Note: I actually started writing this post before the incident yesterday, so the timing is coincidental, but now takes on more meaning than before.
In Chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha tells the story of a monk who became a bodhisattva called “never-disparaging”. In Japanese, he’s called fukyō bosatsu (不軽菩薩). In this story, the monk is sometimes ridiculed by others, but he never gets angry. He never studied the texts, nor did any advanced practices, but he just kept bowing to everyone he met. Or, to quote the Buddha:
Now,…for what reason was he named Never Disparaging? This monk, whatever persons he happened to meet, whether monks, nuns, Laymen or laywomen, would bow in obeisance to all of them and speak words of praise, saying, ‘I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparaging and arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.’
The monks in his time were arrogant and insulted him sometimes, or sometimes people would throw rocks and sticks at him, but the monk would run to a safe distance and bow to his offenders, saying “‘I would never dare disparage you, because you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!'”
In time, the monk, near death, was awakened to the great Lotus Sutra. Not the literal sutra we read, but the true Lotus Sutra that is the Dharma and transcends all words.* The monk realizes great wisdom in the process, becomes a full-fledged bodhisattva with a great life-span and many powers, and then goes on to teach and lead many beings to enlightenment as bodhisattvas are apt to do.
The verses toward the end of the chapter are revealing as well:
When the people heard this,
they gibed at him, cursed and reviled him,
but the bodhisattva Never Disparaging
bore all this with patience.
When his offenses had been wiped out
and his life was drawing to a close,
he was able to hear this sutra (i.e. the Dharma)
and his six faculties were purified.
The notion of forbearance, or patience, is also one of the six paramitas, or perfections in East Asian Buddhism and elsewhere.
Even in the Dhammapada of the Pali Canon, the opening verses begin like so:
‘He insulted me,
— for those who brood on this,
hostility isn’t stilled.
Hostilities aren’t stilled
Hostilities are stilled
this, an unending truth.
So in light of events yesterday, where my wife was randomly hit by some local teenagers here in Dublin, and questions of discrimination have arisen, I’ve pondered the importance of forbearance towards one’s enemies. The Buddha’s teachings of patience towards one’s enemies, as exemplified by Bodhisattva Never-Disparaging, or the Dhammapada, is a cornerstone of Buddhist teachings. Peace and tolerance are much better in the long-run.
However, in spite of this, I can’t deny that I am still seething over the whole incident. If the incident happened to me, I think I could get over it by now, and calm myself down and meditate upon these teachings or something. However, my wife (and indirectly my baby daughter) were threatened, not me, so that changes things a lot. I don’t know why, but the sense of “protectin’ the women-folk” is really ingrained in us men, and the thought of something happening to our wives or daughters hits a real raw nerve.
I don’t think I’d go get a shotgun and shoot someone in revenge,** but I have to be honest that I’ve been feeling less-than-compassionate anyways. Last night, I recited the nembutsu as I often do, and thought of the girl who hit my wife, and tried to dedicate good merit and good will to her, but it didn’t make me feel anymore kind or compassionate. Today I’ve been walking around Dublin all day with a big chip on my shoulder. Everywhere I look, I find myself wondering which of the people around me would do the same, or worse to my wife.
Tonight I feel more calm, but I think it will take some time to get over it. For now I just recite the nembutsu. I don’t know what else to do these days.
P.S. The move to the new place is proceeding more or less on schedule. We’ll probably move in the middle of next week. Monday is a bank holiday in Ireland, so I’ll be home for three days, and I got her a new mobile phone (our phones in the US won’t work outside the US, and don’t have sim-chips to swap out). I also am leaving her some money for taxis and such just in case since I have to get back to the office on Friday.
* – If you read the Lotus Sutra carefully, the Buddha never actually tells you what the real Lotus Sutra is. The implication is that it is truly profound and even the highest Bodhisattvas don’t always know it. However, knowing the true Lotus Sutra (i.e. the Dharma itself in full-form) is full-blown Enlightenment and one is thus reaches Buddha-hood at that point. Nichiren Buddhists for example refer to the Buddha’ exhortation in the Pali Canon that one should take refuge it the Dharma, not the teacher, which for them is good reason to praise the Lotus Sutra that represents the highest truth.
** – I am pretty sure I wouldn’t know how to load one properly anyways. It’s a lot harder to do than on Halo. :p