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Kindness, an antidote to negative mental state!

Kindness, an antidote to negative mental state!
By André Bériault, Dobrota academician
Buddhists view “kindness” as one of the four “Immeasurables” or “Brahmaviharas”. It is a
powerful virtue that can fight negative mental states such as pride and anger. When it is educated by
the mind through meditation, it is said to make our spirit immeasurable like the gods. Christians
associate it with “benevolence” (goodwill) and it is viewed as the fundamental underlying message
that must be carried by pastors as an example to their flock. Confucius in China and Mencius in
Japan also saw it as the fundamental quality of “chiefs” for it is the primary virtue that will cause
people and riches to follow them. As they both said, “One has never seen complete empires falling
in the hands of leaders lacking such virtue”. Finally, I will simply add that kindness should in any
case, first become a mental exercise before it is transposed to daily actions; if we are to follow its
precepts, then we must first accommodate it in our very thoughts, for it is there, in our mental
patterns that the quality of our being begins.
Of course, discourse comes easy to who wants to convince, I thought, but how could
kindness be applied on an everyday basis, since for most of us, being a leader will usually be limited
to ourselves, our immediate family, neighbors and the occasional meeting of strangers. While
writing this text, I thought of all the actions, deeds and exchanges that I could serve you as examples
for actions of kindness; I reflected on historical facts that happened in history, deeds that were cited,
examples that were set, finally none were meaningful to me. Then one day, as I quietly sat on my
shaded front porch writing, a young Arabic woman went by pushing a baby carriage and pulling two
toddlers behind her. She was wearing a Muslim Hijāb about her barely visible face, and a long
colorful gown flowed to the feet. Well, my living area here in Montreal, is all but Arabic and Christian
cultures are rather dominant in language and dress; so one might well imagine how she felt or what
went on in people’s mind as she went by; I for one, felt a strange opposition to her visible presence
in my quiet area; I even saw her presence as a menace to my own beliefs. It took me quite a while to
accept that my negative reactions at seeing her were most probably dictated by traditional
education and prejudice and that my own beliefs should in no way be challenged. So here was in
front of me, the best possible example of what I could do to bring about kindness in my own
thoughts. I needed to accept the presence of a stranger and her beliefs, without ever condemning
them or my own for that matter.
I will admit the process is not an easy one, for the thoughts that did cross my mind were
difficult and deeply engrained values; my deeply rooted convictions were that the Muslim religion
required submission of the woman to her husband and submission of the husband to his God, thus
to the people speaking for Him on this earth. I believed that woman wearing such a garment did it
out of love or out of submission, but that in either case it was submission to her own rule, not ours.
Since, in my mind, we should all be submitted to the same earthly laws, our souls and thus our
religion being our own private affair, I accepted with difficulty, someone placing herself above my
own values. The young Arabic girl unknowingly was in fact challenging my very education and my
desire that we should all be equal in front of the law and I did little to open myself to different ideas;
hence, my negative mental state. If left unchecked, it would simply encourage more ignorance, more
racism, more hate and ultimately more violence if the same scenario repeated itself to a larger
Enter kindness!
Well, the first thing I noticed after that event is that many thoughts carried over in my mind
for several days and many feelings went by as I tried to view and justify my position even while to
talking to others about it; not all of my thoughts were nice and good, some darn right nasty, but
slowly something started to change. Deep inside me slowly rose the feeling that I needed to be clear
and true to myself regardless of the law, let’s call it “…the will to see others for their real value”, I
mean let’s face it, we can’t be all right and them all wrong. An inner voice called for better judgment
and compassion about this “them” thing and not the least of all, a need to feel comfortable inside
my own morality; if I dare say it, I would say it was the need to feel “Just or Godly”… if such a
position would not be to presumptuous. Then it all came into focus, it had been there in front of me
all the time. Kindness is the actual capacity to first listen to that need, then working out the answers
in the mind that in time will apply to actions that will then be witnessed as fair. Of course, I reckoned
this would not always be so easy, this particular example being pretty clear and straight forward as
there is now way this woman would ever change to my views; better then I adjust my own to allow
for hers! Seen it this way now, as the need to be just and fair to all, regardless of one’s own position,
kindness becomes a routine task, always to be tested and challenged against long established values,
most of which usually prone to breed negative mental states, that in any case, we should all get rid
So then, kindness is work, it is a difficult and oft repeated challenge about breaking old
paradigms and setting new precedents for our mind to evolve in order to live with each other in
peace. Most of you who want to become kind and benevolent will quickly learn the delicate and
balanced path that is needed in the mind to achieve that goal. To get there, even just enough to see
a difference in your everyday life, to get there is first to start with a simple case that has been
nagging you for years and trying to make it fit the peaceful objective, then repeating it, again and
again, till it all seems right. With time perhaps, a kind person will evolve that others will want to
emulate towards the same goal. Then it will all feel right.
I have just begun that journey and can testify of its unruly challenge, but I could also testify of the
beautiful peace that grows along with it.
Go and be kind.
Andre Beriault, summer 2009
Tags: antidote to negative mental state!, gregory pototsky, kindness, Академия Доброты, Григорий Потоцкий
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