This article continues our #Bodhicaryavatara series on Shantideva’s ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ translated by Stephen Batchelor (ISBN: 8185102597). This text is frequently quoted by HH Dalai Lama as a source to develop universal compassion and loving kindness for both ourselves and all others.
Chapter VI Patience – 35-40
In verses 35-40, Shantideva are based on the assumption that the nature of people is kindness and compassion. In verse #40 Shantideva describes “they who are by nature reliable”. Any anger or other negative emotions are based entirely due to temporary causes and conditions. In other words the negative emotions are temporary, but the nature of people is kindness and compassion.
In verse #40, Shantideva describes that if anger arises in a person then it would be incorrect to respond to their anger because that anger is temporarily arising within them. It is a momentary experience.
It would still be incorrect to be angry,
For this would be like begrudging space for allowing smoke to arise in it.
The assumption that the nature of people is kindness and compassion might seem far fetched when reading the news. People also perform a range of actions that seem nonsensical particularly when they are attached to some fantasy, such as being swept off their feet in a romantic relationship or living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Even in smaller ways people stalk others, go into massive credit card debt, or play computer games for days on end. And people behave in this way to themselves, never mind their behavior towards others. But when the fantasy is taken away, people return to their kindness and compassion. This kindness and compassion can usually be seen when people have children or when no longer faced with distractions.
We hope that you are able to see that the nature of people is kindness and compassion, and recognise that in other people even when they are momentarily angry.