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Facing Blame


Don’t Believe Everything You Think

by Ven. Thubten Chodron

Shambhala Publications

A commentary on Togmay Zangpo’s Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas

Verse 14

Even if someone broadcasts all kinds of unpleasant remarks
About you throughout the three thousand worlds,
In return, with a loving mind,
Speak of his good qualities—
This is the practice of bodhisattvas.

Attachment to Reputation

Imagine someone savagely criticizes you, deriding you, ruining your reputation, and telling dreadful lies about you. Meanwhile, you have no recourse to tell your side of the story and to clear your name.

We don’t like it when somebody makes one nasty comment about us to one person, let alone broadcasts all kinds of lies that make everyone in three thousand worlds mistrust and dislike us. Imagine the suffering you would experience if someone did this to you.

This points to one of our biggest attachments, our reputation. Of course, the more attached we are to our reputation, the more upset we become when other people don’t agree with how wonderful we think we are. This attachment and the anger it provokes become a big problem for us.

What does Bodhisattva Togmay Zangpo recommend we do in such a situation? Take out a full-page ad in The New York Times and explain our side of the story? Criticize the other person in return so that his reputation is totally shattered? Curl up in a ball and feel sorry for ourselves because no one understands or support us?

None of those will work. Instead, Togmay Zangpo tells us in return to “speak of his good qualities” with a loving mind. This sounds impossible and we may wonder if Togmay Zangpo is crazy.

The self-centered mind thinks, “Speak of this guy’s good qualities? He doesn’t have any! Anybody who criticizes me is bereft of good qualities.”

Here we see clearly how the self-centered thought functions. The criterion it uses to evaluate people is: “Somebody who likes me is a good person and someone who doesn’t like me is a bad person.” Is this a good way to evaluate other people? Is it a good way to select friends? Not at all. We are just trying to protect ourselves from any criticism and unhappiness.

Instead of clinging to our reputation, we say to that person, “Thank you for helping me realize that reputation does not bring happiness.” One part of our mind may say, “That’s wrong. Reputation makes me very happy.”

If this is the case, ask yourself, “What happiness does reputation actually bring? What good do others’ changeable opinions about me do for me? Do they prevent me from getting sick? Do they stop me from dying? Do they make me any closer to enlightenment? Do they purify destructive karma? From a Dharma perspective, what good does a good reputation do?”

Looking at our situation with wisdom, we see that a good reputation does not bring us any benefit. If anything, it could harm us by making us conceited or complacent.

Seeing that reputation is empty of meaning, let’s relinquish attachment to it. We work with our mind and transform our mind so that we actually do see others’ good qualities. Doing so allows our mind to be peaceful no matter what others say about us. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to remain calm no matter what others thought or said about you?