How to Overcome Bad Feelings Toward Others

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In the “Fourteen Slanders,” Nichiren Daishonin strictly warns both laity and priesthood not to commit the 14 slanders. The slanders that are the biggest problem for us are the last four: contempt, hatred, jealousy, and bearing grudges.

Some believers may have heard of the term onshitsu in relation to the problem of ill feelings against other believers. “Onshitsu” literally means “hatred and jealousy.” However, it may be considered also to include contempt and bearing grudges. Thus, it means to look down on, bear ill will against, be envious of, or have a grudge against a person with faith in true Buddhism.

Nichiren Daishonin’s direction about this is truly severe. He says, “Believers in the Lotus Sutra should absolutely be the last to abuse each other.” This holds true whether something really happened to cause those ill feelings, or whether the reason for them is just a fabrication.

If we bear ill feelings against other believers, we will lose our fortune and create negative karma. This is true whether the problem is between priests and lay believers, or whether it is between fellow lay believers, regardless of whatever positions the people involved may have. So, no matter what the reason, having such feelings of ill will is something we should truly avoid. This article will touch on a few points about the problems of ill feelings that may arise in relationships between people who believe in Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism.

Anyone who maintains faith in Nichiren Shoshu for even a little while learns that it is not a good idea to have bad feelings toward other believers. Even so, we common mortals foolishly come to hold such ill feelings even though we know better. What makes this all the more troublesome is that ill feelings break out between close friends who strive in faith and tackle Buddhist practice with the utmost seriousness.

In fact, the more actively a person participates in a faith‑related organization with the spirit to seek the Way and has a burning passion to contribute to Kosen‑rufu, the more opportunities there are for ill feelings to arise. This is because ill feelings arise in the midst of frequent interaction between one person and another.

People who pursue faith tranquilly, at their own pace, out of a fear of developing ill feelings or because they want to avoid the irksome aspects of human relationships, may seem to be free of the problem of harboring ill feelings of rancor or envy. Conversely, one tends to commit other slanders with this approach ‑ such as negligence, self‑centered thinking, and shallow understanding. In Buddhist practice, though, it is wrong to step back or even to stand still. In one way or another, one must move forward to some degree. In this sense, it is an urgent necessity to be able to overcome ill feelings.

Probably, no one intentionally wants to have bad feelings toward others. Ill feelings of hatred, jealousy, contempt, and bitterness are not enjoyable in the least. The Gosho quotes the Great Teacher Miaole, “Those who have not yet freed themselves from impediments are called ‘hostile ones,’ and those who take no delight in listening to the doctrine are called ‘jealous ones.’” (“The Opening of the Eyes”; Gosho, p. 539; MW-2, p. 115)

People overcome by ill feelings such as hatred and jealousy get twisted around. Confused by the obstacles of earthly desires, they lose the desire to listen to what is correct. This becomes a vicious cycle ‑ since they find it difficult to carry out Buddhist practice in a straightforward way, their faith naturally falls to a low level. This in turn beckons devilish functions to influence them. Swayed by the three poisons, they fall into the three evil paths [of Hell, Hunger, and Animality]. This is a really horrible situation.

Recent medical research reveals that when bad feelings like envy, hatred, and anger occur, poisonous substances are released into the body that have a destructive effect on the cells of various organs. Ill feelings such as enmity and envy even destroy a person’s health.

In what circumstances do we develop ill feelings toward others? There are too many reasons to enumerate. Bad feelings may arise when we are insulted, ignored, or treated coldly; when our explanations are not listened to, or our value is not recognized; when our contribution is not evaluated fairly; when we are misunderstood or slandered; when our expectations are not met; or when we are misjudged (even if we are respected).

In short, when someone has an unfair attitude toward you or mistreats you, bad feelings toward that person can turn into hatred, jealousy, contempt, or grudges. What you need to focus on here is that this tendency arises from being strongly fixated on the “self.”

Buddhism teaches that one’s attachment to the idea that “the self equals the ego” is an incorrect view, and strongly urges people to get rid of that idea, since it is an illusion of thought. Ill feelings like hatred and jealousy actually arise out of a type of illusion of thought called egocentric views. The initial teachings of Buddhism placed strong emphasis on the eradication of illusions of thought and desire, including egocentric views.

