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Buddhadharma : Fall 2006
buddhadharma| 19 |fall 2006 Q aSk the teacherS send yoUr QUesTions by mail or To TeaChers@ThebUddhadharma.Com ZenKei blanChe harTman is former abbess of The san franCisCo Zen CenTer. geshe TenZin Wangyal rinPoChe is a lineage holder of The bön dZogChen TradiTion of TibeT. narayan liebenson grady is a gUiding TeaCher aT The Cambridge insighT mediTaTion CenTer. PHOTOSBY(l-r):BarBaraWENgEr,MarYEllENMCCOurT,MarYlaNg QUesTion: Buddhism stresses having compassion for others, trying to reach the “soft spot” in their hearts in order to communicate with them. How- ever, recently, in my own life, I have come to realize that there are people who do not wish me well and, in fact, actively pursue harming me in some way. Devious and manipulative people do exist and being in their presence can feel truly toxic. In fact, I’ve experienced real physical symptoms of illness and weakness when I am in the presence of such people for too long a time. Is it ever permissible to stop trying to connect with this type of person and just remove oneself as much as possible from their negative influence? geshe TenZin Wangyal rinPoChe: In answering your question, it is important to address the human ten- dency to think that some people are inherently bad. There are cases in history where many people have agreed that a certain person was evil. Through our agreement, we reinforce the view that there are indeed evil people, but it is important to realize that a person and his or her actions are always in relationship to relative causes and conditions and that no person is inherently bad. A fundamental view of Buddhism is that all beings are inherently buddha. So we have to hold that possibility in our minds, that space to rec- ognize another as buddha. We need to realize that while for us a person may appear mean or deceptive, in another circumstance, or to another person, that person could be loving or humorous or supportive. There is always a possibility of goodness. Knowing that goodness is possible in all beings supports openheartedness in us. With that as the view, it is then necessary to look at your specific circumstances. You may recognize that, for you, a certain relationship is not going well, and so you come to ask yourself, “Should I avoid that person or should I work on this relationship?” Consider the analogy of the flame and the wind. If you are a flame, a light, and you are stronger than the wind, the wind can help you grow. If you are weaker than the wind, that wind will extin- guish your light. The force of that wind is not a helpful condition for you, and so you need protec-