I’ve been making an effort to be less cynical lately, and it’s really made me realise how often it sneaks in and masquerades as a virtuous mind. For example, if someone is snotty with me, I will think, ‘It’s only because they’re having a bad day; they’re stressed and their own suffering state of mind is naturally spilling out and hurting others. They can’t help it; it’s not who they really are.’
That’s a positive view – which Geshe Kelsang explains in Eight Steps to Happiness as recognizing that living beings have no faults – and it makes me able to accept and forgive. But … then cynicism slips in and I might start feeling that it is inevitable that people will behave badly. The emphasis there is wrong. Of course, people behave badly because we are all affected by delusions, but that is perfectly evitable because delusions are not a part of our real nature and will eventually be overcome. So we should acknowledge and accept deluded behaviour without expecting it.
This person is a suffering living being afflicted by the disease of delusions – of course they are, aren’t we all?
That thought is technically correct … but can you see how easy it is for that to lead to a rather pessimistic view of human nature? In reality, there is no such thing as human nature – we are just a constant flux, moving inevitably (albeit with a few detours) towards enlightenment.
This person is a suffering living being afflicted by the disease of delusions – one day they will be cured and be a Buddha.
That is a properly correct correct thought because it is not limited by cynicism.
My conclusion is that cynicism sets in if we don’t follow things through to their logical conclusion. Like when we train in renunciation, we think, ‘Every day I can expect things to go wrong because that is the nature of a world that is based on delusion.’
If we get that thought right it can make us more accepting and positive; but if we get it wrong it just makes us feel like not bothering! I think we get it wrong because we don’t go far enough: the logical conclusion of that thought is ‘I will create a world that is not based on delusion – liberation, here I come!’
Don’t let cynicism stop you from getting that far.