As everyone is now aware, a gunman went on a rampage at a school in the U.S., killing more than 20 and mentally scarring a nation and a world. The question then becomes how are we, as Kadampas, able to relate to this in a positive way.
The difficulty with events such as these is it just seems wrong to maintain pure view saying that it is all emanated. If we are not careful, we wind up sounding like that one Senate candidate that said a rape is God’s will, so therefore God is a rapist. Of course there are other forces at play – delusions – and this is what they lead to. Delusions drove the gunman and delusions drive the angry response. Events like this are a powerful reminder of where delusions lead. Seeing where the path of delusions lead we realize the folly of even going down them a little bit in our own life.
As Kadampas we make a distinction between the person and their delusions. Just as those children were the victim of the gunman, so too the gunman was a victim of his delusions. Our normal reaction is we do not want to generate compassion for the gunman so we resist this. But we need to check our own behavior, and if we do so honestly we will have to admit that the more our mind is overrun by our delusions, the more we lose control over our actions. How many times have we all gotten angry, said or done something hurtful, and then later regretted it? How many times have we been seized by attachment to somebody we find attractive and found ourselves engaging in all sorts of stupid behavior even though we know it just creates more problems? What will now follow in the press is a debate about whether the gunman was insane or not. I’m sorry, the answer is obvious, only an insane person would do something like this.
Saying somebody is the victim of their delusions does not, however, absolve them of the personal responsibility for their actions. In each moment we have a choice to follow our delusions or to not. Sometimes the choice is a very hard one to make, such as maintaining one’s commitment to never smoke again, but we do have this choice. So we are responsible for our actions, no doubt. But if we have never learned that it is even possible to say no to our delusions and we have never learned methods for how to do so and we have no history or habit built up of doing so, it is not difficult to see how our delusions can overwhelm us. Look at Gen-la Samden. Here is somebody who clearly knew the Dharma, was a very sincere practitioner, very close to enlightenment no doubt, yet he too was overwhelmed by the trickery of delusions. So there is no contradiction between acknowledging delusions render us uncontrolled and maintaining that we must each assume personal responsibility for the continuum of our actions.
On this basis, a Kadampa response to events such as these begins with compassion for the victims, the families and the community. But it also extends to the gunman and to those who now want revenge on him. The gunman is no doubt in hell now. Rejoicing in this only guarantees that we will soon join him. A Kadampa wants noone in hell and wants all in a pure land.
So the question then arises, how can we maintain pure view of events such as this. We can do so only internally, not externally. Pure view is a personal thing informed by an accumulated wisdom of knowing how to look at tragedy in a beneficial way. From a conventional point of view, this is horrible, plain and simple. Conventionally, we must acknowledge that. But horrible things contain within them powerful lessons about why it is better to be pure and good. Pure view does not mean that we say horrible appearances are perfect from their own side, rather it means we know how to internally receive perfect benefit from whatever appears. We know how to learn something pure and perfect from even the most horrible appearances.
Nothing is emanated from its own side, but it becomes “emanated” depending upon our view. With faith and wisdom we can derive spiritual lessons from tragedies and therefore use them as powerful motors pushing us along our path to the final solution of enlightenment for all. We may feel “guilty” about receiving benefit from something so bad, but this is not correct. In fact, we can say the only way to truly honor the dead and make their loss have meaning is if we use it for something good. If we don’t, then it is only tragedy.