Devadatta & blaming others…
(By Pastor Loh Seng Piow)
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When someone wants something from you and they don’t get it, they become angry. They never thought of putting in the effort themselves to get what they want. They want you to just give it to them or you do the work for them. The minute they ask or you don’t give it to them, they turn against you immediately. They run, create schism, try to turn others against you also. They are angry at themselves but they don’t want to blame themselves, so they blame you. They are not used to taking the blame. They are not used to taking responsibility so they don’t have it in their minds to start now. It’s a strong childhood habituation that served them somewhat as children when their tantrums were placated with a ‘reward’, but it certainly will not serve them as adults working with responsible people with different value systems. You earn what you get.
They may rant and rage against you incessantly. The funny thing is that, at first they get sympathy because they are really good in turning the events to sound like they are the victims, but then in the end people see who they are, how they act, what their motive is and they question, “Was it that bad”? “What was so bad?” “What do they want from this?” And many times in the process they lose the respect of those who have been with them for years. You cannot keep being unhappy and blaming others and expect all to agree forever. Anger is a choice. The easy and best solution for these people now and even during Devadatta’s time is to apologize. Apologize for their lack of effort, face their insecurities and fears and get back into working for what they want. Be it to achieve fame, love, care, money, a cause, compassion, success and so on. You won’t achieve what you want ranting and raging against your perceived enemy for the rest of your life. No one can ruin your life except you. The secret is to jump back in, make amends and work with the people that can help you achieve what you want or do it yourself. In other words, if Devadatta wanted to be the leader of the Sangha, instead being lazy, sneaky and unworthy, make himself worthy and then request the Buddha again. If he chooses not to do that, then leave the Buddha quietly and realize you lost your chance but you don’t have to create schism with the Buddha and His Sangha to cover your wounded ego and exposed faults. You asked for it.
These types of people can blame you for ruining their lives, and they have bad dreams about it they claim too. Comical to say the least. They are enraged because you ‘hurt’ them so much. They have money, education, health, opportunities and security blankets to fall back on, so go out and achieve!! Stop blaming the one place that didn’t give you what you demanded, but earn it somewhere else on your own. Simply, if you had what it takes, then let’s see what you achieve later. Everyone will be watching in our lives what we achieve including our conscience. When you ask these people or listen to how they are hurt, you are surprised. Because what they are hurt about is so miniscule and more or less in their mind. Yet they want you to take responsibility for them. Bow down to them. Tell them they are right. And even if they are right, they still have to work for what they want to achieve.
Work, effort, speaking up, making friends, having substance, having worth are what make us achieve. But if you don’t support their anger, they become distant or cut you off immediately. They turn on you and they claim you don’t understand their pain when in actuality, they know you are seeing cracks and faults in their reasonings for their extreme anger. They will either go into themselves and hide, find ways and avenues to get revenge, or both or whatever or just degenerate. But unfortunately they will not achieve their goals this way at all. The sooner they realize the better that is, assuming they even had goals or know how to achieve it.
In the case of Devadatta, instead of striking out on his own to make it, which he did not, he should have swallowed his pride and went back to the Buddha. At least he knows it is a place where change is possible and supported. Pride turned into anger was Devadatta’s problem, not the Buddha being direct with him. Devadatta is not inherently evil, just lazy to change his ways as many people are. But what everyone needs to realize, if our ways don’t serve us, it’s easier to change than remain as they are. I am sure Buddha would have taken Devadatta back because the Buddha is compassionate, but maybe give him some intense practice to change. By not going back Devadatta degenerated into a point of no return. In fact Devadatta’s friends should have helped Devadatta back to Buddha’s fold.
