Posting Essays

How Do I Deal With Painful Thoughts of Revenge?

Update: 09/02/2017
You needn’t give harbor to thoughts of ill will, says Lewis Richmond, no matter how justified they seem to be.
 

How Do I Deal With Painful Thoughts of Revenge?

 

Question: Someone did a real wrong to me recently\r\nand now I’m haunted by thoughts of revenge. Although I think they deserve it, I\r\nknow I shouldn’t try to hurt them back. How do I deal with these painful\r\nthoughts of revenge while still recognizing the harm that was done to me?

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Answer: This situation is quite human. Revenge seems\r\nto offer relief, and we are tempted to believe it will help us. As Thrangu\r\nRinpoche, a contemporary Mahamudra master, says, “We think we deserve this\r\nanger, we think we have a right to this anger.”

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You have already realized that this attitude is not\r\nwholesome. In this way you are honoring the Buddhist precept not to “harbor ill\r\nwill.” But deep ego (the unconscious) keeps bringing ill will up. It knows that\r\nit has been wounded and legitimately wants to be healed.

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Loving-kindness can help, particularly when directed\r\nto yourself: “May I be filled with loving-kindness; may I be free from this\r\nsuffering.” That can be your prayer—you can say it and think it. Deep ego, like\r\na distressed child, appreciates this comfort.

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The lasting way to liberate an instance of ill will\r\nis to see directly into its empty nature. My teacher, Suzuki Roshi, taught that\r\nwhen we breathe out, we can let go of affliction; with the next inhale we can\r\nstart over with a clear, pure mind. For one breath, anyway, revenge disappears.\r\nAnd each time it arises, it can disappear again. Over time it may disappear\r\naltogether.

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Suzuki Roshi called this practice “beginner’s mind,”\r\nand said it was the secret of all Zen practice. Seeing the empty nature of\r\nphenomena is the touchstone of all Buddhism, but for it to really heal our\r\nafflictions it has to be more than a doctrine or idea. We have to practice it,\r\nin meditation and in life. In that way even revenge can be our teacher.

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ABOUTLEWIS RICHMOND

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Chikudo Lewis Richmond is an ordained disciple\r\nand lineage holder of Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki. He leads the Vimala Zen Center\r\nSangha in Mill Valley, California, and is the author of four books:Work\r\nas a Spiritual Practice,Healing Lazarus,A Whole\r\nLife’s Work, and Aging as a Spiritual Practice.

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By Lewis Richmond – Lion’s Roar

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