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Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Jan 12, 2019

Whatever an enemy may due to an enemy,

Or haters, one to another,

Far worse is the harm

From one's wrongly directed mind.”  

                                                  - Buddha,

          The Dhammapada, verse 42

Buddha must have known there would be haters one day, and “haters gonna hate hate hate.” It is hard when people criticize us or don’t like us. I remember my mother saying to me when I was little, “If you want someone to like you, like them first.” That is sage advice. Do you want someone to like you? Then like them first. This is the essence of this verse: first, we remove harm from our own heart. This is one of the most pivotal points in Buddhism--harmlessness. People talk about this concept with different words, non-harm, harmlessness or non-violence. In the 4th Century, Asanga said this, “What is harmlessness? It is compassion which forms part of the absence of hatred. Its function is non-harming.”

Asanga explained compassion as the foundation of removing harm from our mind. Also, the function of non-harm is to prevent us from harming others. How do we get this mind to arise? First, we have to start being aware of when we’re harming other people. Sometimes we have to discover the subtle ways that we harm others.

If the foundation of non-harm is compassion, it is two-fold. The foundation of removing harm from our heart is compassion for others as well as compassion for our self. To examine harmfulness in Buddhism, we also think about the law of karma. The law of karma says that everything that we do to others, we are doing to ourselves-- because it is literally going to come back to us. If we cause someone to feel a certain way, we will experience that same feeling in the future.

The meditation is in three parts. First, we exchange self with others by imagining going into their mind and developing compassion for them. Second, you go back into your own body and ask yourself, “do I want to experience this harm that I cause them in my future?” Finally, you come up with a plan to change. Compassion, I believe, arises naturally from deep understanding. If you understand what they're going through compassion will rise naturally. However, if you're going to restrain yourself from doing something harmful this week, you need to make a plan that you're going to change your behavior when you see them next time. You plan to restrain yourself and you plan to try to generate compassion.

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The Dhammapada, by Buddha. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 9.

Abhidharmasamuccaya, The Compendium of the Higher Teaching (Philosophy) by Asanga. Originally translated into French and annotated by Warpola Rahula. English version from the French by Sara Boin-Webb. ASIAN HUMANITIES PRESS, Fremont, California,, pp. 8-10.