Today, we have witnessed a terrible and senseless tragedy. We may not be directly or physically involved, but we are all affected. When we look at the victims, we will certainly have compassion, because we have these good human qualities within us that will draw forth our compassion. But the moment we focus on who did it, we feel our anger rise. Even though I have spent sixty years practicing Buddhist kindness and compassion, when I see the collapse of the buildings and the people running, unable to breathe, the anger comes. When I hear about the plans for retaliation, the thought comes, “Okay, good.” When something happens and we say “good,” but say it with anger, we must see that our anger will soon be controlling us. We have to be very careful with this. If it is a surgical retaliation directed at the culprits without bringing harm to many innocent lives, good. Because not retaliating can be wrong, too, and this is often misunderstood. Retaliation is necessary. Without it we become vulnerable. But there are many nonviolent ways to retaliate, and I hope for this to be nonviolent.
Our real challenge is to develop compassion even for those who did this. Developing compassion for them does not mean you cannot stop people who are going to hurt others. People should not misunderstand this. Compassion does not only mean love and light. On the contrary, if we don’t stop them when we have the opportunity, we may even have the negativity of not stopping them. The spiritual path is not as black-and-white as we may think. But it does not mean that we do not act with compassion. We should be compassionate to all. But compassion sometimes has to be harsh. How else can we pinpoint where the problem really lies? Hatred’s hold on us is so strong. Simple coddling will not do the job.
We have been watching and listening to the news, and many feelings have arisen. We are supposed to feel! Because if we don’t feel what happened today, we are senseless and useless people. But when we watch our mind, we see it tends straightaway toward anger. If you did not experience anger, then rejoice! But if you did, it is very normal. But that feeling should not be left at the anger level. It should be transformed into compassion. That’s where we have to take charge of ourselves, take charge of our minds, take advantage of our freedom to use our minds properly and turn away from hatred of our enemies. How? Not by justifying what they did. We also don’t want to try to understand where they are coming from or why they did it. If we do that, we will ultimately be justifying hatred. That is not right. We know why they did it. They did it out of hatred. Hatred brings more hatred, and violence only brings more violence. What we must do is stop this cycle here and now by transforming anger and hatred into compassion.
We must see that when we feel anger, we are not reacting to the person who harmed us, but to that person’s hatred. Their hatred has blinded them. They were unable to stand up for themselves. They submitted completely to their anger. Even though they think they are doing something great, consider how stupid they have actually been. They have become total slaves of their hatred. Who is a better candidate for compassion than that?
Their hatred hurts the whole world: physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally. We have witnessed a horrific example of how hatred can create suffering and pain for us all. No one is going to forget today, September 11. 9-11. And no one is going to forget how sad and terrible indeed it is. But it has given us a point to develop compassion, and to understand how hatred can be harmful.
This article is available to subscribers only. Subscribe now for immediate access to the magazine plus video teachings, films, e-books, and more.Subscribe Now
Already a subscriber? Log in.