Too many people feel entitled to right wrongs. I’m no exception. I usually have enough spine and spunk to assert myself from the start and it’s actually rare for me to be “wronged.” But when I hear about my loved ones being wronged, one of my first thoughts is to ask whose legs I need to break – which usually just makes my loved ones laugh or roll their eyes. I’m more cerebral than anything and even if I were capable of snapping femurs, I’m not actually inclined to. Whenever the news talks about a child molester or someone who’s killed a senior citizen for what was in their wallet or been particularly abusive to animals, not far behind it is talk of how that person deserves the electric chair or lethal injection – or bullet to the head. Often you hear people joke about the “fun” that person is likely to experience in prison when they’re made into someone else’s bitch. Whether we’re the dealer of revenge or we rely on the legal system to deliver it, we love seeing people get what we think they deserve.
The seventh maxim is, “Be not revengeful for the wrongs done by others. Take them with gratitude as heavenly gifts.”
In Hinduism (and other Dharmic religions) there’s the concept of karma. Most Western minds only understand karma as “bad.” We say, “Karma’s a bitch.” But karma isn’t. It’s an impartial force of balance that, like gravity, can apply everywhere. Karma alone is reason enough for us not to worry about nonsense like revenge. Karma makes sure that what goes up comes back down and vice verse. It makes sure that what is given is likewise taken and that those who take don’t go forever without giving in the same measure. Karma is always in our favor. Always. How can this be so? Because balance and negation are what it’s about. Karma is not – in any way – concerned with punishing or rewarding. As long as one carries a balance of ANY karma, he or she will be burdened with death and rebirth.
Like a prior maxim where we talked about turning poison into medicine, this maxim advises us to see wrongs done by others as “heavenly gifts.” Sadly, my first thought is of the Westboro Baptist Church. Their spokespeople can be heard as saying things like, “Thank God for 9-11” and “Thank god for IEDs.” They’re known for being so negative, but from where they sit they are celebrating what they see as God’s punishment to the USA for growing into an unrighteous nation. To be clear – that’s total shit from a bull’s ass. But in their understanding they are grateful for these atrocities because they see them as opportunities – god is telling us we’ve gone off the right path and the punishments are alerts to steer us back.
I think you REALLY have to be careful with that kind of logic.
For me, this maxim breaks down quite cleanly into two parts and each part has a very clean focus. In the first part, pay attention to the “be not revengeful.” The part about wrongs done by others is so wide open for interpretation that it can get messy really fast, just because of ego and individual perspective. You and I may have very different ideas on what constitutes a wrong. For instance, if you’re a Christian it’s (probably) not at all wrong for you to consider the idea of others converting to your religion. For me, as a practicing Hindu, the idea of conversion is nearly repulsive, and is certainly offensive. Regardless of the definition of “wrong,” we can all take the same approach to our responses – be not revengeful. The second part, for me, should focus on the word gratitude. Like defining what wrong might mean to one person or another, defining a gift is also pretty open to interpretation. For some winning the lottery is a fantastic gift – but to those who have won and whose life fell to ruin afterward (just because of the misuse of the money) it’s not much of a gift, after all. But the notion of gratitude is easily settled on. Be mindfully thankful for your life experiences – no matter the filter through which you chose to see them.
It’s a tall order to fill when we’re in the middle of the householder life. We do the best we can to make life good and to protect and provide for ourselves and our loved ones. It seems natural to defend those parts of our existence. Protecting our life is normal and fine, but not to the point of being revengeful. Preventing wrongs, in my understanding, is being responsible. If you use your spine now to stand tall, you may well prevent being stepped on later. Revenge and retaliation, though, are going to far. They go beyond doing something unnecessary and reach into being detrimental. No further proof is needed outside of watching the Middle East. Pick any two groups who are fighting each other – the fighting goes so far back and is perpetuated by the need for revenge. A truly sad thing.
Don’t give energy to righting wrongs and be mindfully grateful of the unique life experience that is yours alone. This maxim communicates truth that can transform one’s life and touch the lives of others.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti