difficult people

At Saturday Sangha, quite some time ago now, the topic came up of dealing with difficult people. Chong Go Sunim related to us what he’d once heard Daehaeng Kun Sunim say in reference to a difficult individual, “If you think they’re difficult now, you should have seen them in their past life!”

Although it sprung from one of the many off topic spirals our talks often have the fortune to end up in, it’s stuck with me ever since. Depending on the relation between the thickness of my own skin, and someone else’s ability to crawl under it, this has helped me step back and see, “Hey, this person is still somewhere along the path, making progress.”

There are times that I’ve lashed out at people whom I seemed to have a particularly strong allergy to, instead of holding out a helping hand. I’m really sorry I didn’t respond with more patience, but keeping this short teaching in mind has helped on many other occasions.

I’ve also turned it towards myself, when I’ve realized I’ve been the difficult one, and accepted I still have a way to go!

22 thoughts on “difficult people”

  1. {“If you think they’re difficult now, you should have seen them in their past life!”}

    I like that! ॐ

  2. “particularly strong allergy to” 🙂 !!! In this case of “allergy”, compassion is the best antihistamine. Seeing into the situation of people, their mind and their suffering helps to deepen that compassion. Compassion seems to be in direct ratio with enlightment, the deeper compassion – the closer to awakening. There is nice communication line that Kun Sunim mentions in her teachings, communication through mind, through your foundation. Outside communication sometimes (and often) seems like banging your head on a wall, but once you direct that through inward channel, some mysterious results come up, then you feel also compassion (that sometimes is overwhelming).
    You have great deal of ability to ‘holding out a helping hand’

    1. Thank you, Tanya.
      Compassion is the key, I could have emphasized that more strongly.

      I also really appreciated that line from Kun Sunim.
      At times it’s very difficult to see the results, but then with my baby, I can see, “Wow! This really works!”

      1. baby, you say, my baby, she drove me completely nuts! But this advice totally works, even though I had to apply it over and over and over (and much more over) again. One of the numerous many difficult behaviours was when my child was little she could stop her breathing at will with every little frustration until she would pass out, the first time it happened it freaked me out, (imaging not breathing baby in your arms), later I learned that it was behaviour problem (nice to know). Now that the babyhood is behind, it is much easier to communicate. This practice of studying mind takes great deal of effort, at times it is very, very difficult, but when you see some results, it gives you motivation and confidence.

  3. Hah… when I try using that line “ya should seen me yesterday” I usually get a whack upside the head and asked if I want to fast forward int my next lifetime right now!

    Seriously, Joseph, this was terrific. But I’m not sure what the picture of Huike means in this context… (getting worried that compassion means having to cut off my arm!)

    [For those who didn’t see it, Joseph had originally included an image of Huike cutting off his arm and offering it to Bodhidharma.]

    1. Thank you, Genju.
      Actually, I wasn’t going to add that picture, but I’ve been really curious about it for nearly five years now. I was hoping someone could explain it… Maybe Bodhidharma was being overly difficult that day???

      I just did a search for Huike, thanks for lending a hand…

      1. @Chong Go… I can’t believe I missed that!

        Joseph, you’ve got me thinking… It always seemed to me the Bodhidharma was being a stubborn, rigid old coot by not letting Huike in. Of course, Huike was pretty attached to the idea himself. If he really cut off his right arm, I’d say it was manipulative. If it’s a symbolic gesture, then it says something like, “I know I will have to give up all my usual and automatic ways of reaching, holding and carrying the Dharma. I’m willing to cut off the usual habitual reactions and means by which those reactions arise.”

        How’s that?

      2. Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the story until this morning… I didn’t know anything about Huike, or his confrontation. There seem to be a lot of dismembered body parts associated with Bodhidharma!

        After reading the sutras attributed to him, he seemed very bare and simple about his way of doing things. I wonder if he may not have seen much use for a student.

      3. Hi Joseph,
        I wouldn’t be surprised if the earliest records of this story dated from long after the time of Bodhidharma. I think the actual facts about this era are pretty shaky. I’m inclined doubt the part about Huike’s arm. As Genju suggested, I suspect that what got cut off, if anything, was his view of his body as himself.

        The thing to keep in mind is that a truly enlightened teacher will have a very good sense of what’s going on in the student’s mind. So his or her reactions to the student are going to be based on a fairly strong impression of where the students at and what they need. If they need compassion in order to grow, then that’s what’s given. If they need a bit of rejection to help them get past something, then that’s what’s given as well.

