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"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"--in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease.
"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"--in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease.
For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love alone.
These lines are from the first chapter of the Dhammapada, one of the best known collections of teachings from the Theravadan Buddhist canon. A few thousand years later, they are still completely relevant and contemporary.
After my parents divorced, my mother met a man that triggered a lot of hatred within my teenage mind. He could be highly controlling and demanding at times. I still remember him lingering over my should as I washed dishes, waiting until I was finished so he could inspect for spots, and make me wash them again. I hated him then, and for years afterward, whenever his name came up in conversation, or his image came into my thoughts, a tirade of miserable commentary poured out.
It took a dream I had a few months ago to finally break free of any lingering rage and hatred I had towards this man. Some fifteen years after I last saw him. He came to me in the dream seeking to hear my side of the story. Of the suffering I had experienced. And so I told him what I could, while we wound around the city in different forms of transit, until I suddenly woke up and immediately realized something had shifted completely.
In this way, he was a great teacher for me - someone I never want to see again, but who gave me the opportunity to experience a hatred deep enough to understand the damage hatred causes. None of my childhood "enemies" did this really; nor anyone else since.
The thing about the Dhammapada quote above is that people often want to leap from one end to the other. Don't you think? Instead of doing the difficult work of experiencing the pain and roughness of what's present, we want to have that shit over with so we can go on appearing more and more bodhisattva-like in the world. It just doesn't work that way though.
This is why we have to do continuous practice. Making the effort, and letting go of gaining any benefit from that effort. This is the way, and what working with teachings like the verses from the Dhammapada is all about.