A Bodhisattva's Right Attitude Toward Other Bodhisattvas
A Dharma Talk by Ryuei
Good morning. Today I would like to share with a page from the Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines. This page has become important to me because I ran across it at exactly the right time when I needed to reflect on my own attitudes and ways of interacting with others, especially other Buddhists. Let’s read this together and then discuss it.
Originally, this page jumped out at me in my readings of the Perfection of Wisdom because it seemed so familiar, especially the phrase “the same to you.” How often have I felt the very same feelings, or used those words or something like it myself. It is very difficult to avoid sometimes, especially when we feel that we are justified, that we have been wronged, or that we have been patient far too long. But it is easy to read passages like this or the story of Bodhisattva Never Despise in the Lotus Sutra - the Bodhisattva who greeted all people with respect even when he was abused in return - it is another thing to actually be able to live in accord with these teachings.
Of course this is where the practice of Odaimoku comes in. The practice of Odaimoku allows us to step back from our situation. We move away from our sense of being wronged and our self-justifications of our own intentions, words, and actions. Instead, we put these aside and center ourselves back on the Dharma through our practice. In this way we can begin to cool down and get a more objective view. This may not be automatic. It may take a lot of chanting to get some emotional distance from the problems we are having with others. But I have found that it does work. Of course, when you get back into the situation new things may be said or new aggravations may arise, and so one must go back again and again to the Odaimoku.
Through chanting and reflection however I have learned a few things. One is that one must be very careful not to attribute motives to others. One may feel that others have it in for you, or that they are being condescending or that they are trying to put you down and get others to pick sides against you. But this may just be one’s own fear and projection. And even if it is not, to retaliate and harbor resentment only adds fuel to the fire. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just let people be who they are. And as the passage says, act dumb. In other words, reserve judgement and try not to take things personally. In the end, our ego, the very one that is hurt and which we are trying to defend, is a much worse enemy than anyone else. Others may or may not be out to get us, but our ego will trip us up every time if we don’t keep a careful watch on it. What I have found is that if we can set the ego aside, most problems can be seen to arise from misunderstandings and/or impatience.
In the end, I am discovering that giving others the benefit of the doubt and taking the time to really listen and understand what the other person is saying can be invaluable. Even if you do not agree at least take the time to hear them out so that you can discover why they think or feel a certain way. Sometimes a seemingly sharp disagreement can disappear altogether when one does this - as one sees that the other person is using words differently than you might, or that a further explanation will clarify where they are coming from and enable you to see something you might have missed. So in the end, I am trying to take this passage to heart through Odaimoku and the practice of patient and active listening.