It was some 20 years ago when I heard Jack Kornfield describe this practice, and it has stuck with me all this time. Every once in a while, he said, he spends a day imagining that everyone else on earth is a fully enlightened Buddha, and each has been sent here to teach him something. I’ve tried it, but never for a full day.
It’s not easy to accept that everyone has something to teach us, and that everyone deserves our gratitude for that. But it’s true. Sometimes a lesson may be negative, as in: I’ll never embarrass my child the way that parent is doing. But nevertheless it is a valuable teaching.
What brings that practice to mind is that the word “enemy” kept coming up yesterday. I don’t have any enemies, or if I do I am not aware of them. In order to be an enemy, I believe, someone must want to do personal harm to me. I can’t think of anyone who fits that description.
Maybe famous politicians can have enemies. One time I heard the word yesterday was when Vice President Joe Biden used it. He seemed to caution presidential candidate Hilary Clinton not to see Republicans as the enemy, but as the opposition — people she needs to work with.
In a different context, two Buddhist blogs I read yesterday each dealt with the enemy. One talked of loving kindness toward your enemy and the other about meditating “with” your enemy (in a sort of imagined union). In both of those cases, the enemy was personified as Donald Trump. It happens that I mentioned Trump recently in American Capitalism Ain’t All Bad. I stayed away from being snotty toward him, but I did intend to poke a little fun his way in that post. So let’s talk about Donald Trump today, and — if you don’t already — begin loving him.
First, I don’t think the blogs really meant “enemy” here. Maybe it was shorthand for “person who brings out my anger.” I can think of stronger ways to say that, but let’s leave it there.
How can we learn to love Donald Trump. Let us count the ways:
- We can see him as a teacher. I’ve learned important lessons from him about the mindset in the United States and about leadership. Yes, about leadership. There are times when people really do want to be led, not encouraged to think through complex problems. Those are dangerous times if the wrong leader come along, but they’re real. Since my blog is about religion and not politics, I’ll leave it at that. (Look for lessons about hair in a grooming blog.)
- I don’t believe Trump wants to harm us. I don’t believe he is evil. I see him as a product of his genes and his environment as the rest of us are, and in his case with as heavy dose of pathological narcissism. He needs some loving kindness for his recovery.
- He is another clump of ever-shifting cosmic dust like everything else in the world. He is living out his karma as I am and you are.
In Buddhist loving-kindness meditations, we often start with ourselves. (May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.) Then we turn the same phrases to a loved one, then maybe our family, followed by our community, our nation, the world, and finally people we believe want to do us harm. As I said, I can’t think of anyone who wants to do me harm, but I’d substitute something like “people I actively dislike.” Maybe that’s a better way to say it. It’s not about them; it’s about me.
Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine