The Buddha and Self-Willed People





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Published on Jun 5, 2012

How should we respond to people who are rude and self-willed? With his usual sense of humor, Easwaran draws on teachings from the Buddha to offer some practical and perhaps surprising advice.


And the Buddha says, on the spiritual path you are going to have many difficulties when you try to discover the unity of life. It is when you are not trying to discover the unity of life, when you're prepared for separateness, when you live on a separate level that you may not get bothered very much. As the Buddha puts it very factually, people are people, most of them are ill behaved, ill mannered. He doesn't try to idealize at all. He doesn't say everybody is beautiful, everybody is divine; he says, factually speaking everybody lacks courtesy, mostpeople lack courtesy and consideration. Therefore, this is the very characteristic touch of the Buddha, standing firmly on the ground, and then trying slowly to help us rise until our head touches the stars. In other words, he says, be prepared in personal relationships for a certain amount of impoliteness, for a certain amount of discourtesy. Because, just as you have self-will others have also self-will. This is one of the curious fallacies of self-willed people, that they must have their way, why should others have their way? They cannot bear it if somebody crosses their self-will. They say "Why cannot others bear this patiently?" And, I think while we didn't go about asking for discourtesy from people, it's good not to get upset if you find somebody not showing respect to you, for the simple reason the person who doesn't show respect to you is not showing much respect to himself or herself.

Secondly, if you come across somebody who is self-willed and insensitive, all the more reason for you to alert your mind to be calm, to be compassionate, and if necessary, to face opposition firmly but tenderly. I must say in this connection that with self-willed people, it doesn't always help them to give in. In fact it's a lesson that all of us have to learn. And it's not very easy to learn. With self-willed people very often when you yield, you're feeding their self-will. I think it is in no way helping them at all. And here it is that we learn to show respect by opposing them tenderly. In my vocabulary, if some self-willed person tries to ride roughshod over you, if you let that person do it without nonviolent resistance, you're showing lack of respect to that person. And particularly in personal relationships where people are insecure, this is what often happens. They will feel a certain amount of resentment, but they will not try to oppose tenderly. Particularly where there is selfish attachment, it is not possible at all. Or where you look upon the other person as part of your ego, as a kind of ego-annex, it is very painful and very difficult to be able to oppose with detachment and oppose tenderly.

Every day, for example, in the home, at our place of work, on the bus, in the cinema theater, there are likely to be occasions when somebody will be unpleasant, and sometimes discourteous without any reason at all.

Therefore, what the Buddha is trying to say is, don't get perturbed. And, I very much like Sri Ramakrishna's advice, don't bite, but hiss. It's, I think it is marvelously practical advice, you know. When somebody is trying to jump on you, it is not very spiritual for you to lie down on your tummy and say, go on jumping. It will be good for my spinal column. This is where you open your eyes, distend your nostrils, and do, act, you see. You're not involved. Clench your fists and make some Homeric sounds on the eve of the battle. And, inside you are full of compassion. You are chuckling. But this will help that person next time not to attempt it. This is very difficult to do because you must have detachment. After the scene is over, you can unclench your hands and get on to the next act or to the next scene in this human drama.

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