When someone I have benefited
And in whom I have placed great trust
Hurts me very badly,
I will practice seeing that person as my supreme teacher.
What is it that someone I love and trust can teach me by turning against me and harming me? They teach me about the reality of cyclic existence.
Nothing is certain. None of the people or things that I love and trust will stay the same for even two consecutive moments, much less forever. Sentient beings, myself included, are under the control of mental afflictions and habit-forming imprints of previous actions. Strangers turn to friends, then to enemies, then back to strangers, all depending on conditions that are largely out of my control. I am not the center of the universe, and there’s no universal law saying that others have to please me.
If I exert myself in benefiting others simply to be respected and appreciated or to receive praise or reward, this is clearly going to leave me disappointed. Even if people I’ve benefited don’t purposefully hurt me, but just don’t happen to notice the things I did, I will feel hurt if I’m expecting some grand acknowledgement.
Thus, these people are pointing out my desire for good reputation and approval, and it is only by seeing it clearly through these experiences that I will understand that it is a faulty attitude and abandon it.
It is my supreme teacher who shows me that security comes from the intention to be of benefit to others without hope or expectation of what will come of it. It is my teacher who shows me through direct life experiences the truth of Buddha’s teaching of impermanence – “All birth ends in death. All meetings end in separation. Whatever is accumulated is dispersed. Whatever is high falls low.”
Today, I will practice this verse from The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. I’ll bring my expectations in accord with reality – instead of assuming dear ones will always be there for me, I’ll understand that this is actually impossible. No matter what our relationship entails while it lasts, we will at one time or another separate.
Then, if they happen to actually harm me, I’ll be able to remain peaceful and loving. I’ll remember that we’re both just sentient beings doing our best to achieve happiness, but out of confusion creating causes for suffering instead. In this way, humility and compassion will arise in my heart.