QUESTION: I watched a TV programme recently that featured a rape. it really affected me and one thing that struck me was how would it be for someone who has faith in Pureland to contemplate that the perpetrator of violence against them could also enter Pureland. It is hard to imagine feeling delight or any sense of security being in the same place or realm as one's attacker but do we experience things differently after death or when in Pureland? Do we even have a body to be concerned about protecting when in Pureland? If you have any thoughts in response that might illuminate this issue, do please share them.
SHORT ANSWER: Faith heals.
LONG ANSWER: Religion heals. Christianity says to forgive, Buddha says to let go. In the Dhammapada he says: “He abused me, he defeated me, he cheated me, he robbed me… in those who harbour such thoughts hatred never ceases. He abused me, he defeated me, he cheated me, he robbed me… in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred ceases. Hatred does not cease with hating, with love alone it ceases.” Now hatred is very closely associated with fear. What we fear we want to exclude, avoid or destroy and this is aversion and one aspect of dukkha. It is a very central part of Buddhism that we learn how such feelings can be transformed into the enlightened path.
Of course, we are not necessarily very good at doing this. However much I may want to be an ideal Buddhist, I may still feel fear welling up, my blood temperature rising and my muscles going tense when the person or thing that i fear approaches or cannot be avoided. At such a time I find that our Pureland faith helps me a lot. It helps me to realise that I am not in control. Even though i want something different to be happening in me, I cannot make it happen. On the one hand, this leads me to realise that I am exactly the kind of creature that Amida saves. On the other hand, it enables me to realise that the person or thing that I fear is also not fully self-controlled. This may well enable me to arrive at a better understanding of the other which may change how I feel somewhat.
Now, it is prudent to avoid being in proximity to danger. The tiger is not evil for wanting to eat me, but I am still well advised to steer clear of him when he is hungry. A Pure Land is a realm where the intention of Buddha prevails. I can be confident, therefore, that even though there be evil minded people there, harm will not come to me and that healing will take place. We all enter the Pure Land with hearts and minds that are corrupt in varying degrees and we trust that in proximity to the Buddha and bodhisattvas there we shall heal and this will be true for others too. Insofar as we can find compassion and fellow-feeling for others, this process will go quicker.
Those who enter the Pure Land full of greed, hate and delusion are not immediately in sight of the great Bodhi Tree and the Buddha at the centre of that land. They arrive inside a closed lotus because, as yet, they cannot stand the brilliance of the Buddha’s light. Inside their lotus chamber they learn love, compassion, joy and equanimity. When they have done so, even if it takes a hundred years, the lotus then opens naturally and they find themselves in a great pond of other lotuses, some open and some still closed. In due course they are able to go ashore and join the other beings enjoying that land and enter into the full presence of the Buddha.
I have had this experience. My brother raped and humiliated me for several years yet I watched him enter rooms with the man we both knew as Teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche, watched my brother engage with other people who found, and find him humorous and funny to be around which he indeed can be. I watched as others refused to see the other side of him, vicious and crippled, a sly, abusive sneak who thieved security from some women by being a peeping tom, and who of course took from me some of my childhood. He is Buddhist. I don't know what or how he practices, or even if. I only know others are deeply fooled by him.
What does this mean? It means he is in pain, deep, unremitting pain from our mother's psychotic behaviour, from our father's continual denial anything was wrong. He is wounded. Do I feel compassion for him?
Not really. I keep a large distance, will not tolerate being in his presence. I talked on the phone with him a few years ago, and at the end of the conversation invited him to call me. I wanted, I needed a relationship with strong boundaries if indeed a relationship at all were to begin. He did not call, but drop in unexpectedly to a gathering where he thought I would be. That was enough to convince me he had not heard me, did not respect what I was saying about my needs, in fact, that he had not changed one bit. I emailed if he ever came near me or my family, I'd slam him in court.
My brother has a police record of obscene behaviour in Montreal from when he was 27 and married to a Buddhist woman who taught. Many people in Buddhist circles refuse to this very day, to confront or understand our communities are no less pock marked with the stain of sexual abuse than any other community. Unless, until we open our eyes, this ugly lineage will continue.
Pureland? I am concerned with our lands right here, right now. Will I confront my brother? Not if I can avoid it. Have I grown in compassion toward him? Maybe but it doesn't matter.
What matters is that I continue to find ways to stretch my neurons into loving kindness for those around me, that I choose carefully with whom I spend time, that I continue to work with others who have been wounded, that I continue to offer myself in service, that I continue to turn my thoughts away from him and whether or not he enters Pureland because that is not the real question. The real question is how do those of us who have been raped heal into strong, vital and healthy human beings right here, right now.
Turning the question to the rapist disregards the struggle of the one raped. And that struggle is where our compassion, sympathies and energies need to go. The heart and mind of a rapist will eventually, in whatever lifetime, deliver him into whatever freedom or prison awaits.
Thank you Charlene for this sharing. Each person has their particular struggle and it is a privilege to be allowed into your world in this way to get a glimpse of how you have lived and worked with yours. It is apparent from what you have shared that this is an example of "the tears that have come down through the generations" with wounded people going on to wound others, often largely unconscious (avidya) of what they are doing. When we are freed from this domino effect we not only liberate ourselves but save an incalculable number of people in the future and, in a certain way, redeem some of those who have already suffered in the past. Deep bow and gratitude.
Thank you David. This is a rare community led by an even more rare human, you, in which I feel safe and supported enough to speak this truth. Thank you so much.
I was just chatting with Nati and saying how much I appreciated what you had shared.
Thanks for sharing your personal story Charlene. I understand your story about your brother (and in between the lines about your mother) and the questions you asked your self about compassion for your brother as a 'life koan'...
I have had this experience. My brother raped and humiliated me for several years yet I watched him enter rooms with the man we both knew as Teacher, Namgyal Rinpoche, watched my brother engage with other people who found, and find him humorous and funny to be around which he indeed can be. I watched as others refused to see the other side of him, vicious and crippled, a sly, abusive sneak who thieved security from some women by being a peeping tom, and who of course took from me some of my childhood. He is Buddhist. I don't know what or how he practices, or even if. I only know others are deeply fooled by him.......
A privilege to be able to share from a distance such honesty - thankyou Charlene, and all.
I appreciate very much the 'short answer, long answer' formula used here. 'Faith heals': I may not remember all the words spoken, as mind is carried to next thing, and then on, but the honest exchange and this statement - they will both come with me - inspired by both.