East West Wisdoms

Interweaving Spirituality and Therapeutic Healing

East West Wisdoms

Discovering hidden stream of ill will

Posted on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010 at 1:45 pm

In one's search for the seeds of ill will to weed out, I have often been surprised to discover subtle elements of ill will lurking amongst seemingly innocent reactions to surprise prompts.

New life!

New life!

Only yesterday I discovered some disconcerting evidence of one of these underground streams of subtle ill will manifesting in disguised form in the reply I gave to an interesting question posed by a young man (32 years old) who is close to me.

He asked if I felt that, at 62 years old, I was running out of time to do all the things I wanted to do. This was a deep question and I failed to honor it by pausing and quietly contemplating how to answer. Instead, I can see now that I fell prey to the negative, 'glass-half-empty' stream of karmic predispositions (habituated responses) and launched into a little speech expressing relief at drawing nearer to the end of this life as I could now put aside career ambitions and demands and I might be able to avoid some of the painful effects of anticipated global warming and the fall of the Anglo/American empire!

I acknowledged that I would not actually avoid these painful anticipated consequences of actions (seeds of karma) already taken as I would be reborn into the flow of cause and effect. However, in this new life there would be a new set of learnings that would condition my early years and would hopefully be more helpful than the set of conditioned childhood learnings from this present life. I expressed the view that there seemed to be an ever-increasing gap, or dissonance, between values, skills and expectations learned in my youth and what is dominant today. My perceptions as I spoke were of the dark side that I might avoid and yet I was simultaneously feeling content with my life and happy. What a contradiction! What a self-centred view! No wonder I felt uneasy and later wanted to replace my answer with one of the many more optimistic and compassionate responses that flooded in.

However, it still took me some time to discover why I felt uncomfortable with my quick response to my friend's question. In fact, it was not till my meditation this morning that I finally noticed the emphasis on 'self'; the separating of self from others; the separation of this life from that life and, above all, the lack of compassion. A couple of years ago, one of my teachers gave a profound teaching that I have contemplated ever since. She said, "altruism is the greatest happiness!" I was on retreat at the time and had the daily practice of wishing healing and happiness to a long list of family, friends, teachers, clients and acquaintances. Running through this list, I noticed that each of these people (and myself) did indeed appear happy when they helped others or reflected on how they had helped another.

Abundant life!

Abundant life!

So, how do I see my answer to the young man as flavoured by ill will? It appears to me now that there was both ignorance (delusion) and ill will in my answer. The ignorance was based on an implicit sense of separate identity and manifestation and the ill will was in caring more about my escape than about the anticipated suffering of younger people and, indeed, all beings caught in the sufferings of Samsara! This incident strikes me as a good example of the power of karmic predispositions that have a tendency to impulsively push aside more recently adopted compassionate and appropriate learning and aspiration.

So my answer now to the young man can be summarised as:

"No, I do not feel that I am running out of time! I feel I have been very fortunate in this life but I have a lot to learn. There is abundance all around! I need to use every moment of life, now and in the future, to be present, compassionate and aware so that I can better understand how to promote happiness and wellbeing for all. The ending of this body form is not an ending but a transition into another life form, with yet more opportunity for learning, experiencing and giving".

Well, how would you answer the young man's question? Any reflections on the sense of "time running out" and "not enough time to do what one wants in this life" would be most welcome.

Wishing you well and happy,


7 responses to “Discovering hidden stream of ill will”

  1. Diane says:

    Thanks Jacqui for your comments on ill will re running out of time, and also for the others who commented. If I feel a yukky feeling after a conversation I try to find where in the body and draw a picture of it. If I don't get around to the drawing I do meditate as well and slow everything down to pin point what is going on. I believe it is how you live everyday, giving thanks and appreciating this wounderful world we live in as really we don't know how long we have on earth. I think it was mindful of you Jacqui to understand what went on but it easy for us all to fall in to the trap of replying quickly and harder for us to stay quiet and reflect first before giving an answer right away.

    Thanks Jacqui for your honesty and mindfulness.

  2. Jan says:

    I think I am saying some of the things you two said but you can be the judge of that (: I agree with being in the present and creating happiness for all sentient beings including myself through altrulism. May be I would say this.
    No I do not think "not having enough time to do everything one wants in life" is neccessary a thing to worry about nor there is such a thing as "running out of time". Anyone of us could die tomorrow so we all only have this moment. As far as, having time to do everything I ever wanted to do all I can say is; Thankgoodness I never had the time to do everything I ever wanted to in life. I am not sure we need the opportunity to act out all our desires. It does not bring happiness. I am convinced feelings and acts of altrulism make me happy. I am also convinced such feelngs and act make other sentient beings happy.I know this from experience and have tested it in my daily life. Developing altrulism is my form of happiness. So I prefer to develop this quality as opposed to "doing things I've always wanted to". For me, being a budhist, I surmise that to develop this quality I may live another 30 years or even a few more lifetimes. However, I suspect it really isn't down to time. I expect this will occur when I am emersed in the smallest unit of time, in a moment whereby I forget myself and truely care for another sentient being and then begin to take this out to everything and every sentient being always. It may start as a droplet adding moment onto moment till conceptual thinking is taken over by something else. It could be in meditation, in retreat, with my family, at work or in play but being open to the moment and not worrying about time running out and pursueing desires is a viewpoint useful for me to pursue. (I would probally have given him an opportunity to interupt and tell his story as the speel is quite long and it would be good to hear his veiwpoint.)

  3. Andree says:

    Thanks Jacqui for sharing that experience.

    There are two main elements I wish to comment on: 1st, the personal response to the young man's question, and second the concept of ill will.

