by Guo Gu
My teacher, the late Master Sheng Yen, once said something very simple, but which requires a lifetime of practice to actualize. I share it with you in this difficult time: “Wisdom does not give rise to vexations; compassion has no enemies.”
Wisdom is to be free from greed, hatred, and ignorance, which are the three root vexations. Compassion is to act without opposition. Siding with those who agree with me is greed; opposing those who don’t agree with me and wishing they would go away is hatred; not being able to see this mechanism is ignorance. Do our decisions and interpretations of what we experience foster vexations? Do greed, hatred, and ignorance live in us? How many times in our life have we tried to blame others for our suffering? How often do we see things in opposition, as victim and victimizer, good and bad?
It is difficult for people to process their feelings of grief and sorrow after the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The media has supplied many details but has provided no help in understanding what happened. One politician simply stated, “Evil has come down to us.”
For the most part, people automatically refer to those who died as victims and to the shooter as the perpetrator. Accepting this dualism of victim and victimizer is a common natural response to such a tragedy. We feel pity and sorrow for those who died and anger toward the perpetrator—and perhaps by extension, we condemn all those who own guns. But such a mentality is not compassionate. It only creates further harm because it is based on ill will, duality, and opposition.
Excerpted from the Spring 2013 issue of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly, available on newsstands and by subscription.
Guo Gu (Jimmy Yu) is the Sheng Yen Assistant Professor of Chinese Buddhism at Florida State university and the founder and teacher of the Tallahassee Chan Group. He is the author of The Essence of Chan (Shambhala).
Photo by Chiho Nishida