It can be just as evil to do evil to another
as it is to let another do evil to oneself.
In Chinese Buddhist circles, there is the prevalent fatalistic misconception that if someone does you what is perceived to be an ‘injustice’, no matter how great or small it is, you should simply stomach it as it is, and absolutely not respond to the offending party in any way. This is based on thinking that since one is experiencing one’s just deserts, one should just do it quietly and humbly, so as to let the negative karma be expressed once and for all, gotten over with. It is as if one ‘owes’ the other party a negative karmic debt, that one should simply allow the exacting of vengeance and damage at will. To retaliate by speech or action would only add fuel to the vicious fire of hate. This seems to make perfect sense, but there are serious loopholes. It is not true that passive acceptance of negative experiences from others will surely alleviate our suffering. In fact, to suffer fools continually makes one a fool too. However, vengeance is out of the question, and is not suggested here.
The issues at hand should be actively addressed with as much compassion and wisdom as one can garners. For instance, if Tom hurts Dick badly by slander, Dick should simply clarify with Tom on why he said what he did, to resolve any misunderstanding and ill will. If Dick doesn’t do so, Tom is likely to further slander him, or even others, which creates more damage for everyone. Not only does inaction not dissolve one’s negative karma, it can create more negative karma for oneself when we wilfully let others actively create more negative karma for themselves. The true way to dissolve negative karmic affinities is to transform them to be positive ones; not to let negative ones fester indefinitely; or to wishfully hope they will become swiftly neutralised. Ironically, it is indeed true that one’s suffering is karmically self-inflcited – even for the foolish, who voluntarily suffer from others’ foolishness directed at them – because this is due to their deliberate non-intervention!
It is being wisely compassionate to oneself when we do what we can to relieve ourselves of our suffering. What perhaps more crucial is that our intervention can dissuade the others from creating more negative karmic damage, that they would have to suffer from later. This is compassion for the ‘enemy’! We can share the Dharma too, which creates the best of affinities. To assume it is pointless to resolve conflicts without trying is to condemn others as hopeless, which somewhat affirms one’s lack of compassion. Only after trying our best should we give it a rest… before we discover other skilful means to awaken the deluded, as Bodhisattvas never give up doing what is right. Even the Buddha engaged in dialogues with those who misunderstood him. If he was passive, he would not win hearts and minds over with the Dharma. In fact, he wouldn’t benefit a single deluded being, much more to say, many, including us. Not only did he persuade the doing of good, he dissuaded the doing of evil too.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.
– Edmund Burke
How Some Might (Mis)understand Karma