A powerful method of healing in Tibetan Buddhism is to meditate on the teachings known as thought transformation. These methods allow a person to see the problem or sickness as something positive rather than negative. A problem is only a problem if we label it a problem. If we look at a problem differently, we can see it as an opportunity to grow or to practice, and regard it as something positive. We can think that having this problem now ripens our previous karma, which does not then have to be experienced in the future.
If someone gets angry at us, we can choose to be angry in return or to be thankful to them for giving us the chance to practice patience and purify this particular karma. It takes a lot of practice to master these methods, but it can be done.
It is our concepts which often bring the greatest suffering and fear. For example, due to a set of signs and symptoms, the doctor gives the label ‘AIDS’ or ‘cancer’. This can cause great distress in a person’s mind, because they forget that it is only a label, that there is no truly existent, permanent AIDS or cancer. ‘Death’ is another label that can generate a lot of fear. But in reality ‘death’ is only a label for what happens when the consciousness separates from the body, and there is no real death from its own side. This also relates to our concept of ‘I’ and of all other phenomena. They are all just labels and have no true, independent existence.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche, a highly realised Tibetan Lama, says that the most powerful healing methods of all are those based on compassion, the wish to free other beings from their suffering. The compassionate mind – calm, peaceful, joyful and stress-free – is the ideal mental environment for healing. A mind of compassion stops our being totally wrapped up in our own suffering situations. By reaching out to others we become aware of not just my pain but the pain (that is, the pain of all beings).
Many people find the following technique powerful and effective: think “By me experiencing this disease or pain or problem, may all the other beings in the world be free of this disease, pain or problem” or “I am experiencing this pain/sickness/problem on behalf of all living beings.”
One voluntarily takes on suffering in order for others to be free of it. This is similar to the Christian concept of regarding one’s suffering as sharing the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Even death can be used in this way: “By me experiencing death, may all other beings be freed from the fears and difficulties of the death process.”
We have to ask ourselves “What is the purpose of my life? Why do I want to have good health and a long life?”. The ultimate purpose of our life is to be of benefit to others. If we live longer and just create more negative karma, it is a waste of time.
Giving and taking is another powerful meditation. As you breathe in, visualise taking the suffering and the causes of suffering from all living beings, in the form of black smoke. When breathing in the black smoke, visualise smashing the black rock of selfishness at your heart, allowing compassion to manifest freely. As you breathe out, visualise breathing out white light that brings them happiness, enjoyment and wisdom.
Developing compassion is more important than having friends, wealth, education. Why? Because it is only compassion that guarantees a happy and peaceful mind, and it is the best thing to help us at the time of death
We can use our sickness and problems in a very powerful way for spiritual growth, resulting in the development of compassion and wisdom. The highest development of these qualities is the full realisation of our potential, the state of full enlightenment. Enlightenment brings great benefit to ourselves and allows us to work extensively for others. This is the state of ultimate healing.
I have outlined some of the concepts that are the basis of the Buddhist philosophy on healing. Many of these methods were taught by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Tara Institute in Melbourne in August 1991 during the first course given by Lama Zopa specifically for people with life-threatening illnesses.
Some of these ideas may appear unusual at first, but please keep an open mind about them. If some of the ideas appear useful to you, please use them; if not, leave them aside.
May you achieve health and happiness.