The path to self-liberation
starts from awareness of your own suffering.
The path to liberating others
starts from awareness of others’ suffering.
From a Dharma friend and regular class participant, I received a thought-provoking email. Here it is, as summarised: ‘I enjoy every one of your sessions and hope everyone else who attends do too. I’m writing to share my thoughts, to suggest how each participant can make these interesting and useful sessions more enjoyable. I admit that these feelings are due to aversion on my part, and realise that I should overcome them. That day will come, I am sure! Here are my peeves observed…  Use of noisy plastic bags for water bottles, taken in and out for drinking now and then, which disturbs the class;  Not covering mouths when coughing;  Putting of belongings on seats (which might be limited);  Not silencing phones and tablets, and answering calls during class;  Walking in front of projection screen on the way to restroom;  Eating food with strong smells. Such actions are unfair to the teacher and students. Newcomers especially, might be distracted and put off, absorbing and enjoying the sessions less.
We should try to make the conditions as favourable as possible for all to learn the Dharma. I fully support whatever methods you use to improve the situation. Amituofo!’ The method I decided to use was to share the above with class participants by email, with the addition of these points. ‘It’s interesting that the points are relevant, not just for Dharma activities, such as talks, classes and retreats, and for any group-learning events. No worries! Now that we are aware of these suggestions, everything should improve – right? Everyone just need to be more mindful. See you soon (in the next class)!’ A reply to the above was received from another participant: ‘I’m surprised that someone realised such “activities” to be going on during class. Perhaps I’m not that sensitive, or was just not affected. Anyway, I will be more mindful about not affecting other classmates in class.’ I replied: ‘It’s good that you were not distracted. However, these stuff can indeed distract others. Thus, it’s good to both be not distracted, and to not distract others!’
Yet another participant responded: ‘(Mindfully done or not), point  is really impolite. Since they already made the effort to come for class, why can’t they make the little extra effort to show respect to the Dharma? Anyway, I agree that it’s an opportunity to watch our aversion.’ My reply: ‘Yes, we need to prevent rise of our aversion, while not letting others give rise to aversion too.’ While it is wise to not be easily unhappy due to situations created by others, it is compassionate to not create unhappy situations for others. While it is wise to focus wholeheartedly only on the Dharma when learning, it is compassionate to watch out for others, who might not be able to focus as wholeheartedly. Although we are each responsible for having the causes for aversion within us, everyone should avoid creating conditions for ‘nurturing’ anyone’s aversion. Just as we are responsible for the suffering we cling to despite pointing fingers at others, we are also responsible despite excusing ourselves for conditioning others’ suffering.
The compassionate have no enemies.
The wise do not give rise to afflictions.
– 圣严法师 Ven. Shengyen