When things are going well, and people are kind and treating us with respect, it is not so difficult to wish for them to be happy. However, if our love for others diminishes as soon as they cause us problems or fail to appreciate us, this indicates that our love is not pure. For as long as our good feelings for others are conditional upon their treating us well, our love will be weak and unstable and we shall not be able to transform it into universal love. It is inevitable that people will sometimes respond to our kindness in ungrateful and negative ways, and so it is essential that we find a way of transforming this experience into the spiritual path.
Instead of Anger
Whenever anyone harms us, instead of getting angry we should try to see that person as a Spiritual Teacher and generate a mind of gratitude towards him or her. There are various lines of reasoning we can use to develop this special recognition. We can think:
The only reason people harm me is because I have created the cause for them to do so through my previous negative actions. These people are teaching me about the law of karma. By deceiving me and repaying my help with harm they are reminding me that in the past I deceived and harmed others. They are betraying me only because I betrayed them or others in previous lives. They are encouraging me to purify my negative karma and to refrain from harmful actions in the future. How kind they are! They must be my Spiritual Guide, emanated by Buddha.
By thinking in this way we transform a situation that would normally give rise to anger or self-pity into a powerful lesson in the need for purification and moral discipline.
Another Lineof Reasoning
We can also think:
This person who is harming or disturbing me is in reality encouraging me to practise patience; and since it is impossible to make progress on the spiritual path without developing the strong mind of patience, he or she is of great benefit to me.
Patience is a mind motivated by a virtuous intention that happily accepts difficulties and harm from others. A person with no patience has no stability of mind, and is upset by the slightest obstacle or criticism. In contrast, when we develop real patience our mind will be as stable as a mountain and as calm as the depths of an ocean. With such a calm, strong mind it will not be difficult to perfect the spiritual realizations of universal love, great compassion, and bodhichitta.
By thinking skilfully in these ways, we can regard even those who harm or deceive us as our Spiritual Teachers. This is a very important point because it means that everyone can be our Teacher. Whether someone is our Spiritual Teacher or an obstacle to our spiritual progress depends entirely upon our mind. In many ways, those who harm us are the kindest of all because they shatter our complacent view that sees samsara as a pleasure garden, and, like a powerful Spiritual Guide, they inspire us to engage more strongly in spiritual practice. By thinking in this way we can transform the harm we receive into the spiritual path, and instead of being discouraged we can learn to cherish even those who harm us. It is especially important to have this attitude towards our close friends and family. Since we spend so much time with them it would be very beneficial if we were to regard them as pure Spiritual Teachers!