A passage in the “Fourteen Slanders” warns against having ill feelings toward other believers, saying that one should fear criticizing them, “whether what one speaks is the truth or not.” This is a quote from the Encouragement of Bodhisattva Universally Worthy (Fugen; twenty‑eighth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

Slandering people begins with thinking that what another person did is wrong and that you are in the right. Nichiren Daishonin’s guidance, however, is that regardless of whether something was done to you by the other person, we should never slander people who are striving in faith.

That is, rancor and jealousy between priests and laity who believe in the Gohonzon cannot be tolerated for any reason! We need to powerfully take this to heart.

What urgently needs to be added here, though, is that there is a difference between slander (defamation) and constructive criticism (in the sense of evaluation). Fundamentally, criticism is independent of good and evil. When we lose the ability to evaluate things critically, we confuse right and wrong, truth and falsehood, reality and fabrication, proper and improper. Therefore, critical evaluation is indispensable to the growth, improvement, and progress of both individual people and society.

The issue is the intent or what is in the heart of the person who is criticizing. Criticism motivated by harmful or evil intentions is slander and turns into defamation. Criticism with a spirit of consideration or compassion is guiding, teaching, warning, advising, or encouraging the other person. But, we frequently mix criticism and defamation together; criticism with a positive intent turns into defamation, or, we misinterpret constructive criticism and think we are being attacked, which leads to a problem of bad feelings toward the person who criticized us. We need to take care of such problems through mutual effort.

So, holding feelings of hatred, jealousy, contempt or grudges toward other people of our faith is deplorable. But what can you do to conquer these feelings? The following is a prescription based on the experiences of a number of people.

First, quickly recognize that you harbor such bad feelings and think deeply about the consequences of that slander.

Next, re‑examine whether the words and actions of the other person who is the target of your bad feelings are actually understandable. Then think about whether there were any mistakes in your own behavior.

But even supposing that the other person was unfair and unreasonable, and you were not at fault in any way, it is extremely vital for you to regard that person as your “good friend” (zenchishiki) in Buddhist practice. This experience is trying to teach you something in your Buddhist practice. Take it as something that has meaning and use it as an opportunity to make your faith stronger.

Here is what Nichiren Daishonin said about the people who persecuted him:

From the beginning, I resolved how I would live my whole life. I have not faltered in my resolution nor do I bear any ill will. I view all those evil people as good friends (zenchishiki).

(Gosho, p. 584)

Please read this passage deeply and sincerely.

As mentioned before, our hearts and minds do not easily or readily change in the direction we would like them to go. A heart filled with ill feelings does not budge an inch just because we think it’s wrong to have those feelings. It is the tragedy of human life that even if we want to view the other person as a good friend, we cannot transform our feelings without meeting great resistance. This is where the value of chanting Daimoku becomes so clear.

This is a time to strive even harder than usual in chanting Daimoku. It is a time to vigorously chant abundant Daimoku with your entire mind of faith, concentrated on fusing with the Gohonzon, sweeping away all other thoughts. In this life‑or‑death practice of chanting Daimoku, the spirit to reflect on yourself will well forth, and you will become aware of the low state of your own life. Because of this, you will be able to see the other person as a “good friend” (zenchishiki) and you will even be able to bring forth the spirit to pray for the other person’s growth.

No matter what the type of ill feeling, and no matter how overwhelming it may be, the merit of chanting Daimoku will erase those feelings without fail. What’s even more wonderful in this process, your life state will become one step higher and you will change poison into medicine.

The benefit of chanting Nam‑Myoho‑Renge‑Kyo is truly amazing!

Terminology:

Fourteen Slanders:

The “Fourteen Slanders” Gosho teaches, “There are fourteen evil causes: (1) arrogance, (2) negligence, (3) arbitrary, egotistical judgment, (4) shallow, self‑satisfied understanding, (5) attachment to earthly desires, (6) lack of seeking spirit, (7) not believing, (8) aversion, (9) deluded doubt, (10) vilification, (11) contempt, (12) hatred, (13) jealousy and (14) grudges. Since these 14 slanders apply equally to the priesthood and laity, you must be on guard against them…. Always remember that believers in the Lotus Sutra absolutely should be the last to abuse each other. All those who keep faith in the Lotus Sutra are most certainly Buddhas, and one who slanders a Buddha commits a grave offense.”

(MW-3, p. 207)

Onshitsu:

This term, which means “hatred and jealousy,” comes from the famous passage in the Teachers of the Law (Hosshi; tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, “Since hatred and jealousy abound even in the lifetime of the Tathagata, how much worse will it be after his passing!”

(Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, May 2007)