[Sorry for taking so long in continuing this project of studying Master Kim Jae Woong’s “Polishing the Diamond, Enlightening the Mind”. I’d like to continue on since there is a lot to learn. Hopefully, I won’t stop when school starts for the next semester.]
In this passage, Master Kim talks about how monks would get kidnapped by mountain bandits only to become one themselves, helping their kidnappers, 3 years later.
According to Master Kim because the monks spent so much time in those 3 years criticizing the robbers, the robbers’ actions got imprinted in the minds of the monks. Therefore, the monks turned into bandits themselves. The monks, by criticizing the robbers, brainwashed themselves into becoming criminals.
That is why, according to Master Kim, we need to let go of criticizing and scolding other people lest we also become what we scold and criticize.
It’s almost a common notion that the main reason we criticize others is because those people possess the same flaws we ourselves have. If Bob criticizes Jane for anger issues, it’s possibly because Bob also has anger issues.
I think of my erstwhile ninjutsu instructor in this regard. He used to harp on me for having a lot of “shadow” or negativity in my brain parts. At the same time, however, he would always get angry for the smallest of reasons. One time we were having a beer and laughing it up when he decided to end the night accusing me of plotting against him. I made a joke about how a John Woo movie made “war look cool” which got him miffed. Later he would always use that joke as an excuse to be more verbally abusive. I’m not denying that I also have a dark side. This is why I am studying and practicing Buddhism. However, while he was criticizing my shadow, he didn’t look into his.
I can concede that what Master Kim supposes can be true, that one turns into the person or persons one criticizes.
My first time in Korea was a very toxic time. Everyone fought over petty reasons. Whenever a fight erupted between my coworkers and I, I was the first to apologize. It was a waste of time, to be honest, because they would never forgive me. They always kept a checklist on every wrong action everyone took and would love to bring them up every time we went out drinking. I hated them for keeping such a hostile attitude.
Next thing I know it, even I started holding grudges. Thankfully, I found a way to let go of them, which I started doing when I got back to the United States.
So in regards to criticism, whether the act of criticizing others will lead us to debase our character or merely reflects our own flaws, I think it is important to address the criticisms we have for others as well as ourselves.
Master Kim states that the best way to deal with our inner critic is to simply surrender our criticism to the Buddha. In my next post, I am going to elaborate more on what I think “surrender” means.
However, one idea that comes to mind is to simply write down on a piece of paper what criticisms you have for yourself and for other people. After writing them down, simply ask yourself these questions: Since this guy or that girl has these flaws, what can I do to make sure I don’t have these flaws as well? Here are list of my flaws, what can I do to improve upon them?
I would like to think that after facing these flaws, and looking at the flaws of others, one could have a map of what to do to improve oneself.
Had my erstwhile ninjutsu instructor asked himself how he can make sure he didn’t have any “shadow” or unresolved negativity after looking at mine, I would like to think he would have been able to overcome his without going through a period of self-hatred or self-loathing.
Had I addressed my criticism of my coworkers in Korea and their habit of holding grudges, perhaps I would have been able to avoid doing the same by addressing the harm holding grudges have on one’s health and livelihood.