Enemy consciousness is the desire to blame and punish others because we are feeling unsafe, emotionally distressed, and desperate to return to comfort and a modicum of happiness. We see this in the political world around us. We see the hatred and violence, the torture and death, of men, women, and children because they are perceived to be the enemy. Most of us watch in horror the genocide, the persecutions, and the angry mob violence wondering how on earth humans could act in such evil and inhumane ways.
The root of enemy consciousness lies inside all of us. When we are children and run to tell an adult that Johnny was pulling our hair or Suzy was pinching us we expected that Johnny and Suzy would be punished. They would “get into trouble” for what they had done. We quickly learned to avoid trouble ourselves, or at least not get caught doing something, in order to avoid punishment. And although we never wanted to be punished even through time-outs, being grounded, or deprived of something important to us, we were glad someone else got what they deserved.
We have been well-trained to find someone to blame when we are unhappy and to fill our prisons with those who dare to make us uncomfortable. Prison is seldom a place of rehabilitation. Its purpose, as most prisoners will tell you, is to punish the offender. Desperate people do desperate things. Probably you and I have never advocated for someone to go to prison for harming us. Instead we shut our mind, our hearts, and our willingness to associate with, listen to, or forgive those who have offended against us. We imprison them within our mind and keep them there so we will be safe.
When we feel betrayed we want that person out of our lives. When we feel disrespected we want others to be told that they are bad. We have learned to associate mostly with those who reward us with affection, listening, appreciation, and respect. We have learned to disassociate with anyone who appears to disagree, disapprove, disrespect, or not like us.
When people in the Dharma Center make errors of judgment, cause emotional harm to others, break the rules, and step out of bounds their fellow sangha members often want to have that person disgraced, brought to a public accounting, or dismissed from a circle. Even those with deep spiritual training often have difficulty overcoming the conditioning to demand punishment. Fortunately, our spiritual teachers are not swayed by the Sangha’s emotional demands and upsets. Instead they offer restorative justice. Restorative means: gentle, kind, generous, harmless, and curable. Justice means: fair, equal, impartial, honorable, and right. They guide us back into acceptance, into love, and into unity.
“If people are cast out of the circle of love because they have caused harm, how will those people learn forgiveness, kindness, and honor?” Maha Amma
“When harm is created everyone must try to understand how they contributed to the creation of that harm and seek compassion, understanding, and forgiveness for themselves and for the other; only in this way will unity and goodness be restored.” Maha Abba
As we watch, in disbelief and horror, the speech and actions of angry, fearful people let us take a moment and look at the darkness in our own hearts. When we find it let us bring the light of hope, compassion, and generosity into that angry, fearful place within. We can remind ourselves that we really don’t want to give away to others grief, hurt, and actions that we would not wish to experience for ourselves. Enemy Consciousness is a weed with deep roots. If we want it to die we must stop watering it with personal insecurities, emotional traumas, blame, guilt, and angry. And instead truly practice what has become known over the centuries as: The Golden Rule.