Thought for the Weekend

Pacifying Minds – The Unbelievable Value of Compassion

This week on The Life Scientific on BBC radio 4, the interviewee was Dr Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychologist and psychoanalyst who treats the most violent in our society. When asked whether people who have committed the worst offensives deserved treatment, her answer was very interesting from a Buddhist perspective. She said that she felt it was inhumane not to offer help and that it was in all our interests, in society’s interest, to try and pacify these minds, She went on to explain that healing minds results in benefits not only for the individual but for the world, because in this way we become, as a society, more compassionate.

For me this resonates with our Buddhist belief that changing minds changes worlds. We, as Buddhists know, it is impossible for strong delusions to arise in a mind (or a world) filled with compassion. Although Dr Adshead was not referring specifically to Buddhist training, it was nonetheless exciting to hear someone on the radio make the connection between minds and worlds. It seems more and more people understand the value of good heart. This is what’s so beautiful about Buddhism – it is actually common sense.

As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche tells us in How to Transform Your Life- ‘We feel that the world exists ‘out there’ independent of the mind that perceives it; but in reality objects are dependent on the minds that perceives them. This impure world we perceive exists only in relation to our impure world. Once we have completely purified our mind through training in exchanging self with others, compassion and so forth, this impure world will disappear and we shall perceive a new, pure world. Our sense that things exist separately from our mind, with their own fixed inherent nature, comes from our ignorance. When we understand the true nature of things, we shall see that our world is like a dream, in that everything exists as a mere appearance to mind, and that, if we wish to be free from suffering, all we need to do is purify our mind.’

Although this quote from Geshe-la might sound challenging, and may give rise to many questions, when understood correctly it offers a beautiful meaning to our life- transforming our mind for our own sake and for the benefit of others. As a result, we become peaceful, happy and confident and others benefit from our inner strength and goodness. This has been the experience of all those who have ever practised unwavering and universal compassion; learning to transform the mind from angry, demanding and unforgiving to loving, compassionate and forgiving.

Why not challenge yourself – this weekend you’ll be more forgiving and compassionate rather than demanding and short tempered??

Perhaps the radio is becoming more inspiring, I begin thinking; or perhaps when we apply our Buddhist wisdom to all things we see all things differently.