People who are extremely successful will not get angry at things they know they have to do something about. They get angry at themselves and do something about it. The key is they do something positive towards fulfilling the goal, they do something about it. People who grew up without any self-earned success like to blame others, tend to blame others. Because like a spoilt child, when something goes wrong, they cry to their parents and throw tantrums. They are accustomed to throwing tantrum, and someone will come and ‘fix’ the problem, or give them what they want scot-free without earning it. Well as adults not under our parents’ free giving ways, we have to learn the world is otherwise. If we don’t want to learn, then we run back to our security blankets. That security blanket can be our boyfriends, girlfriends, spouse, way of life or even parents.
People like this will always blame others and it stops there. They do nothing about it. Blaming others and complaining we are all guilty for them. Yes it could be the other party’s fault and not their’s totally, but you know, you still have to move on, work and a lot of hard work on your own to achieve what you want. Since it’s the other party’s fault, fine. Then now you achieve it on your own without anyone’s support. On your own. Prove it. If you cannot or will not prove it, then remain quiet. You lost your chance. If your self-preservation kicks in, then you swallow your ego and get back in with what you left with curses. Everyone has their opportunities and chances in life. It’s whether you want to do it or not. Complaining is great when you do something and achieve something, otherwise who likes to listen to a broken record. A broken record is a broken record no matter how ‘right’ you are.
In this video, you can see Devadatta has been in Buddha’s order for decades. Even after decades he has not transformed and wanted instant respect and power. He wanted power over the Sangha, to be in charge of them without earning that right. He wanted Buddha to just grant it to him. Obviously from Buddha’s statement that Buddha would not hand it to a ‘clot of spittle’, meaning Devadatta never transformed. He only went through the motions but never changed. Buddha is definitely clairvoyant and knows of Devadatta’s huge ego and wrong motives. Buddha could have let Devadatta down ‘gently’, but Buddha must have let him down gently for decades in the past and it didn’t help Devadatta. So Buddha used the direct way as time is running short. Also we don’t know what problems Devadatta had been creating already, and also not achieving up till the point of asking for the leadership of the Sangha. The point is, gently let down or not is not the issue. Being gently let down will not benefit Devadatta at all as he obviously had not been practicing, but quietly nursing negative plans/ambitions. He would have been harmful in the short and long run again. Perhaps Buddha had to take action to stop greater harm to the Sangha long term. Yes, Buddha is definitely clairvoyant and definitely had a reason to be direct with Devadatta. Whatever it is, if the Buddha had acted to benefit others in the past, why would he start to harm Devadatta now? It doesn’t make sense based on His past actions. There will always be people who have ulterior motives that go unfulfilled and they blame others. There will always be people who are ungrateful. After decades with the Buddha and innumerable teachings/benefits Devadatta received, is it right for him to turn against Buddha just for that one reason? Why does he forget all the kindnesses of Buddha and only remembers the ‘ills’? For him to be in Buddha’s order for decades means there was something great happening, and Devadatta received much benefits or he wouldn’t have stayed so long. Doesn’t make sense at all.
To defame the Buddha for that one reason. How many people does Devadatta hurt by doing that? Can Devadatta think of others instead of himself for once? The Buddha is the head of tens of thousands of Sangha and we know Buddha has great compassion and skill, so we don’t even need to question Buddha’s method based on His results. Read the 108 volume of Buddha’s spoken teachings (Kagyur) and see the methods Buddha taught to combat 84,000 delusions for us. This does not come from an ordinary mind. If we start to question Buddha’s motivation, then we even question the state of enlightenment or the attainments a Buddha achieved and what we can achieve. It cannot be that Buddha is not attained. It cannot be that tens of thousands who followed His teachings after the Buddha has not attained Enlightenment, judging from their bios, actions, deeds, writings & disciples. Is it possible that Shariputra, Maugdalaya, Angulimala, Ananda, Nagarjuna, Shantideva, Bhaveiveka, Tantipa, Padmasambhava, Naropa, Tilopa, Atisha, Candrakirti, Asanga, Tsongkapa, Chandragomin, Dharmakirti, Serlingpa, Kedrup Je, Panchen Sonam Drakpa, Birwapa, Ensapa, Changkya Rolpay Dorje, Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche, Pabongka Rinpoche and our own gurus have no attainments or are not enlightened in some cases? Then we must question each time the motive, actions, directions and attainments of each teacher with each student. Gee, that will be quite time consuming and leaving no room for practice.
