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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
56 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY criminal what he is so that we are able to give rise to a heart of com passion and help transform the unwholesome seeds in him as well as in our collective consciousness. Of course, it is very difficult to forgive the person who harms us. Our first response is anger and a desire for revenge. We suffer. If, however, we are able to look deeply in light of interdependent coarising, we may be able to see that if we had grown up, been edu cated, or experienced life the way that that criminal had, we would not be very different from him. When we understand this, we may even begin to feel protective toward him instead of angry or vengeful. In the Buddhist tradition there are many stories, called Jatakas, of the previous lives of the Buddha. As a bodhisattva, he practiced inclusiveness and forbearance. There are stories of him smiling while his body is being sawed into pieces. As a young boy I read the Jatakas and I could not understand how a human being could be that patient and forgiving. I was too young to understand that the Buddha was able to practice that way because he had the eyes of understanding and could see the causes and conditions that had led to the cruelty and inhumanity of the person who was harming him. “The ability to see” is the raw material in a bodhisattva that leads to great compassion. Someone who has not looked deeply and has not yet tasted great compassion cannot understand the inclusiveness of a bodhisattva. But when, having looked deeply, we get even a small taste of compassion, we are able to understand and love those who are cruel and irresponsible. We are able to understand the smile of the bodhisattva. During the war in Vietnam, many monks, nuns, and young laypeople gave assistance to the victims of war. Our young social workers were greatly motivated by love. They saw their people and their land suffering, and they wanted to help. The environment in which they worked was wretched and filled with suffering. One side thought we were communists and wanted to kill us. The other side thought we were enemy sympathizers or CIA agents. Many workers died during that time of darkness. In I966, after I had already left Vietnam, I suffered a great deal when I received news of the killings. I did not know whether our social workers were capable of reconcil ing in their own minds with the killers. I wrote this poem: