I’m listening to an audio CD by Pema Chodron, Buddhist nun and teacher. Called Embracing the Unknown: Life Lessons from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the content is fascinating and readily applicable to everyday living. You can find it on Amazon and on Hoopla.
Toward the end of the audio, Ani Pema* talks about heaven and hell in the Buddhist tradition. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a guidebook. In explaining the Tibetan view, she says she’s not suggesting we necessarily adopt the view as truth but rather use the teachings as support for living life more mindfully.
As I understand her teaching, two of the realms (there are six) in the gap between death and rebirth are Heaven and Hell. Hell is a place of anger and rage and it’s possible to remain stuck in this realm after death. The way out is “one positive thought.” That’s all it takes to pop us out of Hell and into another realm more conducive to achieving enlightenment. Ani Pema offers great stories as examples.
This teaching — that one positive thought can change our world — resonated most. And that’s saying a lot. There are some beautiful teachings in this audio.
Since listening to Embracing the Unknown, I’ve been more faithful about practicing “one positive thought.” When I’m upset, stressed or in worry mode — my personal hell on earth — I stop and think of something or someone I’m grateful for or a person I might do a good deed for today, or I listen to the bird trilling outside my window, notice a butterfly, or just breathe in the beauty around me.
When rage at some offense overtakes me, I notice the emotion and stop, center, and choose one positive thought. Depending on the offense, I may still attempt to rectify or communicate about it, but I’ll be doing that from a more centered, calm state of being.
What do you think? Do you have a similar practice? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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*In Tibetan, the honorific ani translates as aunt, which has special significance in Buddhism as it refers to the Buddha’s aunt, Mahaprajapati, who is said to have been the first Buddhist nun (from Wikipedia).