But does this mean there are no teachers who are ordinary and make mistakes? Of course not. Ordinary teachers do make ordinary mistakes. So do our parents that we love. So do the siblings we love as well as our partners, children and friends. So what? And when they make mistakes, do we go all the way and turn against them? If you were to turn against the people in your life that make mistakes, then you would have no family and partner left. How come we have complained about our spouse, friends, parents many times, but we don’t turn against them? Because we need them? Need to use them? Same for other people in our lives. Why is our teacher who teaches us the greatest gift of all different than people we feel have benefitted us? Why are our teachers abandoned easier? So what do we do about ordinary mistakes. Just like any practitioner, we take the responsibility to speak to our teacher kindly and with a loving heart. We gently show another way by our loving gratitude to our teacher. We show love, patience and care and explain. Not turning against or creating schism and harm. We can even seek the opinions of other students. If majority of the students think our ordinary teacher is right, take a step back and think it through. Maybe they are right. Maybe not, but our methods are unnecessary. After all, if the majority see it this way, perhaps majority see the clarity than ourselves for the moment. Otherwise why vote? The point is, just as the teacher should be loving and show love, so should the students show love and be loving. It cannot be someone hides under the guise of being a student for the longest time and just expect to receive, get and get more. Reciprocation is important in any relationship. Students must show love, care, generosity, achievements, progress, patience also towards the teacher. Then it’s win-win.
Ask the persons we have turned against for care, love and a second chance. Nevermind the ego. Ego was never our friend anyways…
Even Buddha and Devadatta’s story benefit us today and situations that may be similar in our lives. The Buddha even benefits us through space and time through this.
Instead of thinking deeper of what the Buddha said and Devadatta transforming immediately on the spot, humbling down and accepting what his guru (Buddha) said, he went into a rage. Because his big untransformed ego was hurt. He got very angry. Because he blamed the Buddha for him not getting the power and fame that comes with being head of Sangha. He wasn’t concerned about the Buddha’s burdens, but getting power or some ill aim. Being head of sangha you need to be a good example, humble, learned and kind. Obviously he didn’t fit into this. He used Buddha’s age as an excuse to take over, but he didn’t care about the Buddha at all. He wanted power. And Buddha didn’t give him power and fame. So all the other kindness Buddha granted him for decades was all forgotten. Only the ‘bad’ thing Buddha did to him mattered now. That is what he concentrated on. Buddha did nothing good for him suddenly!! All good was forgotten to serve Devadatta’s purpose. Buddha was so ‘bad’ in his excuse, he tried to create division among the Sangha. He wanted to cover his ulterior motive by defaming the Buddha. To defame Buddha’s reputation by calling him lax. Wow…lax..He is already the Buddha!! And a Buddha can be lax? Why be in the Sangha and control, or be the head of the Sangha, if Buddha can be lax? The whole point of the Sangha is to practise to become a Buddha. If Buddha can be lax, then why be in the Sangha, forget even being the head of the sangha. Some light-eared disloyal Sangha believed Devadatta and left Buddha, but were persuaded to return later. Can you imagine? Persuaded to return to Buddha. As if Buddha is so bad they had to be persuaded. Wow. Light-eared people are interesting aren’t they?
