How do you love those who are cruel to you?
June 1, 2015
First of all, there are countless quotations from great masters, like Shantideva and so on. Personally, the way I relate to those teachings and quotes is that one can think about them first of all from a very mundane perspective: that those who are challenging you, or giving you challenges, could have done so first of all in order to protect their loved ones, to protect the people they care for, and therefore one can gain some appreciation, or one can at least understand the motivation behind their actions and gain some appreciation.
And sometimes, these challenges are presented to make us stronger – so sometimes they are rooted in love. In some cases, the only way to make us stronger is to provide challenges, helping develop our sense of respect and so on. It is difficult to notice when challenges are presented to us in this way, when we are being given a lesson by a teacher.
It is often the case that people try to protect themselves or their loved ones, and they see you as a threat, like a mother tiger attacking a traveller because she feels that the traveller is a possible threat to her cubs.
When we reflect on this, we can see that it is not really the case of loving those who are cruel – because that is very difficult, I think. But if you think about the actions being driven by love or protecting loved ones, we can somehow begin to develop a path, a road to relate. So, first of all, we let go of the idea that something was done out of cruelty.
There may also be occasions where people might again present a lot of challenges simply because they are not in a stable or clear state of mind. They are in a state of mind that is extremely emotional, and so therefore they don’t really know what they’re saying or doing. These things occur in life regularly, and therefore it’s not beyond our imagination. Therefore we can relate, and the more we are able to relate the more we are able to clear any kind of condition to develop hatred or anger. And that automatically provides room for the opposite of anger or hatred: first of all understanding, and then maybe eventually love.
But to begin with, as a practice, I would say that one of the first things to practice is always to be mindful and to be careful. Like the example of the traveller – sometimes you might have to travel though dangerous territories, treacherous jungles, so therefore you must travel with caution, with awareness, with mindfulness, so that you don’t accidentally scare the mother tiger. Then the problem of the angry tiger is solved before it takes place – by taking these precautions, there is no problem to begin with.
The intention of being mindful should be that one doesn’t want to fall into circumstances where one faces the challenge of “How do I overcome my hatred, how do I love?” Our intention should be to cultivate mindfulness. It is not about being over-cautious. In time, of course, by doing the same thing regularly, consistently, then one gains more and more experience, to a point where being mindful and being cautious come very naturally, and one doesn’t have to strive to be mindful… and therefore then, you know… one can travel safely.
If one has already fallen into this kind of situation, then I think the only thing that one can do is to reflect on the negative consequences or repercussions that one could experience, should one give in to afflictive emotions, like anger or hatred. And therefore, using this very simple logic, then refrain from anything harmful. If one cannot express love at the moment, then at least one should not develop hatred.
Cautiousness does not mean to become over-cautious, because then again we could fall into other extremes, other types of problems, like using the medicine excessively and turning it into a poison. For example, we might think, “Being cautious is very important, so therefore I must be very cautious, constantly.” As a result, one may become extremely defensive about everything, and one actually becomes reserved, really reserved. And then again, it is not healthy at all. So in those areas one must ask oneself and reflect very carefully, “What is the difference between being careful and being careless?” Obviously, one should not be reserved and withdrawn, because then it could lead to some other unnecessary things. But one should be careful, and the reason is that one wants to benefit oneself and others.