered into the nature of the mind. So, it’s important to remember this and to have a positive self-image and to think, “I have the Buddhanature. I can become a fully awakened buddha.” It’s very important to think like this. When you’re aware that you have that potential to become a fully awakened buddha, that is a valid basis for self-confidence. When we base our self-confidence on external factors that we cannot always control then it’s a set-up to eventually lose our self-confidence. 

If your self-confidence is based on your youth and good looks then what’s going to happen when you age? If your self-confidence is based on your athletic ability, what’s going to happen when you age and your body can’t do that anymore? If your self-confidence is based on the amount of money that you have, what’s going to happen when the economy goes down? When our self-confidence is based on our buddha nature then that self-confidence can be stable because that buddha nature never goes away. Even when you’re 90 years old in a wheelchair with dementia, you still have the buddha nature. It’s very important to remember this.

What changes cannot be permanent

Then, I’m going to read the next group of verses together and give a very summary explanation of them because they involve refuting the wrong tenets of non-Buddhist systems, and that would involve studying the philosophy of those non-Buddhist systems, and if we did that, we wouldn’t have time to finish this chapter. So, Verses 27-31 say:

That which is asserted as the principal and that which is imputed as the self do not arise after having purposefully thought, “I shall arise.” If they are not produced and non-existent, what is asserted to be produced at that time? Since it would always be distracted to its object, it follows that it will never cease. If the self were permanent it would obviously be devoid of activity just like space, so even if it were to meet with other conditions, what could the unchanging do? Even if when acted upon it remains as before then what did activity do to it? If it is said, “This is the activity of that,” how could the two ever be related? Hence, all are governed by others and through the power of that, they have no power. Having understood in this way, I shall not become angry at all those things that are like emanations.

So, the main point of all those verses that you were scratching your head at is that if there were a permanent soul or a permanent self, those things could not change. And things that cannot change cannot have afflictions arise in them. Similarly, if the causes for the afflictions were permanent, they couldn’t exist because their very nature means they are impermanent. A cause produces a result, which means that the cause has to change to become the result. Changes cannot be permanent.

That’s the point of all these verses. It’s coming back again to this whole idea of conditionality and that causes and conditions are impermanent. They don’t have their own power, but some condition arises due to its own causes and conditions. Nothing is random, and it’s not that there’s some permanent something that makes everything happen.  

Things exist conventionally 

Let’s go on to something a bit easier to understand. In reaction to these verses where we said, “Look, things don’t have any permanent essence or any inherent nature; they don’t exist from their own side independent of everything else,” then somebody else misunderstood the meaning and says, “Oh, so you’re saying nothing exists at all.” So, we’re saying, “No, you misunderstood.” In verse 32, the person who misunderstood says the first two lines, and then we respond in the last two lines. So, the person who misunderstood says:

If everything is unreal like an apparition, then who is there to restrain what anger. Surely in this case, restraint would be inappropriate.

This person is saying, “Look, if things don’t have their own inherent nature and are just appearances, then who is there to restrain anger and what anger is there to be restrained, because none of these exist?” This person is thinking that if nothing has its own nature and is just appearances, then there’s no person to restrain the anger and no anger to be restrained. That’s that person’s wrong view again. Then Shantideva resplies:

It would not be inappropriate because conventionally I must maintain that in dependence upon restraining anger, the stream of suffering is severed.

What this means is that just because things don’t have their own inherent nature that doesn’t mean that they’re non-existent. In other words, things that lack an inherent nature exist, and they exist conventionally. Conventional existence is the only kind of existence there is. So, Shantideva is saying, “Look, if you can get rid of your anger by generating the wisdom that dispels ignorance then you can cut the stream of suffering because when the ignorance doesn’t exist the anger cannot exist either.”

Keeping a happy mind

Then verse 33 says:

So, when seeing an enemy or even a friend doing something incorrect, by thinking “It arises by such conditions,” I shall remain in a happy frame of mind.

