Hatred does not cease by hatred

Vanaresi, December 2010

« Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. »

Bouddha Shakyamouni

In the tragic days we are living through, it is important to emphasize that one can feel a deep aversion towards barbarism and fanaticism and do everything possible to counteract them, without succumbing to hatred.

One can feel boundless repulsion towards the deeds committed by an individual or a group of individuals, as well as an unfathomable sadness for the suffering they have caused, without giving in to the desire for revenge.

It is commonly thought that responding to evil with rage and violence is a “human” reaction, dictated by pain and the need for justice. But doesn’t true humanity lie in avoiding reacting with hatred? In 1993, in South Africa, an American teenager was killed on the street by five thugs(1). During the trial, the victim’s parents, both lawyers, told the main perpetrators, looking them straight in the eyes, “We don’t want to do to you what you did to our daughter.” This attitude has nothing to do with weakness, cowardice, or any compromise. It is possible to have a keen awareness of the intolerable nature of a situation and the need to address it without being motivated by hatred.

Otherwise, as Gandhi forcefully said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth makes the whole world blind and toothless.”

I once heard on Japanese television a politician telling one of his opponents during a session of the National Assembly, “May you die a million times!” For someone consumed by the desire for revenge, even if their enemy were to die a million times, it would still not be enough, as the purpose of vengeance is not to alleviate our pain but to inflict suffering on others. How could it help us regain our inner peace and dignity?

Let us heed the voice of Etty Hillesum, who perished in a Nazi concentration camp: “And we talk of extermination; it would be better to exterminate the evil in man, not man himself.”

We must never forget that there can be no external disarmament without inner disarmament.