Hatred, the Third Mental Defilement
A short excerpt from our upcoming book, Wisdom in Buddhism.
Hatred, the Third Mental Defilement
Hate arises from ignorance of the world and how everything and everyone is interconnected.
We come to think of ourselves as standing apart or separate from the world and judge everything and everyone by some internal standard that we may not even understand. When those people, things or circumstances we judge are found wanting in some quality, we begin to develop negative feelings towards them. It takes many forms and can be described in many ways; abhorrence, disgust, detestation, intolerance and loathing, to name a few. This judging is most destructive and causes the rising of hatred and it’s many manifestations, such as; prejudice, racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, revenge, ill-will, animosity, sexual assault, murder, war or genocide.
When we look at our hatreds we almost always find they are, in fact, conditions imposed on us by others, often our parents, teachers, peers, government or religious organizations. There seems to be scant evidence that we are born with any hatred in our mind - preferences, sure, but nothing like racism or religious intolerance - those are delivered to us by outside forces - and we don't even recognize it.
Of course we all experience anger and hatred in our minds from time to time. We rail when things are not going our way and may learn to ‘hate’ working late on Fridays or having to come back early from a vacation as we near the end of the quarter. We usually let these go quickly enough and they don’t consume us.
Sometimes, we don’t let things go and we feed the negative emotions. We might speak with others who have not let go of the negative emotions around, for example, racial or cultural differences. We might join an organization that promotes our race over another. We might attend meetings, listen to speeches, troll the internet for negative stories about ‘the others,’ and might end up at a Unite-the-Right rally in Charlottesville, kicking in the heads of those we’ve learned to hate. We might end up as card-carrying members of the KKK.
But little rarely changes. There will always be ‘others’ for us to hate. If not a race, then a religion or culture or sports team or school or country …. We expend a vast amount of energy on this hatred. What have we gained by holding onto and acting out on these negative emotions? Nothing. We have only managed to pollute our minds, hurt others and even ourselves. We diminish the world around us into an infantile view of ‘how things ought to be’ but never will be. We live a life of constant disappointment, sadness, regret and disenchantment. We can never be happy, because there will always be something or someone for us to hate.
On the up side, if you want to be angry about something, you can use that anger to combat racism, poverty, disease or any number of afflictions that plague human society. You can use that negative energy towards improving the state of the environment or the state of a local river, park or wetland. That negative energy and those negative emotions can be transformative, but you must learn to let go.
The only way that we can truly let go is to practice loving kindness towards others - even when we don’t want to. When we do it enough, it becomes second nature. Each time we help someone in need, it becomes easier to help a second time, or a third and a fourth. Eventually it becomes our default behaviour Hatred can be un-taught.
When we hate people, things or circumstances we rob ourselves of wisdom. Our mind becomes inflamed and cannot be quenched. Wisdom eludes us since we are ruled, not by our rational thoughts, but by conditions imposed on us by an outside force. We literally are not in control of our mind and until we recognize that, wisdom cannot arise.
“Conquer the hateful man with love; conquer the bad man with goodness; conquer the miser with generosity; conquer the liar with truth.”
– Dhammapada, quotes attributed to The Buddha