Now for verse five:
(5) When others, out of envy, treat me unfairly with scolding, insults, and more, may I accept the loss upon myself and offer the victory to others.
Here’s that famous line that Geshe Chekawa was so moved by, May I accept the loss upon myself and offer the victory to others.” This can be understood on, of course, many different levels. We can understand this, for instance, if we’re in an argument, or here saying, When others, out of envy, treat me unfairly and scold me and insult me, and so on, rather than becoming very defensive about it, rather than getting all upset about it, if we just say, “Well, thank you for pointing this out to me.” And so if somebody really criticizes us and so on, just offer them the victory. In other words, that’s the end of the whole argument, the whole discussion. Especially if somebody is really very, very emotionally disturbed, there’s no point in arguing with them.
Now, this becomes a serious issue when we think about it in terms of does this mean that we just let everybody slap us around? Do we let China take our country, Tibet? This type of thing. And that is not necessarily what is meant here, but I think that we really need to differentiate when there’s some sort of effect that we can have on the situation, to change it. Or is it just going to make things worse?
So you look at the situation of Tibet, for example. There’s no way that a few million Tibetans can militarily overcome one point two billion Chinese. And so that’s pointless to try to do that, so you give the victory to the others. Look at His Holiness’s policy, that OK, the reality is that Tibet needs to depend very much on China. And so you could look at that like saying, well, they’re giving the victory to the others and taking the loss on oneself; but within that situation, how can we make it realistically better for the Tibetan situation? So, one has to see what’s realistic and what’s not realistic.
I mean I have a friend, basically I had given him some money to do something, and he just kept the money, and spent it on something else, and he’s never going to be in the situation to be able to pay me back that money. And so, what is the way of dealing with that? Are you constantly going to be angry with the person, and constantly make yourself sick with anger? Or just say, “Have it. It’s yours.” It’s like when somebody steals something from your house. You’re never going to get it back, and so wish the other person, “Enjoy it.”
Also, when you look at the teachings on karma – and this was very, very helpful, I found personally, with this friend who took this money – that it says, if you really think of the other person, what are some of the factors that make the karmic consequences heavier of a particular negative action? And it says, the more suffering you cause to the other person, the heavier the consequences are for yourself. And so if I was really angry and really upset about my friend taking this money, then it would just make the karmic consequences much worse for my friend, whom actually I liked. And so by not getting angry, by saying “OK,” in my mind, “Enjoy the money, it’s gone. It doesn’t make that huge a difference in my life,” then at least I could try to make the karmic consequences on him less, rather than wanting revenge and for him to suffer.
So, this is a way of applying this “accept the loss on oneself and give the victory to others.” That’s especially applicable when we are in an argument with somebody, and they say something really ridiculous and they’re not going to listen to what we say. There’s no point in arguing. Let them win, and then they go away.
So, as I said there are many levels to understand this, “give the victory to others.” Let them have the larger piece of cake, and take the loss on ourselves. We take the smaller piece. So maybe that’s a good opportunity to have our tea and coffee break, and then we can practice this with the cake that’s there. We can fight who’s going to take the smallest piece.
The verse itself addresses the situation when people are jealous and envious, and then they say nasty things to us. These are perfect opportunities, again, to develop patience. These verses here, in the middle of these eight, have to do very much with patience. And so we find in Shantideva:
(VI.53) Insults, cruel language, and defaming words don’t hurt my body, so, why, O mind, do you become so enraged?
If they want to say something stupid, let them say something stupid. Give the victory to the others. No reason to become enraged. And words don’t hurt me.
So, one way of dealing with this situation when others saying nasty things to us and so on, and one way of taking the loss on ourselves and giving the victory to others, is to think that this has come from my own negative karma, from the negative things that I’ve done in the past. So I can accept this and give the victories to others, not blame them. We have many examples of that in Dharmarakshita’s Wheel of Sharp Weapons:
(14) When we hear only language that is foul and abusive, this is the wheel of sharp weapons returning full circle upon us from wrongs we have done. Till now we have said many things without thinking; we have slandered and caused many friendships to end. Hereafter let’s censure all thoughtless remarks.
