A Buddhist View on How to Handle a Difficult Person

As Bill Aiken, former SGI-USA Vice General director said in his World Tribune article, The Oneness of Life and Its Environment,

“Rather than there being one static “environment” that we living beings are all born into, every
environment is uniquely customized, tailored to suit each of us
according to the state of our inner lives.” So, in a sense we’re all going around with our
personal universe, one that extends from the inner depths of our hearts outward to all the phenomena
of our surroundings. So to better influence our outer world, we strengthen and improve the inner

We talk about oneness of life and its environment, and the law of cause and effect but what do they actually
mean when it comes to dealing with a difficult person? When you are dealing with a difficult
person, the temptation is to see them as the problem and ourselves as the victim. But this isn’t
what the Buddhist concept of oneness of life and its environment says. Oneness of life and its
environment and the law of the simultaneity of cause and effect says that we create our situation through our past thoughts, words and actions, that
there is always a combination of an internal cause, and an external cause, the triggering
situation. For example you have an inner tendency to jealously, the inner cause, and the triggering situation, the external cause, might be an unfaithful husband.

Our Circumstances are our Curriculum

Beautiful Lotus flowers blossom in a muddy swamp. We may find our life circumstances, the mud, difficult and repulsive,but
they hold the conditions for our spiritual growth and are the curriculum, the opportunities, for us
to learn different lessons.

Now this doesn’t mean that the difficult person isn’t causing problems. But it does mean that we
have to change our circumstances by changing ourselves. As long as we blame the other person,
nothing changes and we don’t grow spiritually.

What are we doing when we are constantly blaming or resenting someone? What we resist, persists.
So when we are holding someone hostage and attacking them in our minds, we keep recreating the very
situation we hate through the new causes we are creating which lead to future similar effects according to oneness of
life and its environment and the law of cause and effect. The law of cause and effect is strict and causes we make are going to
create effects which match them.

The Fundamental Cause of the Situation is Your Own Karma

The other person may be the immediate external cause of your hardship, but the fundamental cause
lies in your own karma, your own past causes to suffer in a situation like this. When you look
into your own life and destiny and change your attitude, then there will be a change in the other

Izumi, known for his excellent guidance in Japan tells this story.

“A woman complained that her mother-in-law was perverse, malicious and will not change her ways no
matter how often I ask her. She called her all the names she could think of. “As young as you are,
you are still unable to correct your own disposition,”
President Toda said to her. “How then can you expect your aged mother-in-law to change hers? He
gave her detailed guidance until she realized that the fundamental source of the problem was not
her mother-in-law, but she herself. When she returned home she found her mother-in-law’s attitude
towards her had made a profound change for the better.”

Fairly frequently when faced with serious troubles, people are so overwhelmed by the events
happening in their lives that they forget about the limitless power of the Gohonzon and their faith
diminishes. We have to remember not to be swayed by external phenomena but to remember the rock of
the Gohonzon.

When you are suffering due to someone else, it might be that that person is ill, or is treating you
badly or has a problem that is affecting the family. But it is still your karma to suffer in such
a situation.

Pray to change Your Destiny

So pray to the Gohonzon in order to change your destiny for the better, to turn poison into
medicine, thus transforming your bad karma into a cause for happiness

People who have practiced for a long time develop an interesting attitude. They get curious when a
problem comes up to see just how it will be resolved. They’ve repeatedly had the experience that
problems which have come up have been resolved in interesting ways when they have chanted about
them and taken action on the ideas which have come to them. They understand that that problem is
there for their personal growth and perceive it as a way to grow by turning to the Gohonzon and
seeing it as another steppingstone to Enlightenment.

In summary:
1. We looked at the idea that our circumstances are the effects created by past causes and actions
in accordance with the law of cause and effect and oneness of life and its environment.
2. That if we are dealing with a difficult person, it was our karma to suffer in such a situation.
3. That when we resist the situation and attack someone in our minds, the situation will persist
as we are creating future similar causes. What we resist, persists.
4. Some forget the Gohonzon when overwhelmed by events.
5. Go to the Gohonzon and chant to turn poison into medicine, to change your difficult karma into
a cause for happiness.

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  • Sanili says:

    Such a deep insight. I love reading your guidances.

  • Germaine says:

    Thanks Margaret. Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo. Never seek this law outside ourselves.

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