    I'm 63 years, so that question relates to my current life situation. "Running out of time" may actually be part of how young people may perceive "old people" to feel in relation to their few years remaining in this life (when young, we usually have a sense of "infinite" life span!). In other words, they may project onto us (oldies)some of their misconceptions. But it is so easy to take these projections on board, specially when they may display an undercurrent of condescending (not intended,and mostly not consciously recognised by the person, I'm sure). Therefore, we may respond with all sort of justifications because of implied threats that our mind is so apt to construe.

    I personally do not have a sense of "running out of time". The Buddhist Teachings are showing me that the quality of my being now is what I have to work on. No matter how many more years I'm going to live, or what my activities and my goals are, the important thing is to try to cultivate spiritual qualities of mind, such as patience, etc... Then I do not have time to worry about the future or lack of it! Quite liberating!

    Which leads me to the second element, that of ill-will. For a while now, I have been pondering on the issue of goodwill and illwill. Sometimes, I feel difficult to relate to the concept of compassion, in a sense of how to practice it. But I feel at ease with the concept of goodwill, because in my responses to situations or people, I know when I'm reacting with ill-will. I see ill-will as a resistance to saying "yes" with enthusiasm, to saying "yes" unconditionally. Ill-will is when I say yes, but resent it. Ill-will is when I say no, because I did not have the good will to listen firt. Ill-will is when I say no when it means saying yes is going to inconvenience me. And ill-will is a "yucky" feeling, but still so dominant! But for me, I can work on ill-will, because it is such a common-sense feeling. I have a lot of confusion regarding "compassion", in its definition and practice, but I find "good-will" a very "down-to-earth" feeling that I can work with.

    So, from my point of view, I cannot see actual ill-will in your response, Jacqui, but then I'm trapped within my own web of illusory perceptions.

    • Jacqui says:

      Thanks, Andree, for your comments. It seems that we are all in agreement about the benefits of Buddhist teachings urging us to keep our focus on the present moment and the spiritual qualities we are manifesting. I would just like to add another word to my reply a few minutes ago to Jac-Aileen's query on ill will. I agree with you that the issue is about discriminating between goodwill and ill will. Certainly I felt no ill will at the time. It was only later that I noticed a persistent uneasiness - and almost a "yucky" feeling - as I kept getting drawn back to my answer. As I have said, it took a few days to work out what was causing this unease. Your comments - and everyone else's - have been helpful in confirming that the main cause of unease probably arose from the ignorance/delusion expressed in coming from a place of separateness. I guess there is only a very subtle little whiff of ill will caused by my aversive reaction to global warming and the dominance of materialism, conjoined with the failure to strike a more helpful, compassionate note as an immediate follow up to my initial, selfish response. I have tried to remedy this omission in my blog and am truly grateful for the added reflections from yourself and others.
      Warm wishes,

  4. Jac-Aileen Peterie says:

    This is indeed a seductively provocative question, so I am compelled to contribute - but certainly not for.... 'public interest'!

    Interesting how 'first' or instinctive responses and impressions have their own level of being in the ocean of mind, and how easily we all play in! (Again - one of the essential benefits of the practice of meditation in slowing our responses..) I'm not sure the discussion is an example of ill will exactly, which I feel is a conscious experience of inflicting or spreading harm, )and applaud your crystal sensitivity for suggesting it).
    One is ever mindful of being a Bodhisattva to oneself, equally as for others' benefit, as this is the deserved vehicle which embodies our present truth in being. The concept of 'schadenfreud' (correct spelling?) seems common especially where the ego reigns, but this issue displays perhaps ignorance of the three poisons, more than greed or hatred, don't you agree?

    Mostly, I agree with your reflections Jacqui, and could only add that one of many responses would be to remind the gent that 'enlightenment in a second' - wherein the concept of time is easily shown to be erroneous. I sometimes wonder if Shantideva's famous quote "when I think of others I am happy, when I suffer I am thinking of myself" - is a wonderful example of altruism giving us a holiday(!) from our sustaining vehicle:)

    All this aside, what fun when the gent is 62 and himself laughing at the same posed question!

    Ha Ha!


    • Jacqui says:

      In answer to your query, Jac-Aileen, as to whether I was indeed expressing ill will in my first answer, on reflection I would agree that this is questionable. I identified ill will as present on the grounds that my answer to the young man was expressing things about our present time that I don't like and would prefer to avoid (ie, as the Buddha said: "suffering is wanting things to be different!") and so, at the present time, I am tending to interpret all "pushings away"/aversion/dislike, as belonging to the 'hate' family/continuum. In this case, the aversion is very subtle and I wasn't even aware of it at the time!
      I am not familiar with the term 'schadenfreud'' and would very much appreciate your explanation...
      Many thanks for your interesting response.

  5. Venerable Ngawang lhatso says:

    Hi Jacqui.
    How timely is your letter, I have just been to the funeral of a 38 year old woman who leaves behind a beloved husband and 2 year old daughter. Your young man may die tomorrow no one can tell! except the Buddhas how long we may have in this form realm.
    The grasping mind sees time as a running out and wishes to take what it can from this illusory time, so yes its a self that thinks it exists and Spiritual materialism feeds this illusion.
    I too am 62 and have only been ordained 9 months,I may have the karma to live a long life in service to all sentient beings, thoes in the dharma or not. I may have run out of that merritt who can tell? If we come into the place of mindfullness and the great meditation of Mahayana,as well as the place of calmly abiding and insight, each moment awake to our shaddow and our light.
    Arohanui from a very deluded Sakya Nun in NZ.
    Student of H/E Chogye Trichen Rinpoche H/H Sakya Trizin
    Venerable Ngawang Lhatso

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