Buddhist Philosophy

Human Rights and Kindness

Human Rights

Human rights and kindness are very interconnected. This may seem very strange, but let’s examine how this might be.

Many of us may have experienced genuine harm from others in the past or we may be experiencing this now. Phakchok Rinpoche agrees that such circumstances can put us in a very tough place that can make it hard for us to practice kindness. Yet, if we really make the effort to be kind regardless of the situation, it can help. As we remind ourselves repeatedly to be kind, we gradually build the strength of our kindness.

Our hatred toward those who harm us disappears, or at least it reduces. Kindness can actually subdue our own aggression. But if we keep thinking about how a person or group of people has hurt us in the past, our hatred will not diminish. If we remind ourselves repeatedly of what others did, our hatred or anger stays fresh. Because we choose to dwell in memories of past wrongs, our kindness cannot grow.

Giving Yourself and Others a Chance

For this reason, Rinpoche says that kindness is really a way to respect human rights. If we practice kindness, then we are giving everybody a chance to improve. On the other hand, hatred is like a dictator. If we follow that dictator and hold hatred, then we never give a person or a group — or ourselves — the opportunity to improve. Mistakes were made, but what is done is done. Things can change by giving yourself the space to be kind.  We could say that we and others can heal, or improve, or change.

For us, hatred is often stronger than kindness because we have the habit to be angry. So, unfortunately, hatred seems very natural for us. Kindness is a little tougher for us to develop because we haven’t built the habit. But if we repeatedly produce kind thoughts, contemplate, and act in this way, then we gradually build more “kindness power.” Then our hatred will naturally reduce. Rinpoche says that this is how he practices.

Easy to Say, But Difficult to Do

Rinpoche reminds us that practicing kindness is easy to say, but difficult to do. He jokes that is his slogan here. People often say, practice kindness, and we dismiss it as an “easy” practice.

We want deeper teachings, or teachings that are not so easy such as nature of mind. But do or can we actually practice kindness? That is the issue!


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Failure: Learning from Our Mistakes



1 responses on "Human Rights and Kindness"

  1. Thank you very much, always ‘on point’ for me!
    I need to stop reading about Nature of Mind and practice more Kindness! Thank you for the reminder Rinpoche 🙂

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.