On Being Overwhelmed

The Buddha taught that I person willing to hate is willing to commit any atrocity. He called it an “evil mind”. It corrupts all of our motivations, even those that are quite honorable. Hatred creates in us the ultimate narcissist. It broods the illusion in the mind of the angry hater that their views, opinions and beliefs are so important that everyone must listen and obey them and believe as they believe.

“He who hates his brother is a murderer and a murder does not have eternal life.” The line is from 1 John 3:15 in the New Testament, the Christian Dharma. I used it in an interfaith teaching not long ago. I was admonished by a couple of ministers who were also presenting who told me that John, the spokesman for God in this case, meant this verse only to refer to hating Christian brothers and not persons outside that faith. So, is it okay to hate everyone else? It seems a legalist interpretation of a universal truth. Unfortunately, I have heard similar nonsense from some of my Brothers and Sisters in the Dharma. It’s a sort of “if-you’re-not-one-of-us, you’re-against-us” argument.

The Buddha also gave teachings about hate.

Whoever through desire, hate or fear,

Or ignorance should transgress the Dhamma,

All his glory fades away

Like the moon during the waning half.

Whoever through desire, hate or fear,

Or ignorance never transgresses the Dhamma,

All his glory ever increases

Like the moon during the waxing half.

— Digha Nikāya 31, Sigalovada Sutta: The Discourse to Sigala (The Layperson’s Code of Discipline)

To act in the grip of selfishness and hate, leads downwards to inner deterioration, to greater suffering and to rebirth in the worlds of misery. The pair of verses that open the Dhammapada introduce the theme that reappears in diverse formulations throughout the work.

It cannot be much clearer than in these verses, “(2.) Mind precedes all mental states. Mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow. (3.) “He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me.” Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.” One who is preoccupied, obsessed with real or imagined sins against them will never find peace. They look outward instead of inward, they make of themselves a victim of their own anger, hatred and narcissism.

Liars, thieves and adulterers don’t fair much better until they repent and let go of the lying, stealing and misconduct, but hatred seems to be a special class of unskillfulness. Hatred murders and devaluates the lives of the ones who are hated. Liars, thieves and sexually promiscuous do not intestinally seek to harm another living being, one who hates desires just that. One may lie for a good cause, like saving the life of another, a hater has no good cause. “(318.) Those who imagine evil where there is none, and do not see evil where it is — upholding false views, they go to states of woe.” Such a person has a hate that raises the specter of “righteous anger”, as if a disease can be righteous. Have we heard of “righteous cancer”, “righteous Ebola”, or even a “righteous Chlamydia”?

Hatred is a kind of violence that inures not simply the victim of the hater but also the hater. It is spawned from the place of dire ignorance and confusion, the inability to see clearly what is and what is not. It debases the value of the one who hates more than the one who is hated. For this reason the Buddha taught,

136. When the fool commits evil deeds, he does not realize (their evil nature). The witless man is tormented by his own deeds, like one burnt by fire.

137. He who inflicts violence on those who are unarmed, and offends those who are inoffensive, will soon come upon one of these ten states:

138-140 Sharp pain, or disaster, bodily injury, serious illness, or derangement of mind, trouble from the government, or grave charges, loss of relatives, or loss of wealth, or houses destroyed by ravaging fire; upon dissolution of the body that ignorant man is born in hell.

We live in a world seemingly hopeful for greater debasement as we find more individuals who both hate and are hated. It spreads like a cancer over our culture and validated only by delusion and unawareness. This can lead only to greater harm, hostility and violence in the world. “Kalamas, being given to hate, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by hate, this man takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his harm and ill?” — “Yes, venerable sir.” (The Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikāya 3.65.

Hatred arises through anger. We are admonished to give up anger in the Kodhavagga chapter of the Dhammapada, where anger is connected to conceit, an overinflated ego, and called a fetter, an attachment. It gives rise to greater suffering and stress, but doesn’t that feel good? Isn’t that what we as 21st Century beings crave? We have done much to increase stress and suffering in our lives and the lives of those around us, both known and strange to us.

An angry person is far from enlightenment.

Guard against anger

erupting in body;

in body, be restrained.

Having abandoned bodily misconduct,

live conducting yourself well

in body.


Guard against anger

erupting in speech;

in speech, be restrained.

Having abandoned verbal misconduct,

live conducting yourself well

in speech.


Guard against anger

erupting in mind;

in mind, be restrained.

Having abandoned mental misconduct,

live conducting yourself well

in mind.


Those restrained in body

— the enlightened —

restrained in speech & in mind

— enlightened —

are the ones whose restraint is secure.

— verses 231-234 The Dhammapada

An “angry run-of-the-mill person can kill” even his mother. (Kodhana Sutta). You can trust a liar to lie, a thief to steal, an adulterer to cheat, and a drunk to drink, but you can trust a hater filled with anger to kill. Such a person should not be admired or entrusted; such a person deserves pity and to be seen through a very wary eye, as they are capable of doing great harm to anyone, even those they love

One who cannot curb their wrath when it arises is a pitiable creature indeed. Like all living beings, deserving our compassion.

About Sensei Mui

Sensei Mui is a Buddhist monk who took formal refuge and bhikkhu ordination as a Theravada monk in Thailand during the early 1970s. Since those days he has both studied and was ordained in multiple Mahayana lineages. Today the main focus of his practice and teaching is from the Pure Land perspective. He currently acts as the Director and Administrator for Hongaku Jodo, an educational and practice oriented organization of Buddhist teachers of Dharma, pure and simple.
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