“He abused me, he defeated me, he robbed me”: the hatred of them, who do not harbour this thought, is appeased.
The sense of justice is strong, twisting into retribution quite quickly. If someone cuts me off in traffic I enjoy cutting them off later. It’s like some balance is restored, but it really is just two cars in traffic. All things are traffic really, we are just passing through.
Regardless, we feel like people disrespect us, or tread on our turf, or take what’s ours, and we feel justified in that feeling. To a degree it’s in our legal code as well (you can get punitive damages, intended to punish the offender).
But what the Buddha is saying here is that feeling does not lead to its own resolution. Scratching that itch will only make you more itchy. He’s saying that the only way to appease hatred is not by satisfying it but by not harboring the thought at all. Which is, of course, hard. We’re pretty hard wired to perceive social slights and balance and status, and it’s deeply connected to our emotions.
To a degree it’s an obvious insight (hate less and you’ll feel better) but on a day to day basis, hate feels both overpowering and, in a way, fair. If you look at the image I used here, why should that chess piece that got knocked over be chill? He got knocked over. That wasn’t cool. And those other pieces are just looking at him.
You have to really divorce yourself from the value system of the world (in this case, the concept of being upright I guess) and perceive things with a mind wide open. From that perspective (once you ignore what’s good or bad) you can see the feeling of hatred in isolation, and that it’s contained within you, and primarily damages you. And at that point I guess you can let it go.
I, however, still cannot.