Take Nothing Personally

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The Buddha

Don’t get offended. Ever. By anything.

One distinct practical and karmic advantage of the Buddhist concept of not self is that you need never take anything personally again.

It’s not about you, because there is no you for it to be about.

Prominent Buddhist teacher Joseph Goldstein tells the story of the time a close friend acted in a way that he initially felt to be a huge betrayal. At first he was very angry and upset and spent time thinking about this horrible betrayal by his close friend.

Then he realized, to feel betrayed, he had to have a commitment to a notion of self that was inconsistent with his Buddhist beliefs.

This story illustrates two points. First, the obvious point about not self. Again, betrayal is, by definition, an offense to a person as themselves. If you separate your consciousness from any idea that your self exists in a way important enough for you to protect or defend, you can’t feel betrayal or take offense at anything.

The other point that Goldstein does not develop because it wasn’t relevant at the time is that abiding in consciousness through meditation allows for the calm, reasoned review of emotional reactions. Goldstein’s pique at his friend’s dirty deed might have led him to retaliate in ways that would have caused him bad karma.

Because he had a very well developed meditation practice of long standing, he was able to think about the situation more dispassionately, and apparently to forgive the friend. He does not say if he still considered this person as close a friend afterward, but choosing not to trust someone for good reason is morally neutral, especially as compared to retaliating for some offense that should have caused no offense.

So, meditate, abide in consciousness, and take nothing personally. You’ll be much happier in the long run.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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