Stay Awesome

Speaker: Ven. You Deng

Fo Guang Shan Dong Zen Buddhist College, Malaysia

I. Introduction

Auspicious Greetings to all Dharma friends! This is You Deng from Dong Zen Monastery in Malaysia. How have you been? I understand that during this period, regardless you are the front-liner, or staying home to work, or looking after the family, you might be feeling stressed from different aspects of life. Today, I’ll be sharing on how to respond to this crisis as a Buddhist.

To fight against the Covid-19 outbreak, countries are taking on measures such as lockdown and social distancing. Our life today is no longer the same as before! Even though we are allowed resuming to work, we must live with many inconveniences.

Are you feeling nervous or frightened? Like you are drifting in the midst of the boundless seas and mired helplessly in the predicament. Such psychological, social and physical stressors, can have a huge impact on any individual’s emotional well-being.

However, stress is a normal experience when we feel overwhelmed by life pressures, but ongoing exposure to a stressful situation can negatively impact our well-being, which may result in:

  • feeling tired, physically or mentally
  • feeling depressed
  • or even suffering from mental disorders

Hence, it is important to find effective healthy ways to manage stress in our life.

Before we learn how to manage stress, we must first understand what is the emotion. From the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, life originates from “Love” and Love is the source of emotions. Due to emotions, the wheel of Rebirth turns.

And what contributes to form Love? The elements of love are greed, anger and ignorance, and these are the origin of the causes of all sufferings in our life, told by the Buddha when he first turned the Dharma wheel.

II. The Three Poisons

Greed, anger, and ignorance are deeply embedded in the conditioning of everyone’s personalities.
Hence, we may not realize, but our behavior is habitually influenced and tainted by the Three Poisons.

1. Greed is when the mind desires what it finds pleasant.
2. Anger is when the mind rejects what it finds unpleasant.
3. Ignorance is when the mind is confused and misunderstands, the universal principles behind all phenomena.

These three poisons are the most serious illnesses that can befall everyone’s mind and cause afflictions which block our way to buddhahood.

After knowing more about the three poisons, let’s look at, how we discover the three poisons in our attitude.


Greed creates an inner hunger in us, hence, we always seem to be striving towards an unattainable goal and mistakenly believe our happiness is dependent upon that goal. However, once we attain it, we get no lasting satisfaction. Then the cycle repeats itself. Our greed and desire will arise looking outside of ourselves for the next thing that will hopefully bring satisfaction.

Another way to discover is, when greed shows up as a lack of generosity and compassion toward others. Influenced by Greed, we never seemed to be contented.


Anger can show up as hostility or ill-will and causing us to wish harm or suffering upon others.
We habitually resist and avoid unpleasant feelings or people we do not like, wanting everything to be pleasant and satisfying all the time. With anger, there is hatred and we create conflict in the world around us and within our own being.


With ignorance we are not in harmony with ourselves, others, or with life; We are often affected by the poison of delusion, which arises from ignorance of our true nature as we do not understand the interdependent and impermanent nature of life.

Thus, we are constantly looking outside of ourselves for happiness, satisfaction, and solutions to our problems.

This outward searching, creates even more frustration, anger, and delusion.

III. Overcoming the Three Poisons

How do we overcome the Three Poisons then?

We can overcome greed if we learn to cultivate selflessness and contentment, such as, practicing giving away things we like to hold onto. Practicing acts of selfless service and charity, by offering care and assistance which are free of desire for recognition or compensation to others in any way we can.

The problems associated with greed and attachment only arise, when we mistakenly believe and act, as if the source of our happiness is outside of ourselves.

We can overcome anger if we use loving-kindness and forgiveness to counter-act unpleasant feelings, circumstances, or people, such as, by practicing meeting unpleasant experiences in the outer world and our own feelings with kindness and compassion.

Frankly speaking, the challenge in spiritual practice is to soften our habitual defense, open our heart, and let go of hatred and aversion. In this way, we embrace ourselves, others, and all inner and outer experiences with great compassion and wisdom.

We can overcome ignorance if we cultivate mindfulness and right understanding. If we learn to experience reality exactly as it is, without the distortions of our self-centered desires and expectations, we free ourselves from delusion.

By deeply sensing and acting in harmony with the interdependent and impermanent nature of this world, we free ourselves from ignorance.

We have to understand all living beings are inseparably related and that lasting happiness does not come from anything external.

With the right understanding, we understand karma, knowing that wholesome actions bring happiness, and unwholesome actions bring suffering.

The ultimate goal is to manage emotions, which is to take conscious control of our attitude and turn it positive.

You might say, it is always easier said than done.Since our behavior is habitually influenced and tainted by the three poisons, what should we do?The Lankavatara Sutra says, “All things arise from the mind and all things are extinguished in the mind.” Therefore, in order to adopt a more positive thinking patterns, we must first be aware of our current thinking patterns. Mindfulness helps us to acknowledge and identify the habitual thinking patterns, then decide whether or not to engage them.

IV. The Practice of Mindfulness

How does mindfulness practice help to achieve the above? 
Let’s us take a look at this diagram.

Form, feeling, perception, mental formation, and consciousness are the five aggregates that make up a human being.

Mindfulness give us a moment to open up the creative possibilities of the blank space in between perception and mental formation. Perhaps, we all sense those possibilities and notice, how quickly we want to fill the space, with our habitual ways of being preoccupied or busy.

It helps to allow our feelings, to be as they are, without blaming ourselves for not being perfect.

And, resting our attention on the body and breath is a great way to settle the mind.

How can we benefit from practicing mindfulness?

1. Mindfulness reminds us of what we are supposed to be doing.
If we are washing dishes, it reminds us to pay full attention to washing the dishes.
If we are sitting in meditation, it brings us back to the focus of meditation.

2. In mindfulness, we see things as they really are.

3. Mindfulness sees the true nature of phenomena, such as emptiness, selflessness and impermanent.

With a lack of mindfulness, we tend to live our lives on “autopilot” mode and when we’re on autopilot mode, we fall into conditioned, mechanical patterns of thought and behavior.
Living in unawareness like this, leads to a sense of discontent and disconnection from ourselves.
The more mindful we are, the easier we see our own values and beliefs as an observer, which allows us to change the ones that hold us back.

V. Conclusion

To recap:

The origin of emotion is from Greed, Anger and Ignorance.

  • Contentment cures greed
  • Compassion cures anger
  • Wisdom cures the confusion of many desires arising.

In order to better manage our emotions, practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness provides an airtime in between the process of perception and mental formation, for us to think before we act. This airtime prevents us from reacting habitually. Which eventually reset the auto pilot mode. During this airtime, we may encounter different aspects of ourselves which are usually hidden under piles of tasks and distraction in life. It may be disconcerting, however it opens up different possibilities in life after knowing more in-depth about ourselves. Through which, we can have deeper connections with the people around us.

Dear friends, during this time of real worry, if we have a roof over our head and just had a warm meal, we should be grateful. Millions of people are experiencing major life changes, risking their lives to battle against Covid-19 and facing pressures from many aspects of life. The least we can do during this pandemic is, to make this more of a productive time, practice mindfulness, understand and manage our emotions.

To defeat Covid-19, it is essential to stay positive.

Thank you for joining this online English Dharma Service.
Let’s us join our palms and dedicate the joy and merits from this session, to all sentient beings, may all free from the turmoil of the outbreak. Once again, thank you for joining us. If you find this dharma service is helpful to your practice, please subscribe to the Fo Guang Shan English Dharma Services Youtube channel and share it to your friends.

Last but not least, I wish you all stay safe, stay healthy and stay awesome. See you next week. Omitofo.