When They Hate You
In Just Add Buddha, I collected dozens of tips and techniques for dealing with the tense, frustrating, and just downright unpleasant nature of our lives. Of course our lives have relaxed, rewarding, and downright pleasant parts, too, but I trust you’ve figured out how to deal with those. Actually, that’s not entirely easy; sometimes it’s hard to relax into pleasure. But that’s another teaching. Right now, I want to give you a new tip, one that didn’t find it’s way into the book because, well, it doesn’t exactly come from an official Buddhist teacher. In fact, it comes from President Richard Nixon. Now you may not think of Nixon as a spiritual teacher, in fact, you may not think of him at all, as he was forced to resign the presidency in the wake of the Watergate cover-up, over thirty years ago. But I can assure you, few who do remember him, are likely to think of him as wise. Yet here is a deeply wise and compassionate teaching I’ve learned from him. It comes from his farewell speech to his Whitehouse staff:
“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”
Here’s a recording. It’s powerful to hear the man’s conviction:
Now that is a bodhisattva talking! He’s reminding us if we live up to our own standards, then we have already won, no matter the outcome. He’s focusing us on the true battle, where the true victory is attained. It is always within. He sounds just like Shantideva in the Bodhicaryavatara! Don’t worry if you don’t know what the heck that means, let’s stay with Guru Nixon and see where his wise advice can help us.
Let’s suppose that someone at work just seems to hate you for no reason, or perhaps it’s your spouse (because with great love comes also great frustration, and great frustration leads to actions usually associated with hatred), or maybe it’s your political enemies—someone you’ve never met, someone on the other side of the world. You want to take action. Your coworker disses or takes credit for your own vital contribution to a project. You want to trash him. Your spouse spoils the evening with insults, can’t admit doing it, and then blames it on you. You want to shout out the stinging truth. An angry crowd in a dirty street chants “Death to America!” and you want to say “Fine, you want to play that way? Here you go!”
Don’t. Instead, when you feel that coil of anger rising up, remember Guru Nixon’s words. Sure, others may be hateful, but you are not, right? Don’t act like you are. Stop the hatred; don’t destroy yourself. Repeat that mantra (because it really is a mantra, a sacred string of sounds): “those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.” I mean it: repeat the mantra; this is the practice I’m sharing with you. You don’t have to say it out loud. You’re probably in a meeting or a fight or watching TV in public. Just take a quick breath and say, in your mind, “those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.” It’s true, right? And just repeating it gives you the space to realize that, right?
This is the path to buddhahood.