This downfall is fairly self-explanatory. This also advises us show respect for senior Bodhisattva Sangha in order to increase our merit.
What does it mean to be disrespectful? We can just ask ourselves how we behave when we are with the important people in our life. If we met the President or the Queen or Geshe-la, how would we behave? How would we not behave? It is the same with everybody else we meet. We don’t know who has or who has not taken Bodhisattva vows, so just to be safe we should be respectful towards everyone. Being respectful does not mean being uptight, intimidated and unnatural. Part of being respectful is being relaxed around others. But certainly being respectful includes listening attentively to what they say, not criticizing others, not undermining them, not making them feel bad, marginalizing them, excluding them or ignoring them. It means not being frustrated with them, etc.
When we are with somebody who we know has already taken bodhisattva vows, we need to be particularly respectful. This is very important. The reality is in this world, most communities have dysfunction dynamics between the members of that community. This is not surprising because if we have deluded minds and behavior, we will bring them into the communities we belong to. But a Sangha community needs to be different. We may still act in deluded ways towards each other, but we will also accept each other, forgive each other and remain loyal to each other. We may create silly dramas, but afterwards we will have a good laugh with each other about how stupid we were acting. If we can’t learn how to get along with our Sangha friends, who are all like us trying to cherish others, what chance do we have of getting along with other non-Sangha people in this world? With our Sangha we learn how to have healthy relationships, and then we use those relationships as models of how we should be with everyone else.
This does not mean that in a Dharma community everyone needs to pretend to get along and avoid rocking the boat. That won’t work since it will just lead to repression and superficial relationships. Conflicts will arise, problems will arise. This is normal. What distinguishes a spiritual community from a non-spiritual one is how those conflicts and problems are resolved. Geshe-la explained in Kadampa communities we need to have open and frank conversations with others while accepting defeat and offering the victory. How do we do this? If there is somebody who we have a problem with, we can approach them saying, “I know this is my problem since it is my delusions, etc., but when you do X, it generates Y delusion in me. This is something I need to work on, I know. It would help me to do so if I understood your perspective on your actions. Perhaps there is something I am not understanding correctly, and if I did, I would no longer have a problem with this.” If we approach people in this way, we are not running away pretending that everything is OK when it is not, but at the same time we are not accusing the other person but instead taking full responsibility for our own feelings and delusions in the matter. If we approach people in this way, either the other person will clarify their perspective on the matter and that will pacify our mind or the other person will realize their errors and change. Either way, everybody is better off. If they get angry and defensive, you can say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it to come across as an attack. Again, as I said, this is my problem.” But most people are reasonable, and if you approach them in a reasonable, non-threatening way, they will likewise respond favorably to your efforts.