“Censure” means to cut them off. In other words, if people are saying nasty things to us and abusing us and so on, this comes from, in the past, us saying nasty things about others and causing friendships and close relations to part. And so, if that’s the case, then in order to overcome that, to break that karmic circle – this wheel of sharp weapons coming back to us – we need to really watch what we say and cut off any thoughtless remarks – saying stupid things and nasty things to others.
(18) When unjustly we are blamed for the misdeeds of others, and are falsely accused of flaws that we lack, and are always the object of verbal abuse, this is the wheel of sharp weapons returning full circle upon us from wrongs we have done. Till now we’ve despised and belittled our gurus; hereafter let’s never accuse others falsely, but give them full credit for virtues they have.
So when we’re accused of things that we haven’t done, or blamed of things – say we have mistakes that we don’t actually have – this is a result of having ourselves done that to others, let’s say with our spirituals teachers, saying they don’t have good qualities and belittling them, and accusing others falsely of things which are not the case. And so it’s important to counter that, to – as it says here – give them full credit for the positive things that they have, praise them, and so on, even if we might not particularly like the person – I mean that’s not referring to our guru.
(23) When others find fault with whatever we’re doing and people seem eager to blame only us, this is the wheel of sharp weapons returning full circle upon us from wrongs we have done. Till now we’ve been shameless, not caring about others, we have thought that our deeds didn’t matter at all, hereafter let’s stop our offensive behavior.
So when people are finding fault with everything that we do, then this is the karmic result of our not caring about what we do and the effect that it has on others. As it says here, “that our deeds didn’t matter at all,” so there’s always going to blame us, find fault with what we’re doing. So, in the future we have to stop this type of offensive behavior of just acting in a vacuum, as if nobody else was around and it didn’t affect anyone.
So this is a very helpful way to deal with this type of situation of how do we “accept the loss on ourselves and give the victory to others,” is to see what are the karmic causes for this happening when others, as it says here, scold us and insult us and treat us unfairly and so on, and stop that in our behavior.
This Wheel of Sharp Weapons is a very nice text. It’s a bit long, it’s 119 verses, but it goes through – in a very, very full way – all the different karmic things that might be happening to us and their karmic causes. It’s on my website, if you want to read it.
Another way of understanding “accept the loss on myself and offer the victory to others” is that we give ourselves to others. We lose, in a sense, ourselves serving ourselves; we give the victory to others in the sense that we serve them. Shantideva describes this very well:
(III.10) To fulfil the aims of all limited beings, I give, without sense of a loss, my body and likewise my pleasures, and all my positive forces of the three times.
So we don’t feel that it’s a loss, although we’re accepting the loss on ourselves and we give the victory to others by giving them our pleasures and positive force and our body, and so on.
(III.11) Giving everything away (brings) release with nirvana, and my mind is (aimed) for realising nirvana. As giving away all comes together (with death), it’s best to give (now) to limited beings.
(III.12) Having given this body to all those with limited bodies to do with as they like, it’s up to them to do what they want: let them kill it, revile it, always beat it, or whatever.
(III.13) Let them toy with my body, make it into a source of ridicule or a joke. Having given away this body of mine, for what should I hold it dear?
(III.14) Let them do whatever to (my) body, so long as it doesn’t cause them harm; but may anything focused on me never turn out to be meaningless.
That last one is such a wonderful wish.
(III.15) If anyone, having focused on me, develops an angry or negative mind, may that always turn into a cause for fulfilling all of his or her aims.
So when people have these unkind thoughts and get angry with us and insult us and so on, accept the loss on ourselves and wish for them, “May this be a cause for fulfilling all of your aims.” When somebody does something negative toward us, we have a karmic relation with this person, which came from the past – and as we were saying from The Wheel of Sharp Weapons – we’ve undoubtedly said something negative to them before. And so, since that karmic relation is there, then what we want to do is to change the flavor of that karmic relation, and instead of getting back to them and saying something nasty back to them and then it goes on and on over many, many lifetimes, then, “May this interaction with me turn into a cause,” as it said, “for fulfilling all of his or her aims.” In other words, by wishing them well, rather then wishing them something terrible, then you change the whole structure of that relationship.
