Part of a series of talks on the 41 Prayers to Cultivate Bodhicitta from the Avatamsaka Sutra (the Flower Ornament Sutra).
- Remaining calm and impartial when seeing others in dispute
- Being competent when involved in a dispute
- Different styles in conflict
41 Prayers to cultivate bodhicitta: Verse 35-1 (download)
“May all beings be competent when meeting those who challenge them.”
This is the prayer of the bodhisattva when seeing a dispute.
I think this means—when we see other people in a dispute—instead of taking sides and getting involved in what isn’t our business, to be able to remain neutral, but to hope that both sides are able to communicate properly, and in communicating properly, resolve their dispute.
It talks about, “Be competent when meeting those who challenge them.” Sometimes as soon as somebody challenges us we fall to pieces. We have so many old behavior patterns that interfere with our being competent when there’s a discussion, or a dispute that needs to be resolved. Because we’re not competent in communicating well, then things kind of really get out of hand.
This is good for when we’re looking at other people in a dispute. We remain impartial. Also, when we’re in the middle of a dispute with others we should think about, “How can I be competent in handling this? How can I be cool and not fly off the handle and not withdraw?” Because both of those are not very productive in times of conflict. But both of those are strategies that we often employ, don’t we? There’s conflict? “Bye! I’ll see you later. Don’t talk to me.” Or there’s conflict? “Boy, I want to jump in and have it out with someone.”
I did some study at one time about different styles in conflict. There was avoidance. Then there was one in which you accommodated the other person. There was one in which you compromised and then cooperate. Then there was a fifth one, collaborate. I see a lot of similarities between those and Buddhadharma. Different situations call for different conflict styles. The thing is that when we are competent, then you can figure out which kind of conflict style fits which kind of situation. When we are overwhelmed in our mind, then we can’t figure out which conflict style to employ.
Maybe in the upcoming days we’ll talk a little bit about each conflict style. I find it actually very very helpful. Between now and then you might think a little bit which one is your usual one because we all have a pattern that we often fall into which prevents us from thinking creatively about how to handle discussions. We just do the same behavior no matter what. This is like, no matter what math problem somebody gives you, you say five. You’re not going to be very effective. When we can find the places in ourselves to be creative and diverse in handling situations, then we can look at each situation and figure out how best to handle it. Then we can really be more effective.