Because I Care ~ BEYOND PREFERENCES
THE FACT THAT I’VE
written of this subject elsewhere will not deter me
from writing about it again, as it is important, and
the more people we can inform about it, the better.
It is this: How to love people and things we do not
In your life, as in mine, there might be
at least one person you really do not like, and though
you might be unable to explain exactly why you dislike
that person so much, this is not surprising, as the
roots of many of our feelings are hidden from us,
and seem to have come with us at birth. We can see
how siblings, raised in the same way and the same
environment, have different likes and dislikes. Can
we ascribe this to genes or chemical reactions in
the brain? Personally, I find that idea rather repulsive,
as it implies we are little more than machines or
automatons, with almost no choice or control over
our lives. Shall we then suppose our preferences are
a carry-over from previous lives? We may, if we like,
and if we believe in such, but the reality remains
that we have these feelings, which, if not accepted
and understood, often lead us into trouble and can
sometimes cause a great deal of harm. Also, for those
who have set out on a spiritual way, it can be disconcerting
and disheartening to find one’s likes and dislikes
not crowded out and overcome by altruistic love and
compassion for all, but remain with us, and even appear
to grow stronger; we may seem torn apart and divided
in ourselves by base and lower feelings of self and
higher aspirations. Is this always the outcome of
turning towards the light? Enlightenment is not easily
won; we should understand this from the start, and
be prepared for all kinds of hardships and set-backs.
This is why we need different ways of looking at things.
Our life may be compared to a tree, which
has two main parts: the part above the ground—
trunk, limbs, branches— which we can see, and
the part below the ground— the roots—
which are out of sight. But, just because we do not
see the part below the ground, it doesn’t mean
that it is not there; indeed, if the part below the
ground were not there, the part above the ground would
also not be there, as it is dependent upon the former.
Likewise, our present condition, with our preferences,
tendencies, habits, and so on, has grown up out of
the past, although we are unable to see much of the
roots or underlying causes.
Now, we like to be able to explain things
as we feel uneasy about things we cannot explain;
unexplained things might endanger and threaten our
sense of well-being and security. But instead of always
trying to explain things, it is sometimes better to
say "I don’t know," though this is
not easy and requires a bit of courage, as it is an
admission of ignorance and weakness; however, if we
are sincere in our quest for knowledge and enlightenment,
it is unavoidable and has to be done; if it doesn’t
satisfy our curiosity, at least it is honest, and
leaves us open to learn.
Now, if there is someone you strongly dislike—
perhaps someone at work or even at home— you
might try this: Be honest with yourself and accept
your feelings toward that person, without pretending
they are otherwise or trying to justify them, and
say to yourself: "I don’t like this person.
I don’t know why I don’t like him, but
I really can’t stand him. However, he is a human
being, with hopes, fears and aspirations, just like
myself. Life for him, too, is probably a struggle
at times, and he wishes to be happy and free from
suffering, as do I myself. I am not really happy with
the way I am now, with my faults and imperfections,
and he is probably no different. So I won’t
let my feelings of dislike towards him lead me to
do anything harmful to him, and, if I have an opportunity,
I will do something to help him, as that is how I
would like him to behave towards me, even if he doesn’t."
If we can look at things this way—
and it is quite different from the way many of us
look at things, with feelings of resentment, ill-will,
jealousy and malice— we may go beyond our selfish
feelings of like and dislike, and reach the level
of Love— Love that grows from Understanding.
Our dislike towards that person might remain, even
while we love him, but this is not a contradiction;
no-one likes everyone. It just means that we have
put our lower and limited feelings to one side in
order to deal with the situation— like rolling
up our sleeves to wash the dishes. I am not speaking
from hearsay but from experience; I know it works;
so I am qualified— Qualified By Experience (Q.B.E.)—
to speak of it, otherwise I would not be.
Let me use the story of the Buddha’s
cousin, as an example: from childhood, Devadatta had
been a jealous rival of Prince Siddhartha, probably
because he perceived in him qualities he himself did
not possess. Later, when Siddhartha attained Enlightenment
and became a Buddha, Devadatta became a monk and,
as a result of his propensities and meditation, he
developed certain psychic powers like the ability
to fly, walk on water, pass through walls, and so
on. But in spite of this he was not enlightened; his
powers were only psychic and not spiritual. Moreover,
his pride only increased thereby, and his jealousy
Uncontrollably ambitious, he started to
think thus: "I, too, am a prince of the royal
blood, just like Siddhartha. Why should he always
have first place? I am just as worthy as he is!"
Day after day, such thoughts gnawed away inside him
until he could contain them no longer and went to
the Buddha and said: "You have been leading the
Order of Monks for a long time now and must be tired.
Why don’t you retire and let me take over?"
But the Buddha knew Devadatta’s evil intentions
and so rejected his request.