(III.16) And may everyone who speaks badly of me, or does something else that’s of harm, or likewise hurls ridicule at me, become someone with the fortune for a purified state.
It’s like what I was explaining with this friend of mine, who used the money that I gave him in order to build something for me, he used it for himself. Rather than getting angry with him, “May you enjoy this; I’m not going to get angry at you.” By turning it into a gift in my mind, then, “May I be able to give you even more and bring you to a state of enlightenment.”
So that’s why it says, “May it never turn out to be meaningless for anyone to be focused for any time on me,” anybody who has any relation, as it says. Chenrezig has even blessed his name so that if people just hear his name they become uplifted. So anybody who sees me, anybody who reads anything that I’ve written, anybody who hears my name, may it inspire them, may it not be meaningless that they encounter me – a very wonderful prayer. May I have some positive influence on everybody whom I meet, even if they meet me with a negative intent.
Togme Zangpo in 37 Bodhisattva Practices also echoes these thoughts.
(12) A bodhisattva’s practice is, even if someone under the power of great desire steals or causes others to steal all our wealth, to dedicate to him our bodies, resources, and constructive actions of the three times.
This is exactly what I was describing with my friend who took my money.
(13) A bodhisattva’s practice is, even if while we haven’t the slightest fault ourselves, someone were to chop off our heads, to accept on ourselves his negative consequences, through the power of compassion.
(14) A bodhisattva’s practice is, even if someone were to publicize throughout the thousand, million, billion worlds all kinds of unpleasant things about us, to speak in return about his good qualities, with an attitude of love.
(16) A bodhisattva’s practice is, even if a person whom we’ve taken care of, cherishing him like our own child, were to regard us as his enemy, to have special affection for him, like a mother toward her child stricken with an illness.
So, if our child is sick and says all sorts of crazy things and he’s really cranky and so on, then of course we would have even more love for the child, because we understand that the child is sick and acting like this because he’s sick, or overtired, or whatever. And so similarly, when others whom we’ve raised like a child – in other words we’ve been kind to like that – even if they’re very, very nasty to us, that it’s very helpful to think of them like our sick child, that now they’re sick, suffering from this disturbing emotion, and therefore to have more concern and more taking care of them, rather than getting angry. We don’t get angry with our child for getting sick.
Question: I also find that it’s important to show one’s limits so that the other person knows, “Up to here it’s OK, but not further.”
Alex: Well, yes, that’s true. If we want to help somebody to develop discipline, ethical discipline – a good behavior as it were – then it is important to set limits. There was a generation of children in the United States who were raised by hippie parents who were totally permissive and didn’t set any boundaries – just let the kids run wild and be natural and free, and so on. And many of these children grew up feeling that their parents didn’t love them, because the parents didn’t show enough concern to teach them what was proper and what wasn’t proper. And they had a lot of difficulties later on in life, because obviously when you go out into the world, people aren’t so tolerant in terms of our behavior. So it is important to set certain limits, but that is for helping the other person.
I mean, obviously, there is also some self-interest there – not to destroy my desk with all my work on it – well, that also is because our work is important to us as well – or not to ruin the sound equipment in the house. So I mean there is obviously a combination of what are the limits in terms of what’s helpful for the other person and what’s helpful for us. So setting limits is always a delicate task; but the main thing is our motivation. Are we setting the limits to benefit the other person or are we setting the limits to benefit ourself? And I think often it’s a combination of the two. But at least let’s try not to have it totally just to benefit myself. And then, as I was explaining the other day, we need to be flexible with those limits.
I remember Serkong Rinpoche always used to say, when I would say, “I’m totally exhausted, I can’t translate anymore or pay attention to it anymore,” he’d always say, “Well, no matter how tired you are, you can always do five minutes more.” And he would always push me another five minutes. This was very, very helpful. Because it is true that you can always do five minutes more. Because then you build up strong character and determination, strength. And of course not do the last five minutes completely not paying attention and falling asleep. You have to do it fully, whatever you’re doing. So he would yell at me, make sure I was alert, with his favorite name for me, “Idiot,” if I ever said anything incorrectly, or didn’t understand. “Gugpa, idiot!” So in a sense shamed me into paying attention again. Very, very kind.