Hatred is Never Appeased By Hatred

Akkocchi ma avadhi ma, ajini ma ahāsi me
Ye ca ta
upanayhantim, vera tesa na sammati.
Akkocchi ma
avadhi ma, ajini ma ahāsi me
Ye ca ta
na upanayhanti, vera tesūpasammati.

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”
in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,”
in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.
Hatred is Never Appeased By Hatred

~ Dhammapada

The Elder Tissa

The Buddha’s cousin, Venerable Tissa, did not pay the respects due to other monks. When the monks informed the Buddha, the Buddha asked Tissa to apologize and not be obstinate. When Ven. Tissa still refused to ask forgiveness from the senior monks, the Buddha told a story where he utter this stanza—

Once upon a time, there was an ascetic named Devala from the Himalayas. He had come to the city for the four month rain retreats. He had been fortunate enough to be invited to spend the night at a potter’s house in the potter’s hall, because the space was not being used at the moment. Later that evening, another monk, Narada, arrived and also asked if there was room for lodging for the evening. The potter said that if the first monk felt it was appropriate, that it was fine with him.

Devala saw that the hall was very large and agreed to share the space with Narada. During the night, Devala rustled from his sleeping place and moved closer to the door where is was more comfortable. Narada, who was also uncomfortable decided that he would take a stroll in the night and then attempt to return to bed more refreshed.

Walking out of the room, he stepped on Devala’s hair. Devala was awakened and very angry at the offense of a junior ascetic.

Narada went on his walk heartbroken that he had so offended his fellow monk and vowed to be more careful when he returned. Devala, vowing not to be stepped on again, moved his sleeping place again farther from the door.

In the dark, Narada carefully navigated past where Devala had been sleeping before and accidently stepped right into the path of where Devala had moved to the second time, kicking Devala in the neck.

Hatred Is Not Appeased

The monk Devala was insulted twice, and after being generous in his offer to share the potter’s hall. But was he?

The simple story told to Tissa has a lot of levels to it.

The most obvious level is that Devala’s anger at Narada’s rudeness is misplaced. He was too angry and hurt by the perceived offenses to develop the mindfulness that the actions were accidents. In addition, Devala participated in some part towards the conditions in which he was harmed.

How often we are enraged by others and ignore the truth that some of our situation was created by our own actions?

In addition, this story shows us that a bit of mindfulness may have helped both parties be more successful in resolving their problems before making them worse.

Most commentaries look at this story as being about Devala mostly, but there are issues with both. Devala certainly should have learned that holding onto the initial perceived offense by Narada just added to the anger of the second perceived offense. Clinging to that self view of “I was offended” blinded him to the reality that he helped create make the second “offense” worse. The more Devala clings to the story that he was offended, the stronger the emotional state becomes.

At the same time, the guilt and anxiety of Narada is also a matter of clinging to self view “he does not like me.” While Devala clings to his story of hate, Narada is clinging to a story of fear. He does not want to offend Devala again, and so instead of being in the moment and working through the environment to avoid hurting the monk, he creates a plan that plays in his head in the hopes that he will be successful. When Narada plays out the story in his head and the moves, the changing situation was not dealt with and new problems arose.

These negative emotional states are all part of the stories we create in our mind as we come in contact with the world: we sense, we interact, we feel pleasure or displeasure, we create value judgments based on that experience, we create the arising of our emotions and opinions of the world.

Hatred Is Never Appeased by Hatred

So if we are creating these emotional states and opinions based on value judgments and experience, is that wrong? Not if we are able to be aware of what is origin of those emotions and we are able to see clearly what is happening.

Devala’s mind was focused on his story: someone stepped on his hair. It was unpleasant. Narada stepped on his hair and created that unpleasant experience. I do not like Narada.

This is a very logical conclusion, but logic is not always right. Why? Because, logic is bound by the information that is provided: Devala’s conclusions were not totally aware of all the information.

If we were able to add in information such as Narada’s state of mind, the true level of unpleasantness of someone stepping on hair for a second, the realization that Devala moved in the middle of the night; we may come up with a totally different value judgment. It was probably a harmless accident.

But let us assume that the original facts are correct. Narada’s actions are purposefully harmful and malicious. What then? Should the final conclusion still be “I do not like Narada?”

Again, we must look at a bigger picture. What benefit is there in hating someone other than the instant gratification of indulging a negative emotion? Emotions excite the body and clings to mental images that excited the mind to act. Negative emotions compel us to act in an unwholesome manner, which is not beneficial to our practice or lives.

Negative emotions are like hot coals that we pick up to throw at people, but whether we hit our enemies or not, we end up ALWAYS burning ourselves.

So even if the offenses by Narada had been intentional, a mindful person would be able to recognize that holding onto that offense and indulging it more when the second offense came only hurts Devala, not Narada.

Liberate from Pain

The wisest course of action in any situation is to develop the ability to step back from the event and look at things dispassionately for a moment. When we remove ourselves as the protagonist in the stories that are arising in front of us, we rarely so quick to judge and value the experiences into a fixed view (“niyataditti”).

Indulging in unwholesome energy only creates the appetite for more negativity. An aware mind stays focused on embracing positive energy and putting value on deep happiness instead of instant negative gratification.

This is one of the benefits of meditation, is to build an awareness of what is happening around us, and what is being created within and projected out into the world as real. The more we practice this mindfulness, the better we are at becoming better navigators through life: avoiding the tidal currents that urge us into so many unwholesome situations.

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Categories: Buddha, Dharma, Divorce, Ethics, Kharma, Lifestyle, Mahayana, Marriage, Meditation, New Age, Noble Eightfold Path, Philosophy, Relationships, Theravada, Tibet, Virajana

Author:Sumitta

Joshua Hudson is a license clinical social worker with post graduate certificates in mental health. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he has worked as an healthcare advocate for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Director of Psychological Health for the Air Force, in-patient counselor for inpatient adolescents, child and family therapist; and currently is a Prevention Interventionist for the Air Force creating programs to reduce interpersonal and self-directed violence (e.g. Sexual assault, suicide, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, etc.) in the military Joshua spent twenty years in the Navy as a combat photojournalist and public affairs officers. He was a senior account executive for a marketing company and managing editor for various national publications. He continues to write on myriad issues from engaged living and resiliency to spirituality and meaning making. He is also an organized minister by the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center and International Order of Buddhist Ministers. Currently, he lives in Bury St. Edmunds in the United Kingdom with his daughter; but still keeps residence in Pittsburgh.

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