Hi Brian, I’ve been tumbling this in my head. One of the strongest tenents in Buddhism I agree with is ending suffering, both for the self and others. It’s been a core part of my spiritual path as I’ve started transitioning from female-to-male. I’ve been lucky that many are supportive, even if they do not understand or necessarily agree with my decision. They do realize that the person inside this shell is still the same person in the old shell and this is something that I felt I had to do (it took me a good 3 years of debating whether transitioning was my path or not). But I have started to face more and more discrimination and hate (a lot less than many transwomen face like Angie Zapata).
I totally respect those that feel this isn’t their path but often have a hard time coming to terms with the violence and hate that is thrown at myself and others who find this as their only salvation from suffering (certainly one could have a debate that the body is nothing more than property and an attachment but it does, IMO, go deeper than that).
I try to view in my head that perhaps some experience in their past has them being angry and hateful towards others they do not understand, respect or otherwise. But there are times when I cannot come to terms as to how much pain they emit. How does one come to terms with this and help the other person relieve their own suffering from hate and anger? I know I cannot force them to realize that this is a personal path that has no direct effect on their life but often their hate has a direct effect on mine. Some might say that not transitioning would stop their pain (this is not family, friends or colleagues but rather strangers and society at large) but that, in turn, creates more suffering for me. I’m at a loss and can only turn my cheek so many times before I give up. How can I deal with this in Buddhism?
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” — The Buddha
This is one of those things that I just don’t understand. How someone else’s sexual orientation(not precisely the right term here) matters to anyone else is just beyond me. I can understand someone reacting with either acceptance or revulsion; either could be valid responses. But I don’t get anger and violence.
Almost every reference I could find about hate and violence for situations as you describe are concerned with the Buddhists’ own internal hatred and how to deal with it, not necessarily hatred by others. Here’s one story that does apply:
On one occasion, the Buddha was invited by the Brahmin Bharadvaja for alms to his house. As invited, the Buddha visited the house of the Brahmin. Instead of entertaining Him, the Brahmin poured forth a torrent of abuse with the filthiest of words. The Buddha politely inquired:
“Do visitors come to your house, good Brahmin?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“What do yu do when they come?”
“Oh, we prepare a sumptuous feast.”
“What do you if they refuse to receive the meal?”
“Why, we gladly partake of them ourselves.”
“Well, good Brahmin, you have invited me for alms and entertained me with abuse which I decline to accept. So now it belongs to you.”
From the Akkosa Sutta
The Buddha did not retaliate but politely gave back what the Brahmin had given Him. Retaliate not, the Buddha advised. “Hatred does not cease through hatred but through love alone they cease.”
Essentially, this is another way of saying “turn the other cheek.” I’m sure you already know that this is the best policy, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really help much when you are the target of hatred.
[note] I was going to end my answer with the above, but it bothered me all weekend as being woefully inadequate for the problem described. This person is hated for what she IS, not anything she’s done. I felt there had to be a better answer. Not able to think of any better advice on my own, I asked the following question on Twitter to see what came up:
“How do you deal with hatred directed at you from others when “turning the other cheek” seems inadequate?
And the following answers came in. Some may be of help, but I still don’t feel any of them are going to solve the problem.
@StFrancisPlace “Pray that your enemy may be the recipient of an Enlightenment.” From the teachings of Buddha and Jesus.
@AliceSikora Understand where the hate is coming from – usually from some issue in hater (hopefully). Forgive, maintaining a safe distance.
@pcundell You can’t change what others feel or think, & if you’ve done nothing wrong you can only try and understand their point of view.
@thubtenyeshe When my teachers tell me it’s a reflection of mind I am like ‘WHAT!’ so it’s a hard one. Breathe and walk away helps a lot!
@iurbia Turn the other cheek is Christian. No Self – what is hate? I don’t know buddy, look forward to your answer.
@justuhgrrl Usually I show them no fear or pain and move along. Take the high road, then you haven’t lost your dignity or their respect.
@dongilmore FYI, I thought about the phrase “turn the other cheek.” Do you agree it could seem arrogant, passive-aggressive and baiting?
@jesolomon When ill will is directed at you, remember that the cause generally lies with the hater not the recipient.
@JulieCovey People who hate are miserable. Love, forgive. & let go of what you cannot change. You can choose your response but not others actions.
@FreedomFreedom Be the person who “writes on water”. http://bit.ly/ihAew
@dongilmore Reflect back or let pass-thru; in either case, compassion for their ignorance, without arrogance, without turning other cheek
@FreedomFreedom “How do you deal with hatred directed at you from others?” Those are THEIR emotions. Reject the emotions with a warm ‚ÄúNo thanks.‚Äù
@Robyn_Artemis In turn you don’t tolerate hate and wouldn’t treat people as such. You don’t want to be treated that way either. Walk away.
@Robyn_Artemis Treat others the way you want to be treated. Respect the other person because you want to be treated in the same way.
@Carl For help with hatred directed towards you, look into Byron Katie’s http://www.thework.com
@andraew Try not to give them the satisfaction of biting on fighting bait. (Don’t participate or encourage hateful language/arguments)
@girlscientist Depends on if it’s personal and specific or just based on impersonal things. But always compassion is required.
@SightlineCoach Let go, move on, draw a shield around self… OR… use a judo move: sidestep and let weight of hatred pull the bearer away.
@omgal A quandary. The Dalai Lama addressed this last week in Boston. At times we must stand up to hatred so others don’t suffer too.
@pantherapardus What I think I _should_ do: examine my behavior and see if I contributed to the issue in any way; repair problem if possible.
@pantherapardus How _do_ I deal with it or how do I think I _should_ deal with it? What I do: get defensive and assume the problem is on them
@rjeskow Possible advice: Examine the feelings this brings up in you. Don’t try to change it yet. Just observe.
@cataractmoon The Dalai Lama speaks much about understanding the other person, so he takes a Rogerian argument
@barbchamberlain How about “Recognize their hate is about them, not about you”?
@Kymsart I find it difficult. And often don’t succeed, but try to remove myself, be kind and practice unconditional love. It is HARD
@Kymsart I’ve experienced this. I really try to practice being kind regardless. I know they have an unresolved issue.
And as always, feel free to add your advice and suggestions in the comment section below this article on the website.
If you want to learn more about dealing with your own internal anger, the Dalai Lama covered the topic pretty thoroughly in “Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective,” (Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1559390735/?tag=askdrarca-20)