Not Caring What Others Think

Joel Daniel Phillips. TrashBags

We learn by watching others, seeing what works and doesn’t work.

As human beings we have mirror genes that allow us to empathize with the sufferings of others.

Our feelings of safety and security depend on feeling accepted and protected by the tribe; being ostracized cuts deeply, often leaving us feeling alone, insecure, self-doubting.

It can be disconcerting when we are criticized, in relationships, work, families, friends, art.

—sharp, chiding, disparaging words about our reputations security feel threatened.

—there’s a tendency to turn disparagements into identity views, to feel trapped

—it can leads to papanca, an inner debate with those who disapprove of us.

—by the end, the mental agitation far outweighs the original reprimand

If we feel there’s some validity to the criticism, it’s important to:

—dismiss any unskillful elements as the results of stress

—incorporate criticism without adding any identity view

—reminding ourselves that everyone gets criticized

The Buddha said it is important to discern which people are worth our company and which people should be avoided, so to a certain extent we have to judge others. The Buddha’s teachings are replete with lists of how to make such distinctions.

Alas, most people judge from the skewed values of shallow materialism and warped common sense.

—people criticized anti-war and civil rights activists, calling them anarchists, terrorists, without patriotism

—people criticize from the values of appearance, capital accumulation, fashionability of jobs, etc

—generally, the views that others have of us are not spiritually useful

In the dhammapada, the Buddha taught:

“They will blame you for being silent.

They will blame you when you talk too much, too little or in moderation.

Whatever you do, they will blame you.”

“Neither praise nor blame moves the wise man.”

Very, very few people issue verdicts on others from grounded useful, perspectives.

When it comes time to discern the value of others, seek someone who is :

1) consistent and doesn’t abandon,

2) honest, supportive, but capable of steering us in good directions

3) generous, a good listener who is trustworthy

4) balanced in life between material concerns the spiritual

As a foundation for life, in the Protection Sutta, rather than being guided by what others think, we should base our actions and take stock based on the precepts and divine:

—people who engage in morally questionable behavior leave themselves vulnerable

—so we live blamelessly, and do not cause harm through violence, speech or sex

—we refrain from intoxication, which results in drama

—we practice humility rather than self-promotion, austerity

—patience with others, cultivating forgiveness in the light or karma

—gratitude, generosity, goodwill

Nagara sutta (an 7) the buddha said the mind can be turned into a fortress:

—A foundation post that is deeply rooted and cannot be knocked askew: one with conviction in spiritual life will not be tossed about

—Dig a moat, deep and wide, to protect those within: One develops shame at unskillfulness, the shame is a moat we cannot cross

—Many weapons stored, bows and arrows for protection: One retains the words of wisdom, discussing, thinking about the dhamma, so that we can combat the words of others with higher truths

—A large army is stationed within: the noble one’s develop persistence in keeping thoughts of reflection on our virtuous actions

—a fortress has large stores of food: one feeds on wise thoughts that lead to inner peace (metta)

—a fortress has delights: one develops rapture and pleasure and equanimity in one’s inner practice

There will be times when we are attacked unfairly. in the pema sutta, the Buddha offered the following tools:

—one practices not adding anger to anger or aversion to aversion; we don’t accept their words, we view them like repulsive food that other’s eat, that we need no part of

—one practices reflecting that absolutely nothing said can ever provide us with an identity; every statement is conditional, arising and passing; we don’t develop into “i am” statements, or views of what we may be like in the future

—when the “i am” conceit is abandoned, the root is suffering is destroyed.

Artwork by Joel Daniel Philips, Trash Bags.

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