2023/ 05 /24
All of you at the college, in the course of experiencing communal living, have likely encountered difficulties, such as (i) roommates with conflicting living habits and (ii) cooking-serving rotation team members being late, absent, problematic, etc. For the former (i) kind of conflict, in addition to mutual empathic understanding, we should do our best to negotiate, communicate, and reach a consensus; for the latter (ii) kind of conflict, it is necessary to remind and encourage everyone to sincerely respect communal duties and to avoid degrading otherwise laudable service to the community into subpar disservice.
People inevitably develop resentment and even anger toward disagreeable situations. According to psychology, one should not repress emotions in order to avoid dysregulation, but Buddhism teaches us to practice forbearance. Are these two notions in conflict？
Resentment, or anger, has a fundamental characteristic: it arises when we perceive others to harm 'me.' Even street dogs that sense encroachment of their territory will bark and bare their teeth as an instinctive, primal defense response. Similarly, if the territory of your 'self' is very large, then you will constantly feel threatened or impinged and get angry often; if the territory of your 'self' is smaller, you are less likely to get offended. When there is 'no-self', there is no longer any possibility of anger arising from perceived intrusions.
But there is another situation in which anger may arise: shifting blame to someone else (despite the absence of any actual harm or threat) allows us to self-righteously proclaim our own inculpability. Such scapegoating is yet another instinctual ego-preservation response. From this perspective, the emergence of anger is always closely related to ego-defensive instinct.
As such, when psychology says not to suppress emotions, it is not to deny that we all have such instinct. Only by acknowledging our ego can we begin to transcend it. To take responsibility for others' faults is indeed unfair. So, I believe that the practice of forbearance does not require people to deny their emotions or endure senseless injustice, but rather to recognize their emotions and to transcend instinctive reactions, transcend our habitual self-defensive mentalities, and bear the stress of adverse situations with grit while skillfully handling the task at hand.
When others' mistakes implicate me, I can express my disapproval of their actions to them, but I don't have to stay simply at the level of vindicating myself from undue grievance or venting my frustration: I can have the greater motivation of wanting to positively influence others to bring out their innate potentials for virtue so as to ultimately benefit the greater community. At this point, the practice of forbearance includes not only tenacity and fortitude, but also the courage to do what is not easy but is right: to correct others so they can improve. To frankly communicate what is necessary without anger is a practice of wisdom and courage that can genuinely benefit others.
The practice of forbearance is not about making ourselves into submissive enablers, pushovers, or martyrs and allowing injustice and wrongdoing to proliferate. The practice of forbearance is about inspiring ourselves and others to be strong and enduring, transcending our limited ego-preservation instincts, and developing the courage to withstand pressures as well as the compassion and wisdom to solve problems. Therefore, the practice of egolessness, which underlies the practice of forbearance, completely transcends ego's limitations and exhorts everyone towards their innate potentials for virtue, just as in the Lotus Sūtra, the Bodhisatva Sadāparibhūta (Never Disparaging) never regressed in his willingness to honor sentient beings despite their constant disrespect of him.
The story of Kṣāntirṣi (who endured senseless mutilation of his body) in the Mahāyānasūtras is quite famous, but as I have said before, the Buddhist sūtras cannot be read only literally. If you read with the above-stated points in mind, you might understand another level of meaning. I wish you all the best！