Ill will 2

From AN 5.193, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
Again, when one dwells with a mind obsessed and oppressed by ill will, and one does not understand as it really is the escape from arisen ill will, on that occasion one does not know and see as it really is one’s own good, the good of others, and the good of both…Suppose there were a bowl of water being heated over a fire, bubbling and boiling. If a man with good sight were to examine his own facial reflection in it, he would not know and see it as it really is. So too, when one dwells with a mind oppressed by ill will, one does not understand as it really is the escape from arisen ill will…

Again, when one dwells with a mind that is not obsessed and oppressed by ill will, and one understands as it really is the escape from arisen ill will, on that occasion one knows and sees as it really is one’s own good, the good of others, and the good of both…Suppose there were a bowl of water not heated over a fire, not bubbling and boiling. If a man with good sight were to examine his own facial reflection in it, he would know and see it as it really is. So too, when one dwells with a mind that is not obsessed and oppressed by ill will, one understands as it really is the escape from ill will, on that occasion one knows and sees as it really is one’s own good, the good of others and the good of both…

Here the Buddha describes how ill will distorts our perception. If our view of things is affected by a strong sense of aversion or rejection, as it must be when that mind-state is present and unacknowledged, then we cannot see clearly what’s in front of us.

There’s another section in each of the above paragraphs that says, “Then even those hymns that have been recited over a long period do not recur to the mind, let alone those that have not been so recited.” I mention this separately because I thought it might be confusing embedded in the text. It means essentially that even if we recite the metta phrases (e.g., “May I be filled with loving kindness”) all day long, that alone can’t save us when ill will arises. Unless we have a deep understanding of how this imperfection/defilement works in our mind, we are likely to proceed with harmful actions and harmful words.

The only thing that will help free us when ill will turns up in our minds (as it inevitably will) is to understand as it really is the escape; to understand clearly one’s own good and the good of others, and the good of both. In the heat of the moment, can we see the danger to ourselves and others? Can we remember that we desire the best for ourselves and others? Is our understanding strong enough to see that this present ill will in the mind is something we can abandon?

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Filed under Hindrances, Imperfections

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