Hate

I’ve been reading the news coverage of the shooting at the Canadian parliament (edit: and now, just after posting this, the Seattle-area school shooting). For the Canadian shooting news, there was plenty of politics – blaming ISIS because of the recent campaign against it, for example. There were heart-rending images of people leaving flowers at a memorial to that unfortunate soldier.

What wasn’t readily apparent was a simple message that goes directly to the root of the problem: It’s wrong to hate.

That’s understandable. Hate is a natural part of the human condition. It’s so deep rooted that humanity has had to build major religions to counter it with weighty, uncompromising messages.
 

Extremely strong people.  (Image: morguefile/winona)

Extremely strong people. (Image: morguefile/winona)

Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.

— Gotama Buddha, “Kakacupama Sutta: The Simile of the Saw” (MN 21), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), November 30, 2013

I’m Theravadan Buddhist, so that example came to mind. Of course, there is such a thing as religious hatred, too. But that doesn’t mean that hatred exists because of religion. Religion just calls hatred by its true name and points out the difficult way to its eradication.

It takes a long, long time even for true believers to walk the full length of that path, no matter what they call it. Let’s not condemn them for failure, if we have not walked alongside them for a ways.

Better to look to our own path and make sure we’re on the right one. But that is very hard to do.

Hate doesn't care if you're trying to restore order on a college campus or trying to destroy order at the Boston Marathon.  It just wants to be fed.  (Marathon Bombing image by Aaron Tang)

Hate doesn’t care if you’re trying to restore order on a college campus or trying to destroy order at the Boston Marathon. It just wants to be fed. (Marathon Bombing image by Aaron Tang)

As mentioned, hate is a part of our nature, and it is very difficult to remove. Only the absence of hatred can cure it and, let’s face it, hate feels good sometimes.

We hate TV shows. We hate political parties. We hate to hate. We hate Illinois Nazis. We hate [broccoli, coffee with or without cream and sugar, certain clothes styles, fill in the blank].

Hate gives us a sense of self. When you control it really well, it feels like love, but it isn’t. Real love has no self. And that is a terribly difficult thing for anyone to face.

So we choose the sense of self that hate gives us instead, if only by curling up into a ball and hating Hate. That’s easier, though it always ultimately leads to awfulness.

Hey, I’m speaking from experience.

I’m old enough to have been taught during childhood the basic message, which was based on the Christian religion’s concept of original sin and common in late 1950s/early 1960s rural America, that people are really rotten inside and need improvement.

So, decades ago when I was reeling under the effects of accumulated internal and external hatred (as we all do eventually and repeatedly), I was open to this section of the Dhammapada:

Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow.

“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.

“He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

There are those who do not realize that one day we all must die. But those who do realize this settle their quarrels.

— “Yamakavagga: Pairs” (Dhammapada I), translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), November 30, 2013

That helped me so much. I wanted more of it.

There was no discernible religious impulse in the modern society around me that I could follow, so I harkened back to the ancient Big Three: Orthodox Judaism, Catholicism, and Buddhism. After a long time, and in rather stark circumstances, I took the Triple Refuge of Theravadan Buddhism.

That’s nobody’s business but my own, of course, but upon reflecting on how society apparently is hesitant to say “Hate is wrong,” even in the face of an atrocity like the one in Canada this week, it’s worth sharing.

Don’t hate. Let it go – it’s a chump’s game.

The absence of hatred is achievable. I know this and to some limited extent (for I’m still a fairly newly minted Buddhist) I have experienced it. But it does take self-control, and only an external force like religion can help you with that.

It’s incredibly hard. When you try to control yourself, the advertisers aren’t going to like you any more. Your life is going to be uncomfortable because you will start thinking beyond the slogans and fads that make up much of modern life’s texture – nobody really likes a thinker except long after death, and then only if they’re famous enough.

You are also going to face some tough internal struggles. You will seem different to your friends. You will see that you aren’t really entitled to all those things that people say you are.

You may even begin to realize that this is not the Second Golden Age of Television after all!

All this is uncomfortable. On top of it, your mind, which is used to getting its way, is going to fight you like a tantruming little toddler.

It isn’t easy, building this self control and establishing the absence of hatred inside you. But it is doable. It comes like dawn on a clear morning, slowly and beautifully.

OK, maybe that can only sound like a bromide until one personally experiences it. So, instead, think of the very young Western school children, who now have to be taught that some strangers or their own peers may try to murder them.

Think of the many periods of soul emptiness you experience each day and night, or of the times you’ve absolutely owned somebody who did you wrong – and when it was all over, something seemed to be missing.

Think of a young Canadian soldier doing an honorable, undemanding job (at least compared to combat), defending the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Imagine his surprise and sudden despair when one of the visitors shot him to death this week.

Hate is wrong. We can’t fight it, but we can replace it with an absence of hatred. All it takes is self-control. If a butterfly can flap its wings in Peoria and cause a thunderstorm in Beijing, who knows what our seemingly small efforts, whether successful or just exercises in awareness, may accomplish.

It doesn’t matter in the least whether we ever see the good that spreads out into the world from our own small steps in the right direction. As the Buddha puts it (emphasis added),

“Monks, if you attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw, do you see any aspects of speech, slight or gross, that you could not endure?”

“No, lord.”

“Then attend constantly to this admonition on the simile of the saw. That will be for your long-term welfare & happiness.”

— Gotama Buddha, “Kakacupama Sutta: The Simile of the Saw” (MN 21), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), November 30, 2013

 


Front page image by Under The Bo



Categories: Random thoughts

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