This enraged Devadatta and he resolved to
kill the Buddha. So he enlisted the aid of a gang
of ruffians and instructed them to wait above a narrow
path in the hills where the Buddha used to pass after
His alms-round in the nearby town of Rajagriha, and
when He came beneath the place where they were hiding,
to push a huge rock over the cliff to crush Him. The
ruffians did as they were told, and when they saw
the Buddha coming, got ready behind the rock until
He was just about below them, pacing calmly along.
Whether or not He knew what was about to happen, I
cannot say, though some people, believing the Buddha
knew everything, would declare, without hesitation,
that of course He knew. Whatever, the would-be assassins
put their weight behind the rock and pushed it over.
It seemed that the Buddha must surely be crushed to
death, but suddenly, the rock struck another rock
and split into two, falling on either side of Him,
only a small fragment striking His foot and drawing
blood. The plot had failed.
Undeterred, from the depths of his jealousy
and malice, Devadatta thought of another way to kill
the Buddha. He knew a man in the town who had a fierce
elephant that was always kept tethered up; approaching
the owner, he asked to borrow the animal. Because
Devadatta was quite widely-admired— and maybe
also feared— for his psychic powers, the man
agreed. Then Devadatta, knowing that the Buddha came
down the street for alms every morning, told his men
to intoxicate the elephant with liquor, and when they
saw the Buddha coming, to enrage it by beating it
with sticks and prodding it with knives, and then
This they did, and the elephant charged
onto the street, trumpeting and bellowing. The townspeople
scattered and ran for cover wherever they could, until
only the Buddha and some of His monks were left exposed.
Seeing them, the mad elephant charged towards them,
and Ananda, the Buddha’s favorite disciple and
personal attendant, realizing the danger, moved between
the Buddha and the elephant, thinking: "Let me
be killed instead of my master." But the Buddha
said to him: "No, Ananda; stand aside,"
and raising His right hand, with palm turned towards
the elephant, He radiated His Loving-kindness to it.
And such was the power of the Buddha’s Loving-kindness
that the elephant was immediately pacified and fell
to its knees in front of Him, its rage extinguished.
So, again, Devadatta had failed.
Not long after this, Devadatta became very
ill, and when the Buddha heard of it He said to some
of the monks: "Let us visit Devadatta."
Surprised, one of the monks said: "But Devadatta
is your enemy; he has tried to kill you several times
before." The Buddha replied: "That is no
reason for me not to love him, and if my love for
Devadatta equals my love for Rahula, my son, let Devadatta
recover." So they went to see Devadatta, and
soon afterwards, he did indeed recover from his illness.
Unfortunately, his jealousy and resentment towards
the Buddha was not so easily overcome, being more
deep-rooted than his physical sickness.
Now, it is clear from this story that after
all Devadatta had done to harm Him, the Buddha held
no thought of resentment towards him, but loved him
unreservedly. But do you think the Buddha liked Devadatta?
Do you think He approved of what he had done?
My sister in England, speaking of her eldest
daughter, once told me that she loves her, as she
is her daughter, but doesn’t like her because
of her character and behavior. I told her I understood
what she meant and admired her perception and courage
in making such a statement, which, for a mother, must
be very hard to do. It is an excellent example of
what I’m talking about here, and while my sister
was talking about her long-term opinion, perhaps every
mother knows how it feels to dislike their children
at times when they are naughty, though they never
cease to love them.
This side of Enlightenment, our personal
likes and dislikes will always be with us in one form
or another, but there is no need to be divided in
oneself over them. What we need to do is understand
them and control them rather than them controlling
us, to be prepared to put them aside at times in the
interest of higher things, rather than always giving
way to them and letting them rule our lives. We can,
and often do, blame other people and things for our
shortcomings— our upbringing, society, lack
of opportunities, and so on— or we can see that
they are part of our conditioning and can be understood,
outgrown and left behind. Nor must we be perfectly
enlightened in order to understand and put aside our
selfish feelings; we can try to do it now— and
somewhat succeed— if we wish. But if we try
to be completely without ego, we will never succeed;
it is not within our capacity, and our efforts will
only be a further confirmation of ego. Ego is overcome,
uprooted, destroyed, or seen for what it is—
unreal, an illusion— only by the arising of
Enlightenment. Consider the case of the Buddha Himself:
right up until His Enlightenment there were still
thoughts of self— egoism— in Him.
This side of Enlightenment, however, we
must learn how to use ego, but in a skillful and non-harmful
way, free from conflict and competition with other
egos, must learn how to put ego aside when necessary;
without ego, and the skillful use of it, we would
be spineless, like jellyfish, and not even be able
to stand upright. Properly used and harnessed, it
is very useful for a long part of our way. Needless
to say, we should not promote ego, as that is just
as bad as constantly putting ourselves down.
Egolessness, like humility, is a result,
and cannot be practiced or done. We cannot run before
we can walk.