What if we are practicing non-violence and someone breaks into our house and threatens us? What should we do?

It all depends on your level of cultivation. If you are an experienced practitioner who practises non-violence in your daily life, the chances are you will be more likely to react calmly and intelligently without harming anyone. The compassion one generates could influence the intruder to be less violent. But in order to be able to react in an intelligent and non-violent way, our day-to-day training is important. It may take years to develop. If you wait till a crisis happens, it will be too late. And at that crucial moment, even if you know all the teachings – to embrace compassion, to be non-violent, it is only intellectual knowledge. Since it is not an intrinsic part of your being, you may not be able to act in a non-violent manner. The self-centred cherishing attitude, the fear and anger in you will likely obstruct you from acting that way. Hence, it is important to transform our knowledge into practice and to embrace loving kindness and compassion in our daily life. Here is the story of a practising Buddhist reacting in a non-violent way when confronted with a robber.

Home Intrusion and the Protection by the Triple Gems

(The following article is extracted from the Buddhist Society of Western Australia Newsletter, Feb/Mar issue, 2010)

On that fateful night of 19 January 2010, a masked intruder armed with a knife, garden fork and a hammer walked into my house through an unlocked door around 9 p.m. I was cooking in my kitchen and happened to turn around to be confronted by this strange looking masked man standing about 4 feet away holding up his weapons.

Extreme terror came over me. I let out two blood curdling screams in quick succession. In a split second, I went into denial as I stared into his face to see if it was my husband, Sunny dressed up like that to frighten me.

Hearing the screams, Sunny came flying into the kitchen to investigate. The intruder ordered both of us to lie down on the kitchen floor and not to look at him. He told us to just look at his feet to know where he was.

As we went down on the floor, Sunny started chanting “om mani padme hum,” the Buddha of Compassion’s mantra, and I joined him in chanting quietly under our breaths.

At that point I was shaking with fear. Thoughts of being robbed, bashed senseless, raped or even killed ran amok in my mind. Minutes later a calmness came over me. I even questioned myself then as to why I was feeling so calm.

The first thing I said to the intruder was “We are peaceful people. Just tell us what you want and we will give it to you but please do not harm us.” His reply to that was, “I am also a peaceful person. If you do as I tell you, I will not harm you.”

That was cold comfort to us as he was the one holding the weapons and looked quite agitated and menacing. He added, “I want money. My wife is pregnant and I am homeless.” To that Sunny said, “I have $50 in my wallet.”

When he opened the wallet, he only found a $20 note. So then I gave him my purse which contained $30. At that point I thought he would ask us to drive him to the nearest ATM to get more cash and then will probably finish us off, but surprisingly there were no demands from him for more cash or anything else.

He was quite happy with the $50 cash, mobile phone and our car. He said he would return the car keys another day and leave them in our letter box. He later changed his mind, saying he would drive to Warwick Station and leave the keys under the car seat.

During our half hour ordeal, he apologised numerous times and asked for forgiveness. Twice he sounded as though he was about to cry for putting us through all this. Before leaving he asked for my name and I said “Lee Chew,” upon which he said “Oh, Mr and Mrs Lee Chew. Give me a minute to pray, God please forgive me. I am very very sorry.”

Immediately I said to him, “We have forgiven you. I will pray for you and I wish you all the best.” Even when he had reversed the car out onto the road he called out to us to come to him and apologised one more time before driving off.

After he left, we felt no anger towards him. In fact we were thankful to him for not physically hurting us. We also felt a little sorry for him for having to commit such negative actions which will definitely bring great suffering to him in the future.

The TV reporters who turned up at my house the next morning requested to interview us because according to them it was a bizarre story. Initially I turned them down but when they explained that our TV appearance will serve to warn and benefit others, we reluctantly consented for that reason only.

Looking back now we actually had a gentleman robber who showed concern for his victims. Although we had the negative karma to experience this terrifying ordeal, we also had a lot of good karma to protect us from a worse outcome.

We can still rejoice in the fact we now have one less negative imprint to experience. One of my Dharma friends wrote in an email to me saying, “If there is one thing she had learnt from our misfortune, it is the power of mantras, the power of forgiveness and the power of staying calm”.

If the story appeared bizarre to viewers with the aggressor saying sorry and asking for forgiveness, it is equally bizarre with the victims expressing forgiveness, offering prayers for the aggressor and wishing him all the best.

As I have told him I will pray for him, I have been faithfully dedicating my daily merits to him and for him to find peace, happiness, contentment in accordance with the Dharma and to immediately cease to create terror in other peoples’ minds, to have every opportunity to hear the Dharma and be transformed by the Dharma. This is my sincere wish for him.

Lastly we’d like to thank all our Dharma teachers for imparting Lord Buddha’s precious teachings that must have influenced the way we handled ourselves at a time like that.

Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu.
Lee Chew

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