Imperfection #2: Ill will
The Pali word for ill will is byapada or vyapada, and it means to wish for someone’s harm or destruction. This is the moment when we think, “I could kill her/him.”
From AN16, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other thing on account of which unarisen ill will arises and arisen ill will increases and expands so much as the mark of the repulsive. For one who attends carelessly to the mark of the repulsive, unarisen ill will arises and arisen ill will increases and expands.
Bhikkhus, I do not see even one other thing on account of which unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned so much as the liberation of the mind by loving-kindness (metta). For one who attends carefully to the liberation of the mind by loving-kingness, unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned.
In this case, the Buddha has left a very clear diagnosis and treatment for the scourge of ill will. “The mark of the repulsive” is simply when irritation arises in our minds. It’s my reaction to insects or geckos inside my house. They have violated my domain and I want them GONE. It also comes up when there is a queue of people waiting and someone at the front is dithering and holding things up. Don’t get me started! I can think of a long list of everyday events that bear “the mark of the repulsive” for me. Most (or all) of them are non-threatening and not worthy of a reaction.
What are the events in your day that bear the mark of the repulsive?
Once we’ve identified these moments, we can start to understand them and prevent ourselves from going over the waterfall of ill will that invites us to jump in. Recognition is the essential first step. In the moment it’s happening, can we see and say – “Aha! Irritation is arising in the mind”? If yes, excellent! That’s half the battle. Once it is seen and named, we have a choice – do we go ahead with the thoughts and feelings that amplify this irritation, or do we see them as a danger and let them go?
The Buddha points out that we can develop a basic attitude of loving-kindness, which serves as a protection against too many irritations arising. If our skin is raw, everything will annoy us. If our interface with the world is softened by an attitude of kindness, we will be less reactive. This is an aspect of attitudinal development that we can nurture on a regular basis, throughout the day, week by week.
So here are two recommended assignments, both connected with knowing what’s going on in our minds: When irritation arises in the mind, do we know what is happening? Can we see that there’s a choice? And secondly, when nothing in particular is going on, can we become aware of our baseline attitude? Is it defensive or open? Kindly or touchy? Is there any way we can move our “mental home base” towards metta/loving-kindness?