QUESTION: The world seems so full of hatred, violence, and pain. How is it possible to pursue joy and also have compassion for those who commit such cruelties?
BHANTE GUNARATANA: “It is very difficult to imagine how cruel human beings can be. We cannot even say ‘bestial’ since wild beasts don’t commit the kinds of heinous crimes people do. When wild beasts kill, it’s to eat. When full, they don’t bother to kill other animals. So, beasts often behave much better than human beings!
“Fortunately, not all human beings are violent and cruel. There are many kind, compassionate and good people. In fact, they are in the majority when we think about it. Yet only a small minority makes the news—the ones whose cruel-hearted, violent actions shake the whole world.
“So we have to cultivate loving-friendliness—metta—for them along with all others. They commit crimes as they themselves are suffering. As a result, they are totally confused. I don’t think any right-minded person, one who thinks and sees clearly, would commit such violence. People have to be very, very confused to be worse than beasts. We should not give up on them—we must try to share loving-friendliness with them. They need a lot of metta.
“By sending our metta they will not, of course, suddenly change. Sometimes a person’s kamma is so strong, they cannot see the pain they’re causing others or they don’t care. So they commit more bad kamma and suffer yet more.
“We can at least have metta toward them. We can try to understand how much they must suffer to have become so violent and indifferent to other people’s lives.
Please keep practicing metta for yourself and share your metta with all: criminals, the victims of criminals, their bereaved relatives. All deserve our metta. I can send my metta to all of them. May all learn to live in peace and harmony.”
~ Bhante Gunaratana (p. 87, “WHAT WHY HOW: Answers to Your Questions About Buddhism, Meditation, and Living Mindfully,” Wisdom Publications 2020)