A thistle grows in my mind


Last updated 11/21/2023 at 11:07am

Hate reminds me of a thistle: once it invades the mind it quickly propagates, showing up everywhere, and choking out other, more wholesome mental states. Once established, hate is difficult to uproot.

When I practice daily mindfulness meditation, I try to water the seeds of loving-kindness, compassion, happiness and joy, hope, and inner peace. Once germinated, these seeds have the capacity to transform the garden of my mind, creating a beautiful dwelling place.

But I also water the seed of hate because, I tell myself, the objects of my hate engage in actions that are so destructive, that cause so much suffering, that I am morally justified in hating these individuals. But I am beginning to recognize how hate is toxic to my peace of mind. If I wish to be truly happy, hate is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Hate flourishes within groups:

According to Agnetta Fischer in “Why We Hate,” “Hate seems particularly prone to spreading at this intergroup level because it helps us to defend ourselves by strengthening the ties with our ingroup and putting all the blame for insecurity and violence elsewhere.”

Because of a rise in antisemitic acts of harassment, vandalism, and violence, I need to understand how someone might hate me simply because I am Jewish. After the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, resulting in the death of 11 worshippers and wounding of six others (the worst attack against a Jewish community in our nation’s history), I am forced to ask, as an American Jew, am I safe living in my own country?

Fischer says, “Victims of hate crimes generally have not done anything specific to the hater, but are terrorized for who they are, e.g., being Black, a woman, lesbian, or Muslim. Victims of hate crimes feel powerless, unable to control the situation becausing changing their behavior or attitudes will not end the violence against them.”

Should I hate those who engage in antisemitic acts? Should we hate the haters?

According to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

So, let’s turn to love.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.”

Wise selfishness (HH Dalai Lama):

“I often joke that if you really want to be selfish, you should be very altruistic! You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles, The result? When you yourself need help, you find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser… Only affection brings us genuine close friends.

Once we recognize our common humanity, our perspective on the world may begin to change: “Seven to eight billion people, we are all the same. No use to think, my nation, their nation have to fight. Serious sense of oneness of all human being.” — HH Dalai Lama

Is it too late to discover the “serious sense of oneness” of Israelis and Palestinians? Are our choices really limited to being either pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian or pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel, viewing the truth about the conflict through an entirely Israeli or Palestinian lens?

Couldn’t we instead be pro-human, valuing both Palestinian and Israeli lives? Immediately we would strive to find a way to minimize loss of life and reduce suffering on both sides of the conflict.

Despite differences in customs as to how a loved one is mourned, Palestinians and Israelis are alike in their grief. Let us extend compassion to all who have lost a loved one to the current violence:

May you have strength in the face of any pain and suffering you’re experiencing

May you be free from anger, fear, and sadness

May you be open to receive others’ love and care

May you be filled with compassion for yourself and others

—Roshi Joan

Instead of watering the seed of hate, I will endeavor to discover my oneness with my Sisters Country neighbors. Whether we are discussing the merits of the Cold Weather Shelter or the pressure to expand development, I will assume that everyone who expresses an opinion is operating with best intentions.


Reader Comments(1)

Opting4optimism writes:

Wonderful article by my Sangha brother Mitch.Wise words! Lead with love Kathyn


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