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Seeing the kindness of others

Seeing the kindness of others

Part of a series of short Bodhisattva’s Breakfast Corner talks in response to a letter from a German student concerned about the growth of the Muslim community in Germany and the fear he often feels as a result.

  • Remembering how we rely on other sentient beings helps us to loosen our biases
  • Everything we have, everything we use, comes from other sentient beings

Seeing the kindness of others (download)

Then to further follow up on this discussion from my friend’s email about seeing his fear of Muslims and his anger coming up and knowing that he has to do something about it.

Another very important technique when we’re angry or have a lot of hatred is to really see how we depend upon those other living beings. Because often we feel that we are an independent agent that we can stay alive all by ourselves but when we realize that we depend on everybody else we see we need everybody else and so having antipathy towards those that are kind to us just it doesn’t fit and it doesn’t make sense. And so in this kind of specific situation this person happens to be living in Germany but it’s the same thing in the U.S. with a lot of the prejudice against immigrants here, especially Latino immigrants, to remember that we invited these people to come in the country to take the jobs that other people who are already living here don’t want to do. And so if these people don’t come in the country then we are left doing these jobs. And due to our own—maybe, I don’t know what kind of motivations—you know, we don’t want to do them and so ask other people to come in and do them. So, then, turning on those people and not welcoming them and not appreciating everything they do because their jobs are just as important as everybody else’s job in the sense that if anybody in society doesn’t do their job, everybody suffers. So it doesn’t matter whether you are at a job that has a high-paying salary or a low paying salary if anybody doesn’t do their work everything crumbles. I was in Tel Aviv one time when the garbage collectors went on strike. Whoa! You know, it’s heavy duty. So we should remember this and any kind of prejudice we have, you know, against immigrants whether they’re legal or illegal is completely unsuitable because our whole society depends on these people for doing jobs as they depend on everybody else for doing the jobs, okay?

So having higher class and lower class saying, you know, “this is ours, this isn’t theirs,” to me it doesn’t make very much sense because we all need each other to function together. And so especially looking around at everything you have, everything we use, we see that it came due to the kindness of other living beings—you know, the food we grow, the clothes we wear, all these things, it all comes from others. And so to not respect these others in an equal way seems completely unfitting seeing that our entire lives depend on them, you know? So we are very much interconnected living beings and it is survival of the most cooperative not survival of the most hateful. You know, that just doesn’t work in the community of any kind of living beings, you know? So we really have to cooperate and appreciate each other whether it’s, you know, in a country, in the whole planet, in a small group, in an office, in a family, you know, to really see how much we need each other and appreciate what everybody else does. Of course we can spend endless time thinking about what they do, they don’t do exactly the way we want them to do it. But that’s not the point, ok? The point is they’re doing it and we benefit. Because I am sure they would have something to say about the way we do our job, too. And we guaranteed aren’t doing it the way they want us to do it either. So we can all hang around and complain about each other from here, you know, throughout infinite time but it doesn’t get anywhere. Whereas really appreciating each other really is much more suitable and much more beneficial for all of us, ok? So that kind of concludes the different points I have to say about my friend’s letter.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.