The Salon.com advice columnist, Cary Tennis, has a new question from a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist who says she was ridiculed for her chanting practice. So let's play "Dear Abby" and see what advice we come up with.
Background: The writer says that her Nichiren Shoshu temple had been damaged in a fire, and so the sangha had rented space in a community center for services while repairs were made. She was attending service when her two-year-old son got a bit rowdy, so she took him outside to a park next to the building.
She was chanting gongyo with the group when some cyclists rode up and began to mock her:
Someone around the fountain kind of hushed the group, saying there is a service going on inside. One of the cyclists in the group said, "Oh yes, I think it's a bunch of Hare Krishnas," and continued to list a bunch of unrelated religions and finally settled on "Buddhists, yeah, that's it, Buddhists." He then began chanting gibberish in a mocking way. Someone must have pointed over to me and I heard him say, "So what, who's she, the keeper ... this is a park, isn't it?"
She says she chose to ignore the mockery and keep chanting. However, later she began to kick herself around for being a wuss:
I felt like I didn't defend myself or speak up for my faith and those chanting inside. My internal dialog quickly turned into me telling myself I'm such a loser. I feel like this happens time and again.
So her question was, what should she have said?
Cary Tennis's advice wasn't bad. He cited Pema Chodron talking about "where we are hookable." Pema Chodron said we need people around us to provoke our neuroses, to show us where we have work to do. Reacting self-defensively shows us that we're still clinging to a "self."
In the response I added, I said I was surprised the writer didn't relate to the chapter in the Lotus Sutra about the Never-Despising Bodhisattva. When people mocked this bodhisattva, or struck him with sticks and stones, he would retreat a short distance. Then he would turn and bow to his assailants, saying, "I do not despise you. You will become buddhas."
Of course, it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves that bullies and jerks are just manifesting the twisted way they see the world. Really, their bad behavior toward you doesn't have anything to do with you; it's all about them. If you react in anger, you are just reinforcing their delusions.
However, unless you are extremely skillful, even a few well-meaning words of teaching would not be accepted well. Ignoring them and continuing to chant probably was the best response. Can you think of a better one?