On the other hand, we come to find compassion for such people because we learn that no one is born that way; they are instead a product of their life experience. They have been “programmed.” They did not choose to be that way. And they surely suffer.
And so it was with great relief that I recently read a book by the Dalai Lama, Lighting the Way. At one point in the book he discusses The Eight Verses on Training the Mind, which is part of the Tibetan lojong, a distillation of the Buddha’s teaching in 59 sayings.
The first verse says we should regard all beings as precious and hold them dear at all times. Gulp! More of the same I thought, as I related in my post, “Evil - How Should a Buddhist Respond?”
But in discussing this verse, saying that one must develop bodhicitta, cultivate compassion and loving-kindness towards all beings, he then goes on to define those terms. “Compassion is the wish that all beings be free from suffering, while loving-kindness is a state of mind that aspires that all beings experience happiness.”
In the West, when we hear the word “love” or even the phrase “loving-kindness” it strikes us, because of the connotation of those words, as only being appropriate towards people who are worthy of that emotion and the actions that flow from it. Why, for example, should anyone regardless how spiritual show loving-kindness towards a Hitler or a Stalin or a Charles Manson? Why should they be held dear? But we have an easier time having compassion towards such people for the reason stated above, even if they are the devil incarnate and no longer human.
I have never understood how all spiritual books state that we should love everyone. They make no exception for people who are truly evil, who are the devil. As I related in my post about evil, this seems to me to be doing a disservice to the reader, the follower, because if you indeed show such people love or loving-kindness, not as the Dalai Lama defined it, but as we in the West interpret it, they will devour you, they will crush you.
But if you say that you should show all beings compassion, wish that their suffering end and that they experience happiness … well how could you not have that attitude and be a spiritual person free of your own suffering. To not have that attitude would be to be consumed by anger and hatred, and of course fear.
How could you not wish that these evil people, lacking all humanity, discover their true Buddha nature and be transformed into people who are free of suffering and experience happiness. Not only would you wish that for them because you know that we are all born with the true Buddha nature inside us, but you wish that because if they did in fact find their true selves and end their suffering, then they would no longer cause others suffering.
This is again another example of the problem created through the use of language. I now know that “love” and “loving-kindness” are Buddhist-speak for compassion. In a Buddhist context these words do not equate with the emotional state that we in the West connect with those words. I had never read a book that defined “loving-kindness” in this way. I wonder what the word translated as “dear” in the first verse is in Tibetan, and whether the nuance is different?
But regardless, the point is that whether you are a beginning practitioner or an enlightened one, one must treat people who are evil, who are the devil incarnate, not by showing them “love,” not by holding them “dear,” but while having compassion for them, separating yourself from them and if they are in or seek a power position, working with others to prevent them from having power.