Although everyone has the potential for compassion, some people seem to be our enemies. How should we react to them? Shakyamuni Buddha encountered many people who wanted to harm him during his life, but he was never angry with them, nor did he try to overpower or dominate them. Instead he treated them compassionately and tried to help them. Both Buddhism in general and Ch’an [Chinese Zen] in particular condemn fighting and advocate nonopposition to one’s enemies. A true practitioner responds with nonopposition to obstructions caused by people, situations, and the environment, and lets go of any tension she may feel. She does not resist or fight with difficulties.

What is nonopposition? If someone treats you maliciously, do not fight with her. Instead, do everything in your power to peacefully avoid a confrontation. Even if she punches you, don’t fight back. Abandon any thought of retaliation. Do not even hope that she doesn’t hit you again. Such a hope is vain and unprofitable. Simply accept adversity without resistance. Do not become annoyed when faced with difficulties. To do so merely adds difficulty to difficulty and further disturbs your mind. By maintaining a mind of peace and nonopposition, difficulties will naturally fall away.

If treated with compassion, those who seem to be our enemies can take up the dharma and become compassionate. We are all able to become compassionate because our negative nature is not fixed. It is impermanent and empty, like all phenomena. It is because of greed, hatred, and ignorance that beings manifest actions that are harmful to others. ▼

Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.

This article is only for Subscribers!

Subscribe now to read this article and get immediate access to everything else.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? .