Lojong Practice Journal: Don’t malign others
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
The Lojong slogan “Don’t malign others” seems quite straightforward. To malign is to be evil in nature or effect. To be destructive, injurious, or harmful. In looking at other translations, the messaging becomes more specific. The Padmakara translation group writes this slogan as “Don’t meet abuse with abuse.” Another translation reads, “Do not retaliate to verbal abuse.”
All three are giving the instruction not to use harsh words or actions against others. Two of them specifically invoke the oft-quoted Dhammapada verse:
For hate is not conquered by hate:
hate is conquered by love.
This is a law eternal
To unpack this slogan, I contemplated what it means to respond with hate, versus what it means to respond with love.
Letting someone cause harm, to themselves or others, is not love.
Accepting harmful behaviour and actions, is not love.
People-pleasing or being “nice” to maintain a relationship, is not love. Weaponizing this teaching against movements like Black Lives Matter, is not love.
Creating false equivalencies between the violence of white nationalism at the hands of the police and the destruction of property by protestors, is not love.
Love is holding people accountable for their actions.
Love is creating systems that will improve everyone’s lives, even those who hate us.
Love is healthy boundaries and the genuine belief that people can be better than they are (and that doesn’t mean they aren’t already good).
Love is saying, “I love you. And No. Your choice was not okay.”
When I think of this slogan, I think of how people call Trump fat or make fun of his genitals, perpetuating the idea that the physical has something to do with morality or ethics. I think of comedians mocking Southern United States accents. I think of social media posts equating developmental disability with conservative voting. These are examples of pettiness that just uphold the very systems we ought to be dismantling, like toxic masculinity, fatphobia and ableism.
I’ve done my share of venting and raging and name-calling — I even have specific friends with whom this is an agreed thing we can make space for. I also know that all the venting in the world does nothing to dismantle systemic oppression. Venting doesn’t give me any lasting satisfaction, and at a certain point, it actually depletes my energy and diverts my attention from liberation.
As the pandemic continues, how I use my energy matters more and more. We are all under an unbelievable amount of stress. The systems we live under operate to benefit very few at the expense of most of us. This slogan reminds me to pause, to consider what will serve in the face of such suffering.
Name-calling may feel good in the moment, but it leaves a hangover and changes nothing. It also perpetuates the idea that individuals are to blame, instead of looking at how current systems function to empower and foster white nationalism. Mocking the size of someone’s genitals or their weight or their accent is not going to get us free.
There are plenty of people who need to be called into accountability, but in doing so, the language I use needs to be precise. Calling someone a racist is not maligning them, but pointing to the problem. The problem is white people so invested in white supremacy that they will choose to vote against health care, against due process, against safe paths to immigration, against justice, and liberation. The problem is that the system of white supremacy can only be dismantled if enough of us see it for what it is, especially white people, and start calling the system out.
I could say some very mean things about someone who disbelieves reality so much that even whilst hospitalized with Covid, they deny that it is happening. Being entirely honest, I’ve felt a sense of satisfaction seeing Covid diagnoses spike amongst supporters of white fascism — but that satisfaction also scares me and that’s a good thing. I do not want to cut myself off from my own humanity to such a degree that I too would wish for someone to die. The very idea is appalling to me and counters my Bodhisattva vows and commitment to liberation. Name-calling is a step towards apathy. I do not want to be as cut off from my capacity to love and care as the very person I’m insulting.
One of the greatest things I’ve learned in my practice is that I can love someone without liking them. I can love someone and cut them out of my life. I can love someone, not like them, and still want them to thrive.
I genuinely want to see a world where everyone thrives. It doesn’t make me better than anyone to want that thriving, as it’s a choice we all have. In making the choice for myself, I always carry the hope that it will be a model for others, but ultimately, that is up to them. The only thing that’s up to me is how I work with my own mind and then, the words I choose to speak.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
This is part of a series of posts I am doing to support my practice.
Visit www.KaitlynSCHatch.com to find out more about what I do.