There are people during Buddha’s time and now in every Dharma organization or any organization that are schismatic. They may never shout, be rude or obvious about their schism, proclaiming they like calm environments, but in reality there is nothing calm about their minds because instead of being outright and kindly direct, they will drop a word here and there and never in big groups or meetings. They drop their schismatic thoughts with a smile, over the coffee or accompanied by a gift ( I have experienced this from others who spoke against my teachers/leaders many times) in a gentle voice. Beware! The turmoil they create in your minds leave you nothing but temporary unhappiness, far from the peaceful demeanor in which their schism was delivered. These people are easy to see. They rarely give strong opinions in meetings, even keeping quiet as too many are watching, and fear of discovery keeps them quiet. They never raise their voices as they are not really passionate about anything, as proven by their lack of self made results in their lives so far. If they could have done it on their own, why didn’t they? Raising voices is not a virtue in itself but I prefer a loud direct person than a quiet person that whispers behind the back. These people will always pull people to the side and ‘talk’. They will always talk in a way that they never directly say what they really want to implant in your mind, but they actually ask you questions to ‘help you think’ towards their schismatic goals. They will help you towards their conclusions. In fact the fact they are unhappy most of the time and have tremendous doubt is because of the karmic effects of schism. They should reform immediately in fact. They will sometimes use others to speak for them because they never want to look bad or be caught in a lose-face situation. Why? It’s never about you and how they benefit you, but it’s always about them looking good. Their looking good is much more important then the welfare of the organization, its members and you. Simply you are just a path to tread on to get what they want. I am sure we have come across plenty like this. How do we deal with them? Just like we deal with anyone else. We show patience, love, care and gifts. If this does not work over a period of time and they harm, then you can tell them with a thousand pounds of compassion directly because the round-about way is not benefitting them.
When Devadatta set out to KILL the Buddha after his schism of separating the Sangha by saying Buddha was laxdidn’t work, he was focused and more angry. He blamed his woes on Buddha. He thought his anger was justified. After all, it was Buddha’s fault he didn’t get his power and fame, he told himself and his like-minded supporters. Whatever Buddha did or didn’t do for Devadatta didn’t merit him to defame Buddha, although eventually unsuccessful, and now trying to kill Buddha. Amazing. Also when we don’t support Devadatta and the Devadattas in our lives, they have no power to do something harmful and ridiculous. Support is needed so there is safety in numbers to cover their real intentions. Devadatta just had to go to the Buddha, apologize, swallow his big ego and reform. The end. I mean how many times have our parents scolded us on our bad behavior even publicly? We either turn against them or realize how much they have benefitted us and this must be one of their methods also. I mean we back down with our parents contemplating on their kindness to us. In reality our teachers are even kinder as they teach us the path to cessation of all sufferings and we can bring this to everyone who has been kind to us. What a wonderful way to live. To bring the wonderful ways of Dharma to so many because we were patient enough to learn it and practise it. Best of all, we defeated our real enemy ( self-serving ego) by accomplishing the Dharma. What a wonderful vehicle we would be for bringing the Dharma to others. If we can accept the scolding of our parents because we know their good intent, why not a teacher who takes over this role in some ways but on a much more grander universal scale. Does a teacher scold? Yes. I have been but I never turned against my teacher. Why does a teacher scold? For attained teachers by scolding they purify karma. For ordinary teachers, their deep sense of love and care for you to be repeating dangerous habits. They are worried for you and it manifest that way. I am sure our teachers have spoken to us very nicely many times before resorting to scolding.
Devadatta then try to send 16 archers to kill the Buddha. So much anger. The Buddha taught the archers Dharma and they abandoned their intent. Then Devadatta tried to roll boulders and then finally trying to crush the Buddha again using a drunk elephant. The elephant when coming into Buddha’s presence calmed down from his drunken rage induced by Devadatta. The karma of Devadatta was heavy. He committed the heinous crimes of which there is no intervening rebirth. When we die, we directly take rebirth in Avici ( unending ).
The heinous crimes are:
Killing one’s father, mother, arhat, drawing blood from a Buddha (harm) and creating schism within the sangha.
