Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  If you want to help others, don’t judge them

(5.56) I should not become disheartened by the behavior of others –
The childish, who are in disharmony with one another –
But understand how this behaviour arises through the force of delusions
And be compassionate towards them.

The bottom line is most of us simply don’t like being around deluded people.  Their constant negative attitude, wrong views, faulty actions and complete ignorance that they are doing anything wrong just grates at us.  It’s simply no fun to be around them, and we naturally try to avoid them.  It is a fundamental contradiction to claim to be an aspiring bodhisattva yet hold on to an aversion to being around deluded people.  What is a bodhisattva promising to do other than spend the rest of eternity helping deluded people?

The behavior of others should never disturb us. No matter what they may be saying or doing, if their behavior does disturb our mind then there’s something wrong in our mind.  We like to blame others for what happens in our mind, but ultimately we are entirely responsible.  The extent to which others can influence what happens in our mind is the extent to which our mind is under the influence of delusions.

Regardless of their behavior we must be utterly accepting of them, just as our spiritual guide is utterly accepting of us.  Normally, we expect everyone else to behave almost perfectly.  When they don’t, we find fault in them.  We say, “the ‘normal’ reaction would be for the other person to do XYZ.”  We usually feel entirely justified in our expectations regarding others’ behavior.  But thinking “you shouldn’t behave like that” is an unfair and unrealistic expectation of a human being.  What is in fact ‘normal’ is for people to act in deluded, counter-productive, inconsiderate, selfish ways.  Why should we expect anything differently?  It is the very nature of contaminated aggregates to behave like that, just as it is the very nature of fire to burn.  It is not their fault — it’s the fault of delusion. To judge them for not behaving according to our expectations leaves us constantly frustrated and the other person resentful.  The appropriate reaction on our part to the deluded behavior of others is compassion.  Because they are under the influence of delusion, everything they do is self-defeating.

We have to be aware of the unaccepting thoughts arising in our mind.  We have to be careful of such thoughts because they manifest themselves in our words and expressions, and others can easily feel like they’re being told off or judged.  What we say and do can easily upset others.  People sense our disapproval; they know if there’s judgement taking place.  They become unhappy, discouraged, develop negative minds. They feel, “in this person’s eyes I can never do anything right.”  This is especially a problem if people look to us, like our children or students or friends who we help, etc.

Sometimes we think we help people by ‘telling them what they need to hear.’  But we need to check our own mind.  If our heart is genuinely full of compassion, then perhaps sometimes it is appropriate to do so.  But if our motivation is more frustration where we need the other person to change, then this is just anger.  If we accept others as they are, we don’t need them to change at all.  For us, they are perfect just the way they are, delusions and all.  When this is genuine, then we are in a position to actually help people and they will know that what we are saying we are saying for their own benefit.  Otherwise, they just see our frustration and will resist everything we say.

We need to follow the example of Geshe-la.  If we think how many times Geshe-la has told us off and how much he encourages us.  We know a lot of our behavior is wrong.  But still he’s encouraging.  The people who look to us need to sense that from us too.

When we accept others as they are, it creates a space for them to change from their own side.  When they feel judged, then they close up and defend themselves instead of try get better.  If people feel judged, unhappy or discouraged by us, this is a sign of unskillful behavior.   If we want to help people, we need to completely remove from our mind all forms of disapproval.  When they know we are not judging them, they will come to us with their problems and then we can help them.  If they feel judged by us, they will come to us with nothing, and we will be powerless to help them.  Seeing that they are not coming to us, we will feel the need to force our way in.  When we do this, they will internally reject what we have to say.  This will make the situation worse.

3 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  If you want to help others, don’t judge them

  1. Thank you for the very helpful advice. It also teaches me how to relate to the childish myself, with a loving patience and the kindness of acceptance and not judgement or being too hard on myself.

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