Let go of the burden of hate
I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Suppose a person is carrying a huge boulder on their back. When asked why they are carrying it, they reply, “I want to throw it on my enemy’s head.” If their enemy lives far away and carrying that boulder that far is likely to break their own back, then they will end up hurting themselves far more than their enemy.
We wouldn’t usually burden our back thus, yet we frequently burden our heart thus. When someone hurts us badly, we often let ourselves become filled with resentment and anger towards them. Anger, when built up, becomes hate. And hate burdens our heart – it crushes our higher aspirations, reducing our world to a colorless, joyless desert wherein nothing matters except taking revenge against our offender. Worse still, hate sticks to our heart. Even if we take revenge, we find to our dismay that hate has become a habit. Some other wrong done by someone soon becomes our new object of hate, again and again and yet again.
How can we free ourselves from this burden? By choosing love instead of hate as our driving emotion. Choosing love doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to love those who have hurt us – that often requires a level of saintliness we may not yet have. Still, at our level, we can choose love by focusing consciously and conscientiously on the things we love. By meditating on the contributions we wish to make in the areas we love, we can direct our intentions more positively. By remembering that life is too short to be wasted in hating anyone, no matter how hateful their actions, we can get the determination to fight against hate instead of for hate.
The Bhagavad-gita offers a vision of life that makes choosing love easier. It explains that we all are souls, eternal parts of the all-attractive supreme, Krishna (15.07). We are meant to find lasting satisfaction by learning to expand our love from the temporary to the eternal. Our love expands when we direct it towards Krishna through the time-honored practice of bhakti-yoga. Such practice helps us experience Krishna’s love for us and relish security and satisfaction therein. Being thus bolstered, we feel inspired to reciprocate by offering him our love through constructive service according to our talents and interests. Hateful people with their malicious agendas can mar some specific paths in our life, but they can never mar our life’s ultimate purpose of linking with Krishna in love. If we focus on loving Krishna and expressing our love for him through practical service in our particular vocations, then we can always find a way to serve, no matter what who does.
Of course, some people may act so unconscionably that they need to be corrected. For example, the Mahabharata depicts how the vicious Kauravas were unrepentantly atrocious. After all attempts have been exhausted, the Bhagavad-gita asks Arjuna to fight for punishing them (11.33). Yet it asks him to do so without any animosity towards them (11.55).
When guided by bhakti wisdom, even if we pursue corrective action against wrongdoers, we do so not out of hate, but in a mood of service. We aim to protect our service from the wrongdoers’ shenanigans; we aim to prevent them from hurting others as they have hurt us; and we aim to ultimately help them by stopping them from incurring further grievous karmic reactions by their hateful actions.
When we choose to act out of love for Krishna, not hate for anyone, our powerful emotional energy no longer works against us by locking our consciousness in the object of our hate. Instead, it works for us by freeing our consciousness to conceive and achieve constructive things in a mood of service.