        Of course the caveat here is that this is a person who has truly probed the depths of non-duality and non-attachment. But I’ll go with that assumption in the case of Bodhidharma!

      4. Again, what you say had crossed my mind before. I’ve got to learn to listen to that inner voice better!

        I don’t have any problem with the assumption that Bodhidharma had attain that level either!

  4. Hey! What happened to the picture?

    I think it’s just a boogey man story – It makes all of us Zen practitioners look so tough because we were willing to cut off body parts to be here. (chuckle)

    1. Actually, I went back and forth about adding it at all, and you were right, it didn’t quite add up with the context of the post..
      I’ll add it here so all these comments at least have some context, though~ ^^

  5. I didn’t even notice what’s on the image the first time. It is kind of gross, but it feels like it is not the realistic description of events, it feels it rather describes the state of mind of a person painting and thinking about things. I think at the time when the image was done, cruelty was a norm and so it got its way into expressing of feelings, ideas and thoughts. Tibetan paintings, for example, depic very bizzare images, but they are not to be understood in direct sence, the images represent something in metaphorical sence, it worked for the time and specific culture. Bodhidharma, when he first came to China, had some troubles right away, his teeth were nocked out and he still wanted to help those people, I think the story is in commentaries to Platform Sutra (not sure where I read it).
    So this image maybe represents the person who felt like giving part of him for the Dharma, (maybe he was not ready to give the whole of himself, so he gave an arm).
    If you would meet Buddha in person and you know that it is Buddha in front of you, would you not want to offer your life? It is the process of mind, not physical killings of your body, but total entrustment (not sure there is such a word).

  6. Buenas tardes a todos los hermanos,

    Hay varios puntos por recordar. El Buddhismo Chan, Seon o Zen, sufrio una metamorfosis, desde su llegada con bodhidharma (Ta Mo / Dalma) a China, hasta que despues adopto, o fue adoptando su mistica particular.

    Si uno analiza la forma de su presentación con Bodhidharma, a los Patriarcas eminentemente Chinos, veremos que hay un cambio sustancial en su transmisión.

    Bodhidharma fue 28º Patriarca de Buddhismo de la India.

    Debemos recordar que él (Bodhidharma) vino a China porque habia tenido una visión que el Buddhismo en China estaba corrupto al igual que sus monjes.

    Recuerden que se dice que el vino por el mar montado en una caña de bambú.

    Tambien es cierto lo que dice Tanya, puesto que el el Tibet, los Tankas Tibetanos estan dispuestos para producir en el adepto un choque emocional muy fuerte. Dado que sus fantásticas ilustraciones hacen referencias a todos nuestros egos, yoes que debemos eliminar para poder ser todos Uno.

    Sobre este hecho puso mucho énfasis la Gran Maestra al decir que todo le seria revelado cuando ella muriese y que ella , al principoio, creyó erróneamente que se trataba de la muerte física, sino de la muerte en si para revelar su verdadero ser, que al final es Unico.

    En relación a que las hisotrias fueron compiladas muchos años después, es muy factible, puesto que hasta los Sutras fueron compilados años después del Nirvana del mismo Buddha.

    Junto las manos en Saludo de Dharma.

    Alejandro (Mun Hye)

    Good afternoon to all brothers

    There are several points recoredar. Chan Buddhism, or Zen Seon, suffered a metamorphosis, from arrival to Bodhidharma (Ta Mo / Dalma) to C hina, until then adopted, or were adopting their particular mystique.

    If one considers the way of your presentation with Bodhidharma, the Patriarchs predominantly Chinese, we see that there is a substantial change in its transmission.

    Bodhidharma was 28 º Patricrca of Buddhism in India.

    We must remember that (Bodhidharma came to China because he had had a vision that Buddhism in China was corruptom like monks.

    Remember that wine is diced by the sea mounted on a bamboo pole.

    It is also true what he says Tanya, since Tibet, Tibetan Tankas are willing to produce in the adept strong emotional shock. Since its Fantato illustrations make references to all of our egos, selves that we must eliminate in order to be all One

    About this fact placed great emphasis the Grand Master when he said that everything would be revealed when she died and that she, principoio, I think wrongly that it was physical death, but death itself to reveal her true self, that Unico final.

    in relation to the hisotrias were compiled many years later is quite feasible, since even the Sutras were compiled years after the Nirvana of the Buddha.

    She clasped her hands in greeting Dharma.

    Alejandro (Mun Hye)

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