Spacious Passion

Chapter 8 – Spacious Passion & Passionate Space


Q: If you’re acting in a kind way to people who aren’t acting in your best interest, is there the possibility of people taking advantage of you?

NN: There can be. Kindness does not mean you have to be a wimp or a doormat. If you live with a needy person it is not always good to be ever-indulgent, if that merely allows them to cosset their neurosis. I may have to remember not to be unkind to myself… I am after all a member of the ‘all sentient beings’ assembly. It is sometimes preferable to keep out of the way of people who take advantage of the kindness of others. I can also stand up for myself. It is possible to appear to act ferociously. I can manifest an angry-looking response that will let a person know that I think they are behaving unkindly… whilst retaining a kind happy mind. I need to be sure however, that my display is a display….

Q: So it would look like an ordinary aggressive response, but we have got the individual’s well-being at heart?

NN: [laughs] Yes. The motivation is to help that person. I would not necessarily recommend this activity for everyone, but it is somewhat essential if you are a parent. Parents have to discipline their children. If you have to be really angry before you can bring yourself to say No, you cannot have that or No, you cannot do that then you have a real problem. Parents have to be firm and straightforward, and sometimes forceful, and this can look like anger. It’s bad news for the child if the parent cannot enforce discipline firmly from a position of kindness. With regard to our children, we have to know what is best. With regard to other adults, we do not necessarily have the right to assume we know best.

Q: I was wondering about right view, right intention, and right speech. As a nurse, I have to sit with the dying as part of my duties. If someone asks me, Am I dying? but I feel they don’t really want to know, they just want to be reassured and free of fear – what do I say?

NN: It is not always kind to tell the truth. Do not worry about the lie. It comes down to whether you feel confident enough to rely on your assessment of the situation. Only you can make that decision.

Q2: So if you feel it would not help?

NN: No, do not worry about lying. The fourth precept10 says that we should not lie, but if our communication of the truth causes great distress, then we have actually stolen that individual’s opportunity to die with a peaceful mind. However, I am not sure I would agree with telling them everything is going to be fine either – when it clearly is not. They may resent this as their condition continues to deteriorate, which will also create an unhappy mind. It is not an easy situation, and I cannot give an easy ‘fits all situations’ answer. You would have to judge how best to answer that question in the moment, from a basis of kindness.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche told me that the fourth precept concerns lack of deceit rather than the avoidance of lying. He said, What do you do as a German Buddhist when the Nazis bang on the door and ask you if you are sheltering a Jewish family? I would suggest an outright lie as being the best way to maintain the fourth precept. When the truth causes harm it makes a lie of compassion. To be a Buddhist is to be compassionate rather than to adhere to formulæ.


10. The five precepts are: to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and intoxication. These are not discussed in detail in this work. When viewed from Dzogchen, this teaching examines the most subtle nature of these wrong views.