For without the collection of sangha, Dharma cannot survive. Without dharma surviving, then many will not meet the Dharma and will remain in suffering. So all those suffering beings who cannot meet the Dharma is attributed to the person who created the schism. Similarly in today’s Dharma centres, by creating schism you separate the followers and perhaps disband. The Dharma they had, if survived, can benefit so many, but because of you, they will not get the Dharma. All the sufferings that could have been changed by them receiving Dharma will now come to the schism maker. The karma will come back to the schism maker in form of always having doubts, unable to gain peace, easy to forget the learning, being always more negative than positive, negative activities will be more appealing to accrue more negative karma, unable to gain attainments, eventual separation from people they are attached to, and loneliness. Thoughts of self harm will arise also. As schism was intended to separate, so will they be separated. Actions resemble results.
In the end, Devadatta fell into Avici according to the sacred Dhammapadha sutta. He did regret according to some recounts by praising the Buddha as the most perfect refuge just before being swallowed up. But even still, he has to live in the conditions of the karma he has contributed in Avici. Karma cannot be escaped, so do not enjoy the negative deeds. Do not revel in it or keep perpetuating it. Stop it. Apologize, show deep regret and reverse it. All of us deserve a second chance. Why create Avici on earth for ourselves when it can be another way?
When our anger takes over and we don’t wish to do something about it, then we see everything in a distorted manner. Distorted because whatever we see is not really the reality but what we mistakenly think it is. For Devadatta, even the perfect Buddha became an ordinary person with no Enlightenment he tried to disparage and plot to kill, as soon as Buddha didn’t agree to his wants. His anger made Buddha seem like his enemy, which was so far from the truth. Likewise we can be prostrating to Manjushri and believe our own teachers is an emanation of Manjushri when we are told and given what we want. But the minute the teacher tell us something contrary to our habituated attachments, Manjushri or not, we will disparage him. Well since Manjushri is a perfect object to prostrate to and by doing so we collect so much merit, wouldn’t it be the same if we disparaged him? Collect so much negative karma. You see, for years we can believe and tell the whole world our guru is an emanation of something divine and great and even his gurus says so, but the minute we are not happy with how we are ‘treated’ or spoken to, our guru is wrong, not divine or holy anymore. Our anger ‘officially’ un-divined him. Our anger becomes the most holiest object we worship. How we are told the truth should not matter to someone who is matured and seeking genuine ways to find betterment. Truth comes in so many methods. Listen to it without being hung up on how it’s told. Not everything is on a silver platter. We do everything to carry out our anger against everything in our path because we are not given what we want and told the truth. Our gurus or Manjushri didn’t become unholy or not worthy of your respect just because he told you the truth (what you don’t want to hear), but in fact you should respect him more that he dares to tell you the truth. That’s a real friend. Perhaps you don’t like the truth at this time. Perhaps you don’t like the method in which it was told. Nevertheless it has been told and you do what you will with it because in time you will have to face the truth your holy guru told you. You will have to face the truth one day and let’s hope it won’t be too late when your ego swallows up your last chances.
A monk is holy and great until he starts teaching you the real dharma. ~Tsem Rinpoche
Watching this talk was powerful and gave me much to contemplate on. I learned and was happy to learn. I can see how Devadatta’s incident related to many events I witnessed in the past. In the end, pain does make us stronger. Running from the truth will only weaken us. Why blame others. This is samsara after all. Who promised you a rose garden when you took rebirth? I recommend all of you to also listen to at least the ten minutes I have extracted. And if time allows, the whole talk which is interesting. I’ve included the extracted part on Devadatta and also the whole talk.
Professor Lopez is indeed a great speaker and captures our attention. I thank him for his talk and may he continue to bring Dharma to many with a blessed very long life.
Short extracted portion 10 mins (must watch)
Or view the video on the server at:
Donald S. Lopez, Jr., is Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He was educated at the University of Virginia, receiving a doctorate in religious studies in 1982. After teaching at Middlebury College, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1989. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books on Buddhism.
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