In our monthly Dharma & Satsang discussions, we are continuing to work through the kleshas: the whys of our suffering as human beings. In April, we dove into dveśa. Usually, translated as aversion or strong dislike, I leaned into the richness of the Sanskrit and added some additional layers: burning; hatred; and the understanding that the root of dveśa lies in experiences and memories of pain from the past. It’s about how it’s possible that what we most dislike can take over our experience. You’d think we would prefer to focus on what we like (attachment) but it turns out we can be just as overtaken by what we don’t like.

I think it’s helpful to understand that aversion and its associated suffering isn’t about inclinations. It’s normal and human and healthy to have preferences and desires. However, dveśa is in play when we orient ourselves toward the world in terms of what we think is bad or wrong— and that is really different than just not liking something. Consider dveśa as the other side of the attachment coin: things we are attached to that we don’t want. Think about it.  By its nature, dveśa creates duality, and you know that always leads to suffering. It sets us up with the pairs of good/bad, right/wrong, us/them inevitably leading us to separation, adversity, taking sides. It’s not where we want to live. And yet, here we are.

Stepping onto my soapbox, I urge you to dig in and figure out what you believe. Then try to live it out to the best of your ability, while making a point of doing so without stepping on the beliefs, rights and choices of others. In fact, search for ways to bridge gaps when you find them and offer love, acceptance and consideration to those who believe and behave in ways that seem different from or even incomprehensible to you. Be curious when your immediate response to discomfort is to push it away, or get rid of it. Pay attention when you see you’ve instantly made a decision or judgment about something or someone without any investigation at all.

It’s gut-wrenching as we watch aversion play out in our country: legislation stripping access to medical procedures deemed safe and effective; banning books; limiting reproductive rights to a point where women are dying because doctors are too afraid to provide the lifesaving care they need; canceling groups of people at large out of fear and ignorance. Meanwhile, the gun violence continues, unchecked. Fear of the unknown is creating an “othering” that will be our undoing.

Newsflash For All Humans: you are not going to like everything or everyone all the time. And the more you identify with that dislike, the more likely it is to make you suffer, and worse, cause suffering to others. All the different forms dveśa can take— anger, judgement, resentment, fear— they all steal your peace. And when permitted reign over the kingdom that is you, they have the potential to steal the peace of others.

As above, so below; as within, so without. So say the teachings. We are seeing it in the world because we have not taken a personal inventory adequate to clear ourselves of our own aversion. We desperately need to clean up our personal and collective acts and make space for everyone. <steps off soapbox>