How to meet evil with good | Daily News


 

How to meet evil with good

In the realm of spirituality, "tit for tat," very much a norm in the world, never works. It is only by a positive response that spiritual progress is possible. If one is reproached, even manhandled, and one reacts with resentment, one would certainly fail either to achieve a purposive result for oneself or to win over the opponent. But if one endures the reproach and responds with good will, then one can win over the offending person as well as effect a significant triumph over oneself, making progress on the onward path to spiritual liberation. An outlook that fosters a positive response to every negative move thus becomes imperative to any serious seeker of truth. It is essential, therefore, that a meditator should assiduously strive to cultivate a positive attitude leading to the conquest of evil by good.

The Buddha, in a masterly discourse entitled "The Parable of the Saw," makes this point amply clear. The Buddha exhorts the monk Phagguna: "Phagguna, if anyone were to reproach you right to your face... give you a blow with the hand, or hit you with a clod of earth, or with a stick, or with a sword, even then you should abandon those urges and thoughts which are worldly (i.e., the normal way of the world — tit for tat). There, Phagguna, you should train yourself thus: 'Neither shall my mind be affected by this, nor shall I give vent to evil words; but I shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and I shall not give in to hatred.'"

So that the point will go straight home, the Buddha recounts a delightful story of the mistress Vedehika, which is again supported by several analogies: the great earth, empty space, the river Ganges, and the catskin bag.

To emphasize this philosophy of positive approach, the Buddha further tells the monks that even if bandits were to sever them limb by limb with a double-handled saw, they should not give way to hatred but must develop thoughts of boundless love towards the bandits as well as the entire world.

The monks, it is said, were greatly inspired as they heard this philosophy of positive response.

"Phagguna, if anyone were to reproach you right to your face, even then you should abandon those urges and thoughts which are worldly. There, Phagguna, you should train yourself thus: 'Neither shall my mind be affected by this, nor shall I give vent to evil words; but I shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and I shall not give in to hatred.' This is how, Phagguna, you should train yourself.

"Phagguna, if anyone were to give you a blow with the hand, or hit you with a clod of earth, or with a stick, or with a sword, even then you should abandon those urges and thoughts which are worldly. There, Phagguna, you should train yourself thus: 'Neither shall my mind be affected by this, nor shall I give vent to evil words; but I shall remain full of concern and pity, with a mind of love, and I shall not give in to hatred.' This is how, Phagguna, you should train yourself.

The Story of the Mistress Vedehika

"In the past, monks, in this very Savatthi, there was a mistress, Vedehika by name. And, monks, this good reputation had spread about the mistress Vedehika: 'The mistress Vedehika is gentle, the mistress Vedehika is meek, the mistress Vedehika is calm.' Now, monks, the mistress Vedehika had a maid-servant, Kali by name, who was able, energetic and very methodical in her work. Then, monks, it occurred to Kali, the maid-servant: 'This good reputation has spread about my lady: "The mistress Vedehika is gentle, the mistress Vedehika is meek, the mistress Vedehika is calm." Could it be that my lady does have anger within her which she does not show, or could it be that she does not have anger? Or is it because I am methodical in my job that my lady, though she does have anger within, does not show it, and not because she does not have anger? Why don't I test my lady?'

"Thus, monks, the maid-servant Kali got up late the next morning. And, monks, the mistress Vedehika told this to the maid-servant Kali: 'Hey, you Kali!' — 'What is it, lady?' — 'Why did you get up so late?' — 'Oh, that is nothing, lady.' — 'What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up late!' Angry and displeased, she frowned.

"Then, monks, it occurred to Kali the maid-servant: 'Though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it; it is not that she does not have anger. It is because I am methodical in my job that, though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it, and not because she does not have anger. Why don't I test my lady further?'

"Now, monks, Kali the maid-servant got up even later than before. Then, monks, the mistress Vedehika told the maid-servant Kali: 'Hey, you Kali!' — 'What is it, lady?' — 'Why did you get up even later than before?' — 'Oh, that is nothing, lady.' — 'What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up even later than before!' Angry and displeased, she gave vent to her displeasure.

"Then, monks, it occurred to the maid-servant Kali: 'Though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it; it is not that she does not have anger. It is because I am methodical in my job that, though she does have anger within, my lady does not show it, and not because she does not have anger. Why don't I test my lady further?'

"And, monks, the maid-servant Kali got up even later than before. Then, monks, the mistress Vedehika told the maid-servant Kali: 'Hey, you Kali!' — 'What is it, lady?' — 'Why did you get up so late?' — 'Oh, that is nothing, lady.' — 'What! That is nothing, indeed! You bad maid-servant, you got up so late!' And angry and displeased, she hit her on the head with the door-bar. And this injured her head.

"Now, monks, the maid-servant Kali, with her head injured and blood oozing, went about among the neighbors, shouting: 'Look, sirs, at the deed of the gentle one! Look, sirs, at the deed of the meek one! Look, sirs, at the deed of the calm one! How can she, saying to her own maid-servant, "You got up late today," angry and displeased, having taken a door-bar, give me a blow on the head and injure my head?'

"And then, monks, this ill-repute spread thereafter about the mistress Vedehika: 'The mistress Vedehika is violent, the mistress Vedehika is arrogant, the mistress Vedehika is not calm.'

"In the same way, monks, some monk here is very gentle, very meek, and very calm, so long as disagreeable ways of speech do not assail him; but when disagreeable ways of speech do assail the monk, it is then that the monk is to be judged whether he is 'gentle,' 'meek,' or 'calm.' Monks, I do not call that monk 'dutiful,' who is dutiful on account of the requisites he gets, i.e., the robe, almsfood, lodging and medicaments, whereby he falls into pseudo-dutifulness. And why? For, monks, when that monk fails to get the requisites of the robe, almsfood, lodging and medicaments, he ceases to be dutiful, and is not in keeping with the norms of dutifulness. But, monks, whichever monk out of reverence for the Teaching, out of respect for the Teaching, out of dedication to the Teaching, showing honor to the Teaching, and giving regard to the Teaching, comes to be dutiful and is in keeping with the norms of dutifulness, him do I consider as dutiful. Therefore, monks, you should consider: 'Only out of reverence for the Teaching, out of respect for the Teaching, out of dedication to the Teaching, showing honor to the Teaching, and giving regard to the Teaching, shall we become dutiful, shall we be in keeping with the norms of dutifulness.' Thus, indeed, monks, you should train yourselves.


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