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I often find that in real life people I know are doing things in a "wrong" way. By this I not only mean profound things related to Dhamma, but also small everyday things. Because of these small things, which are most often due to a small gap in their understanding, they keep suffering in a worldly manner. Example clip

I feel compassion for them and I feel that only if they could simply know the right thing their particular problem would go away and they will get some peace of mind. With this in mind (mostly) I try to gently tell them what the cause of the problem is... but I have found it unfortunately that 99% of them not only not act, but even not think about my words. It has caused me suffering, I'm not sure how... maybe because I'm not being taken seriously even though I'm telling something very important to them... anyways so I wanted to ask if what I am doing is incorrect, or maybe it is correct but it is impractical, or I'm doing something wrong somewhere?

I feel like I should stop helping but then I think even if it makes me lesser in others' eyes, it is worth it if it helps them.

Do you experience this situation in people surrounding you? How do you find a middle ground... like have you stopped helping thinking that they cannot comprehend at once deep insights? Any responses are appreciated.

PS: Sorry, if my english is bad.

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According to the suttas, the general principle is to offer Dhamma only when asked (AN 9.5). The Buddha set this example in MN 26, when he waited for the Brahmā Sahampati to ask the Buddha to teach.

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I doubt if it is a small gap in their understanding that causes them not to see how they are hurting themselves and the people around them in an indirect albeit unconscious manner.

I think it is for this reason that the Buddha advised his followers to practise restraint from telling untruths and indirectly to cultivate an unwavering integrity within themselves. So that when someone point out our mistakes, we cannot hide behind excuses but are forced to face our real intentions. Sometimes, that can be painful as we are forced to unveil our concealed motives and acknowledge our hidden desires.

I find one of the tricks we learn as humans in order to make it easier to commit reckless, unethical and selfish actions is to hide our true intentions from ourselves and others. It is perhaps a reason why our parents get very upset when we first start to lie as young children. Sadly, I learned that we never truly stop lying even as adults; we just get more sophisticated with the process. We hide our intentions, obfuscate our desires, masquerade our selfish actions with layers of excuses and convoluted reasoning. Until, one day, our mind is totally ensnared in an entangled web of intrigue and confused. And finally, the original motivation for our selfish act is forgotten. (Incidentally, I think what the woman in the video really wants is attention. If the nail is removed, she won’t have any excuses to seek more attention and sympathies).

When to give advice? Perhaps, an appropriate time and situation but, I think, the most important factor is the person being advised. They should be people of integrity who are willing to look into their mind and heart. They should be willing to identify their mistakes, errors and problems with honesty. Otherwise, I feel we should just let them be. Meanwhile we can learn by observing the process of karma as it unfolds; especially develop insights into why doing things in a “wrong” way really is bad karma. (I believe, sadly, the woman in the video will eventually find herself all alone..... the very thing she wanted to avoid).

Observing how things unfolds with these people and where their lives lead will in turn strengthen our understanding of karma and the Dharma.

Appendix I:

This is a follow-up on why “we cannot hide behind excuses” but must “face our real intentions”. The principles of the Zen tradition is often summarized in the following words: 教外别传,不立文字。直指人心,见性成佛。

My translation: Do not teach those who have no faith or do not believe in karma or the Dharma (教外别传). Because these teachings go beyond words (不立文字). The teachings point out the mind’s true nature (直指人心). Unveiling the mind, one sees its Buddha’s nature (见性成佛). (I admit that I deviated somewhat from mainstream interpretation especially the first half in order to fit into the context of this question).

I believe there is a pre-requisite for the Dharma to reveal our mind’s true nature. Firstly, we must be willing to constantly observe, see and acknowledge our true intentions. Because in the law of karma, it is our intention at the time we act that determines our karmic fruits; not the subsequent intentions, excuses or reasons we assign to those actions to masquerade, obfuscate or cover our tracks. Yes, we can try hiding behind excuses but it doesn’t change the karmic consequences one bit. Knowing this, we naturally strive to avoid all evil doings and support all good deeds. Furthermore, as we understand bad karma arise from bad intentions which has its roots in greed, hatred and delusion, we try to keep our mind free from these taints.

And this sums up the practice of the Dharma: to abstain from all evil, to cultivate good and to purify one’s mind. It is kind of paradoxical that faith and belief is a necessary factor for a person to begin this spiritual journey. But without faith or belief in karma and the Dharma, we would not be willing to start paying attention to our true intentions. I find this practice goes against the flow especially at the beginning.

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  • Thank you, very insightful answer! Would i be correct in saying that I must examine myself and my intentions deeper when i am trying to help people, for it may be a convulated excuse to further my own agenda. Jan 11 at 3:48
  • Do you mind briefly explaining this part: "So that when someone point out our mistakes, we cannot hide behind excuses but are forced to face our real intentions. " Jan 11 at 3:50
  • Yes, you are right that we need to examine our heart and mind. Sometimes, we have a perverse way of furthering a course of action that we know is selfish, unethical and reckless. And the scary part is when this perversed way becomes a habit. Our mind is no longer aware of the wrongness. Everything is just second nature.
    – Desmon
    Jan 11 at 6:59
  • When that happens, a cognitive shortfall arises. When others point out our erroneous ways, we just cannot see or understand what they are talking about. Instead, we get upset at their hurtful accusations and retaliate violently. So, I'll avoid advising people with little or no integrity. We may end up getting a lot of hate and revenge for our good intentions instead. It's not their fault, it's just that they have lost the ability to see their true intentions clearly.
    – Desmon
    Jan 11 at 7:01
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It's best to teach Dhamma or give advice only to those who are open and engaged to receiving it.

At one time Venerable Kassapagotta was staying in the land of the Kosalans in a certain forest grove.

Now at that time Venerable Kassapagotta, having withdrawn for his day’s meditation, tried to advise a tribal hunter. Then the deity haunting that forest approached Kassapagotta wanting to stir him up, and recited these verses:

“A tribal hunter wandering the rugged hills is unintelligent, unthinking. It’s a waste of time to advise him; this mendicant seems to me like an idiot.

The tribal hunter listens without understanding, he looks without seeing. Though the teaching is spoken, the fool doesn’t get it.

Even if you lit ten lamps and brought them to him, Kassapa, he wouldn’t see anything, for he has no eyes to see.”

Impelled by that deity, Venerable Kassapagotta was struck with a sense of urgency.
SN 9.3

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Don’t try to convert others who aren’t willing. If on the other hand, they’re open to hear the Dharma and ask, give the best advice you can. If you believe you don’t have the experience to give insight the person asks for, tell them to find someone who does to avoid promoting wrong view.

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