(5.12) It is not possible to subdue unruly beings
Who are as extensive as space;
But simply destroying the mind of anger
Is the same as overcoming all these foes.
The reality is this: the world is filled with those who would do us harm. Conventionally speaking and paranoia aside, our viewing some people as out to harm us in some way is often correct. The mind of anger is the wish to harm those who harm us in some way, regardless of whether that person harmed us in the past, is harming us now or is plotting to harm us in the future. On this surface, this can seem an entirely rational reaction. We harm those who harm us to teach them a lesson to not harm us (or to harm those we love). We think if we inflict some pain on them for harming us, then they will stop doing so. We might even tell ourselves that we are helping them in this way because we are acting to deter them from engaging in future non-virtue.
But Geshe-la is very clear: there are no external enemies. The only enemies we fight are our delusions. Geshe-la famously said, “love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies.” Ultimately, somebody only becomes our “enemy” when we impute “enemy” upon them. Love wishes others to be free from all suffering and to know only true happiness. Somebody who wishes to harm us can either be an object of our anger, at which point we will label them “enemy,” or they can be an object of our love, at which point we label them “mother sentient being.” In this way, love quite literally destroys all “enemies.” Nobody will appear to us as an enemy, though they may still appear to us as somebody who wishes to harm us.
Either way, we still need to respond appropriately to their wishing to harm us, but if we act out of anger, we feed their wish to harm us; if we act out of love, we gradually undermine it. Even in conventional circles, we are advised to “kill ‘em with kindness.” If somebody is consistently out to undermine us, but we make an effort to be kind to them and considerate of their interests, quite often their hostility will melt and they will come to see us as a friend.
Ultimately, whether another’s actions help us or harm us depends entirely on how we respond to their harm. If we respond with delusion, then we will create negative karma for ourselves and set ourselves up to be harmed again in the future. If instead we respond with wisdom or compassion, then their harming us can be in fact be a blessing, pushing us along the path. Even if their intention is to harm us, we nonetheless receive benefit. No one actually has the power to harm us, only we harm ourselves by allowing delusions to rule our reactions.
This doesn’t mean we should naively let others harm us, but it does mean we pursue a long-term solution that can transform this person from an “enemy” into a “friend.” If somebody is out to harm us, it is entirely appropriate to thwart their efforts. If somebody has a tendency to act in an unruly way, it is entirely compassionate to make it harder for them to do so. Our acting in this way is not driven by anger, but rather by compassion wishing to protect the person from creating bad karma for themselves. Being kind and having no enemies does not mean we become a doormat nor does it mean we never fight. Sometimes we have to fight, even kill, if necessary. The Lamrim teachings explain it is possible to engage in physical or verbal actions such as killing and lying if we are not motivated by delusion, but instead by compassion. For example, in one of his previous lives Buddha Shakyamuni killed somebody who was about to kill everybody else on the boat they were on. Normally, killing is non-virtuous, but in this context because his act of killing was actually an act of protecting others, it was the virtuous thing to do.
From a long-term perspective, if we destroy our mind of anger we will stop harming others. If we stop harming others, we will stop creating the karma to be harmed ourselves. Once our past karma of having harmed others is either exhausted or purified, we will only have virtuous karma on our mind and nobody will even seek to harm us. In this way, destroying the mind of anger destroys all our foes, even if it takes some time before this is our karmic reality.