Sometimes we see an enemy or a friend do a really harmful action, like sometimes you watch the news and you see what ISIS is doing or what the Syrian President is doing or whoever it is, and you get angry. There’s nothing much we can do about the situation on a practical level, and if we let ourselves fall into despair, then the things that we can do on a local level don’t happen because we’re stuck in our despair and depression. So, while we may not be able to control world events, we can influence them by voting, for example, and we can influence the people around us so that they can have a more peaceful life. In that way, we can prevent a lot of future suffering.

So, what this verse is saying is rather than falling into depression and despair at the state of the world, let’s instead realize that all these things happen due to causes and conditions. And let’s maintain a balanced, happy mind so that we can be of benefit to other people. And in that way, we can make our contribution to world peace. Because if we get depressed and despair and then get angry, then we’re just going to become another cause for problems in the world. So, again, this is asking us to keep a happy state of mind.

This does not mean that we just say, “Well, I can’t do anything about the situation, so forget it!” Because we may not have the power to change it, but we can influence it. We can give to charities that support refugees, for example, or do things like during the ebola epidemic when many people from our countries went abroad to serve. So, we still should be involved in trying to remedy problems and not just become apathetic, like an ostrich that sticks their head in the sand. [laughter] 

Verse 34 says:

If things were established with one’s freedom then since no one wishes to suffer, suffering would not occur to any embodied creature.

In other words, if things did not happen due to causes and conditions, but we could just will things to happen the way we wanted them to, then since no living being whatsoever wants suffering, there would be no suffering. But because suffering arises due to multiple causes and conditions, then we have to navigate our way through these causes and conditions in order to cease the ones that we’re capable of ceasing. And the basic one that we’re capable of ceasing is the ignorance within our own hearts. And when that ignorance ceases, then clinging attachment, anger, resentment—all these things also cease. Then we have real freedom because real freedom is a state of mind.

Questions & Answers

Audience: [Inaudible]

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): So, we’re part of the causes and conditions, and we have our responsibility for the causes and conditions we create. And when we slow down, we realize that we have a choice about how we relate to the things that are conditioning us. So, for example, when we were children, we may have grown up with certain causes and conditions around us, and because of that we develop bad habits—even bad emotional habits. As a child, we were unable to assess all these causes and conditions, and they just influenced us. Now, as adults, if we slow down and think about things and observe things instead of just reacting to them, then we can choose which causes and conditions from our past we want to let influence us and which ones we don’t want to pay any attention to anymore. That’s where personal responsibility exists. This is part of the disadvantage of developing a victim mentality: we don’t take the responsibility that is there, and then we don’t change what we can change. 

Audience: It happens sometimes that there are people, friends or strangers, that we tolerate and then there are other friends or strangers we can’t tolerate even though both do strange things. Why is that?  

VTC: It depends on our level of attachment. The people that we’re very attached to, we tolerate more. The people that we don’t know so well, we don’t see their good qualities and exaggerate them; we’re not attached to them for our emotional stability, so we don’t tolerate as much.

Audience: [Inaudible]

VTC: We think, “They’re intelligent people, so they should be responsible.” Maybe they are not as intelligent—in a spiritual way—as we want them to be. People can be very intellectually intelligent, very good at giving speeches or convicting other people of things, but on an ethical, moral level or a spiritual level, they are very ignorant. 

So, I had great problems with George W. Bush. [laughter] I just…[laugher] How he got to be President was beyond me—twice! [laughter] But when I thought about it, I thought “What would have happened if I had been born the child of George Bush, Sr?”  If I had George and Barbara Bush as parents, and I grew up in a rich family in Texas—of all states Texas is one I don’t want to live in. The politics there are just crazy. But if I had been born in that kind of wealthy, pampered environment, and been able to go to Yale not because I had intelligence but because my daddy had money, and if I had tried to get out of military service because my daddy had money, I might have grown up to be like George W. Bush. [laughter] May I never do that in any of my lives! [laughter] But if I had that conditioning, maybe I would think like him. You don’t know. 

So then you have to look at him and say, “My goodness, this poor baby!” Because he came out of the womb as just some baby. Of course, he came with his own karmic imprints and tendencies, but his environment influenced him. And I tell you, I would not want his karma. You know? To do the taking and giving meditation for George W. Bush and the karma he created is difficult. I really have to generate compassion.

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.