Family unfriendly towards Dharma

31 July 2011 - 12:45pm Comments Off

Question:

Should a person avoid their family if they slander their beliefs? Should I stay away from my relative because she has used every foul word in the book to refer to my practice, in order to avoid giving her a reason to cause bad karma for herself?

Answer:

Avoidance can be a good temporary solution especially if a person’s grounding in the Dharma is poor, or if they are very new to the Dharma. Some people whose minds are not so stable can be swayed to abandon their practices altogether. If a person has a beneficial experience with the Dharma, that is one way to stablise their faith in Buddha’s teachings.

Notice that oftentimes, when we are not proclaiming to be doing spiritual practice, our relatives will not interfere, let alone criticise us at all. Therefore we can say that when we are working towards something beneficial, obstacles will arise to stop us from receiving benefit.

These obstacles in the form of negative people can affect our spiritual practice. However, if we have a firmer grounding of the Dharma, we can engage with all sorts of people using what is known as skilful means. If we do not have a firm grounding of the Dharma though, engaging with a very negative person can very quickly drain us of our energy.

Why are people considered negative? Because of their ignorance, which leads a good thing to be viewed as something harmful. This type of incorrect view is known as wrong view which is a real obstacle to us practising the Dharma.

Due to their wrong view, our spiritual practice can sometimes trigger feelings of discomfort in others, because they know we are engaging in something they should be doing too, but have never done before. As a result of these feelings of discomfort, a person who cares for us might do or say things that conform to their view of what is beneficial, and not what is truly beneficial.

Thus, if our beliefs triggers such strong emotions, and we lack the skilful means to deal with such people, it might be best for us to skip them for now because we might be affected by their negativity, and we give them the opportunity to create negative karma too, from their criticism of our practice.

Skipping them for now can be Dharma too – remember, Dharma can be shared without using Dharmic terms and our understanding of Dharma can be shown through our actions to care for the other person too. There is no point trying to speak to a person who shuts down every time you mention Buddhism. However, if you are more at peace and you act out of that peace, you can be saying many words without actually saying it.

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