Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: We don’t get mad at fire when it burns

We need to create an atmosphere around ourselves that invites people to offer suggestions on how we can do better, especially if we are in a position of responsibility.  If people feel like they can’t tell us when we are making mistakes, then they will sit with their faulty views like a cancer in their mind and eventually it will fester and grow.  Geshe-la said at a Spring Festival one year that Buddha Vajradhara is appearing in this world in an ordinary aspect because he wants us to act normally with him.  When we are with somebody and they are making a mistake, the normal thing to do is respectfully call it to their attention.  Geshe-la often said, ‘tell me if I am making a mistake.’  We need to do that with others, let them feel free to discuss with us how we can do better.  Then either we learn something or the other person learns something, but either way there is growth.  No open communication, no growth.  The key to this is a humility that accepts that we don’t know what we are doing or saying and so therefore we have a lot to learn from everybody. 

Now Shantideva turns to how to overcome the causes of anger

(6.39) If it were the very nature of a childish person
To inflict harm on others,
It would be no more reasonable to get angry with him
Than it would be to resent fire for burning us.

(6.40) On the other hand, if that harmfulness were a temporary fault
And that person were otherwise good-natured,
It would be just as unreasonable to get angry with him
As it would be to resent space for filling with smoke.

This is a very powerful logic:  There are two possibilities, either the person is by nature harmful or it is a temporary fault.  If it really is the nature of the person to harm, there is no point in getting angry. They are behaving exactly as what we would expect.  Fire burns.  That is its very nature.  We know that.  We accept that. There is no point in getting angry with fire for burning. What do we expect?  On the other hand, if it is not the nature of the person to harm, why then do we get angry with the person when we perceive harmfulness within them? They’re not by nature harmful. Harmfulness is not part of their essential nature, so why get angry with the person? 

(6.41) If someone were to harm us with a stick or other weapon,
We would normally become angry with the person;
But, since his intent is governed by anger,
It is really towards that anger that we should direct our wrath.

This is another classic analogy.  Why do we not get angry with the stick?  Because it is controlled by the person, it has no choice in the matter.  In the same way, we shouldn’t get angry with the person because they are controlled by their anger, they have no choice in the matter.  The conclusion is we should wish to destroy the other person’s anger.   

We naturally wish to be free from the causes of suffering and to free others from the causes of suffering.  But we have just been mistaken as to what are the real causes.  With this analysis, we can identify the causes of suffering are delusions, so they are what needs to be destroyed.  You can’t destroy delusion with delusion, only wisdom can do that.  We help others overcome their anger primarily through love, compassion, the practice of patience, setting a good example, requesting blessings for the other person, etc.  Geshe-la said love is the real nuclear bomb that destroys all enemies.

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