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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Getting Rid of Likes and Dislikes

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President Nichiko NiwanoSufferings Arise from Our Point of View

Most people know someone they would like to avoid seeing face to face or with whom they cannot
get along. Even thinking of that person is depressing, so when they actually do have to meet, they always irritate each other. As long as we have likes and dislikes for other people, there is no end to our suffering, and our minds are never clear.

Shakyamuni described this situation as “the
suffering inhere nt in coming into contact with what
we hate.” In other words, everyone knows someone for whom they bear a grudge or cannot stand being around, and encountering that person is unpleasant and leads to suf fering.

If this is the case, it would be best to overcome
our dislike of disagreeable people, but because the
ego is strong, we cannot easily free ourselves from
such emotions as likes and dislikes.

Well, then, in human relations, is there no way to
be free of likes and dislikes? Of course there is.

Buddhism teaches that no one escapes the four sufferings of birth, old age, illness, and death. In other words, they are our destiny.

On the one hand, the sufferings we experience in dealing with disagreeable people or unpleasant situations are part of life. But we can overcome those sufferings by changing our point of view and way of thinking. Achieving this depends on practice of the Buddha’s teachings.

Our like or dislike of someone is based on our personality, and as such is a rather delicate and
complicated matter. Even so, since such emotions are expressions of the ego, friction and discord are likely, and we might suppose it impossible rid ourselves of suffering and anxiety. If we had no likes or dislikes, life would be simple.

Not Making Assumptions about Others

As I have mentioned in one of my previous essays, since we have the same characteristics that we dislike in others, we may be sensitive to those characteristics. Once we are convinced that we dislike someone or something, we become attached to that feeling, and it diminishes our capacity to accept other people. Yet, the human heart is not that small, narrow, or hard.

Not only human relations, but everything else in this world, without exception, is impermanent and subject to change. Furthermore, life, through every encounter—every karmic connection—is continually undergoing creative change. Therefore, by changing our point of view and meeting other people, we may open our hearts even to difficult people.

Besides, since every karmic encounter happens for the sake of us, changing our perspective allows us to benefit from everything around us.

After considering all this, if we still find it difficult to get along with someone we dislike or find
disagreeable, we should ask ourselves, “What would Shakyamuni do?”

One thing would be to savor the meaning of Shakyamuni’s saying, “Among people filled with
hatred, we live without hatred for others, and we live joyfully.”  

The Dhammapada says, “How difficult it is to be born human.” When we closely examine this teaching about the essence of life, or when we read the verses “The sky is empty enough to let birds fly at will; the sea is broad enough to let fish leap,” which praise the vastness of the skies and oceans, they suggest how to take a broad view of human life.

Buddhism teaches us not to try to change others but to accept them by changing ourselves, and to put that into practice. In this sense, someone we dislike becomes the very benefactor who teaches us the strength of our own ego, and serves as the whetstone upon which we polish our minds. When this realization sinks in, our likes and dislikes vanish, and we can live joyful lives.

September 2010
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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