It would be wise to revise the nature of misanthropy. If we stick to simple definitions and delve into their essence, much wisdom can be obtained from a view that holds an aversion to humanity, as crazy as that sounds.
Being this a buddhist website, the proposal I make might seem nonsensical. But if one remembers how the buddhist tantrikas transmuted poison into wisdom, it seems logical to assume misanthropy could also go through an alchemical process to reveal wisdom.
But first lets establish a framework we can work with. We need to start with the origins of the word: The greek term misos means hate, but it could also be seen as rejection, anger, aversion, fighting or violence. For this transmutation to work, we need to to simplify all these meanings, which can be seen as movements. Furthermore they could be seen as just one movement: one that intends to push away or destroy. If we think about it, that’s not too bad when we speak of getting rid of unwholesome habits.
We simply could say hate can be used to get rid of the bad, in order to be good. That’s pretty much how we all work if you think about it. But in spiritual terms, we cannot just simply hate the bad things that pop up every single day in our TVs, our Social Media or in our streets. To do so implies suffering. Just remember the last time you hated something and how unpleasant that feels. I call that human hate, which just by the mere fact that it is human, it is tainted hate. Many examples can be seen today: Leaders that kill thousands of people, incite to hate, all the way to activists that are full of anger towards the injustices they oppose. It is possible to become harmful even if our intentions are noble.
So if we are going to use hate to push away or destroy harmful habits, we have to get rid of the suffering or harmful aspect that is embedded in human hate. And this is where the second part of the word misanthropy makes sense: The anthropos, or human, is the condition needed to generate harmfulness and suffering. This is a hard pill to swallow, specially if we think of ourselves as beneficial (don’t we all). But the fact is, no matter how much we have advanced as species in the last 200,000 years, we are still harmful as hell. Of course if you don’t read or watch the news, you might be protected from facing this hard truth.
Yet this is well known and accepted in Buddhism. The Buddha discovered that, if we don’t reach liberation from the human condition, we suffer since the day we are born until the day we day. This is not bad news, it is just a fact. Please stay with me on this: We might have happy moments of course. But mostly, we do feel something unpleasant every single day.
Our likes and dislikes generate displeasure: we might be disgusted by foul odors, other times by a person’s ideas, or they music someone listens to. The list of things we can hate are infinite. Buddhism has laid out this over an over: Existence is suffering. Why? Because as humans we are sensitive. Period. Sense leads to feeling, and feeling leads to pleasant and unpleasant feelings. That’s all one needs to experience suffering.
The usual way to deal with this human aspect is either through anesthesia (substances, food, sex, content, videogames, gambling, money, stuff, etc.), which is not really a solution, or by simply hating or avoiding the stuff we don’t find pleasurable. If we think about it, I guess that makes us all misanthropists: By simply thinking things like “God, I hate such and such person, or I hate the way (s)he talks, walks, dresses, thinks, etc.”, we can be sure conventional misanthropy is happening.
Of course we also hate many things non-human, like natural disasters. But I’d like to focus on our hate towards humanity because, if we are able to find a way not to suffer and not be harmful while we hate the unwholesome aspects of humanity, then there might be something valuable in misanthropy. It could be a kind of pure misanthropy, free of the human aspect that harms or is prone to suffering. I know, its weird to say this. It might even sound dangerous. But we have to get to this, otherwise our human misanthropy will lead us to fight agains each other’s faults or imperfections. The extreme example of this is nazism for instance: A struggle of one man to destroy human imperfection through human misanthropy. Of course it was doomed to failure.
But wow do we accomplish a benevolent, pure misanthropy that will actually transcend humanity’s harmfulness and proneness to suffering? Well, through love of course. True love I mean.
Beware, in this proposal I make love is not the opposite of hate. Love is not desire. It is not contrary to aversion. That is not love, that is just another way to harm ourselves. That kind of human tainted love is possessive, exclusive, jealous, impartial, fragmented. What I am talking about is different: it is love that is openness and basic space for everything and everyone. The kind of love I speak of is spacious willingness to end the unwholesome. So the key word here are “spacious”, “willing” and “open”. If we make it an action, such spacious and willing way of ending, is not in any way forceful or inflexible action that aims to end. Love here means naturally ending the unwholesomeness of humanity. We can begin by letting our concept of harmfulness end. There are plenty of techniques to accomplish this. Mindfulness of breath of course is the popular one. Become mindful of the way you breathe, while you are mindful of your harmful thoughts and they will end. The openness to the breathing process teaches one to become spacious and willing. It is in this space were thoughts find freedom to liberate themselves. And this space where harmfulness ends, is love.
Love could also be letting space form between us and our harmfulness. The key word here is “letting”. This action is effortless, just like ending. If you think about it, letting space form effortlessly is natural aversion. Much like the space that forms between an object in outer space that moves farther away from Earth. Such object naturally is generating aversion to Earth. We can apply this natural space we accumulate to generate natural aversion to unwholesomeness.
Of course one can argue, this natural aversion is not hating per se, because it lacks a human will to avert. And yes, that is true. But it is aversion nonetheless, in its purest form. So in my book, we can call it purified, organic, natural hate.
With this view, we must go to the root of human erratic hate to replace it with awakened wholesome hate, empty of suffering. The root, as mentioned before, is having likes and dislikes. This is so human. And again, to lose our likes and dislikes might sound horrible, but in Dharma, it is wholesome. The destruction of our preferences will open the door to a life without displeasure. How can human hate rise if there is no displeasure?
So let us destroy preferences but let’s do it in the same way we end harmfulness of hate, or in the same way we let space form between us and unwholesomeness. If we becoming willing to abandon the nourishment of preferences, these disintegrate little by little. Such organic way of tearing things apart has nothing to do with forced destruction. I am speaking of effortless destruction.
So now misanthropy can be equated with the spacious quality of love that destroys the harmful aspect of humanity, which is itself the cause of our inherent suffering. Should we then infer that we becoming less human in this way is good? Of course it is. And that’s ok because the goal in Dharma is to reduce harmfulness and increase wholesomeness in the most wholesome way possible.
Humanity as we know it, is harmful. Yet it would be stupid to get rid of humanity as humans tend to get rid of things. Better to use awakened, spacious misanthropy. This quality, as many other wholesome qualities, can be found the practice of meditation and the Buddhadharma.
Just sit and let humanity end. Act wholesomely and let harmful humanity inside you end. Become wise and let human ignorance end.
It’s really ok to think these things. Practice this.