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Posts Tagged ‘The Dhammapada’

In The Dhammapada as translated by Irving Babbitt (1936) he writes, “Difficult is it to obtain birth as a human being, difficult is the life of mortals, difficult is the hearing of the true Law, difficult is the rise of the Buddhas (page 30).”  When I read that a little light went on in my brain and I just sat quietly for a few minutes reading and reading over and over again this small yet powerful phrase.

It has been many years since I thought about this concept.  We used to say that in another way in Unity.  We would let our students know how hard it was for that one tiny sperm out of the huge number (20 to 100 million of them) that went swimming up the fallopian tubes to meet with the egg and create you.  What were those chances—one in a hundred million?!  That surely makes everyone on this planet extra special and as hard as it was for the sperm to fight gravity and rush up that tube toward the egg—it is just as hard a life for many of you.

Each of us has had to swim upstream against the current at times whether it was as a child who may have been bullied or did not do well in school, or had to move from place to place because of the parent ‘s jobs or financial difficulties.  As adults we often find ourselves in many of those same predicaments, but now as the adult we are supposed to solve the problems and create a safe, healthy, and prosperous life for ourselves and our families.

These words by Zeami may be a little solace for you.

Ten thousand fold are the roads on which we pass through life

Our eyes are caught by many things

Darkness and light come and go

Far over the mountains we walked

Clouds are hiding our traces

The path that we traveled we no longer know.

Zeami (1363-1443)

It is not the difficulties in life I’m worried about, but how I handle those difficulties as I travel the ten thousand roads.  How I handle them is what has created my life and my character. Those thoughts, actions, and desires empower, help, or hinder me and affect those who are in my life, from family, to friends, to co-workers.  They even affect total strangers who may encounter me on this road of life. Those thoughts cause me to suffer greatly or to be filled with joy and peace.

Babbitt continues to translate The Dhammapada and offers us a path to relieve our suffering, “Suffering, the origin of suffering, the destruction of suffering, and the eightfold noble path that leads to the release from suffering. That is the safe refuge, that is the best refuge; having gone to that refuge, a man is delivered from all suffering (page 31).”  As I have written before the Buddha did say that there would always be suffering in the world.  So that being true, how can we deal with it so that it does not take us over and destroy our lives?

Practice the eight fold path as it says in the Dhammapada.  Try taking one of the things each week and working on it until you see some relief and lightening up in your life.  Even if the light only appears for a minute it is better to spend that minute in the light than in the darkness and sorrow.

The Eightfold Path: Teaching of Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha

  1. Know the truth.
  2. Say nothing to hurt others.
  3. Practice meditation.
  4. Control your thoughts.
  5. Resist evil.
  6. Free your mind of evil.
  7. Work for the good of others.
  8. Respect life.

With this simple weekly practice soon you will no longer know that old path that you had traveled, but a new one will have taken its place and you will be born anew.

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In The Dhammapada (1936) translated by Irving Babbitt it says, “Whatever a hater may do to a hater, or an enemy to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief (page 9).”  We have had some terribly “wrongly-directed” minds in 2012—minds that have killed and minds that have kept legislation from being passed to help create jobs, feed the hungry, take care of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, our veterans, women’s healthcare, and more.  At this Christmas time it would behoove us to review our thoughts and actions to evaluate their intentions and their consequences.

Have you had thoughts of hatred toward others this year?  Have you created “mischief” in your life and theirs by the actions you have taken as those actions followed those thoughts down that path of negativity and revenge?  Revenge does not have to be a great and dramatic event like what happened this month at Sandyhook Elementary School; it can be as simple as an unfriendly or accusatory e-mail, or a note left on someone’s desk, or a negative thought or words about him or her.

We can never know the consequences of our actions.  That e-mail may have been enough to make that person lose his or her job, or feel badly about his self or herself and done something untoward afterwards.  It may have even made them get into an accident on the way home because the person’s thoughts were on it and not on the road, the traffic, or their driving. It may not be killing of the body, but it sure can be killing of the mind, spirit, and soul.

The Dhammapada goes on to say, “Not a mother, not a father will do so much, nor any other relative; a well-directed mind will do us greater service (page 9).”  So regardless of what you learned at the knee of your mother or father or favorite grandparent or relative or family friend—your thinking has made your life what it is today!

Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity Church, always said, “Thoughts held in mind manifest after their kind.” What does that mean?  Good thoughts bring good things into your life.  Negative thoughts bring negative things into your life.  You cannot give out hate, anger, and animosity and get back love, peace, and joy.

That is NOT the way the world works.  Remember the world is round, not just so it can fly through space on a circular pattern rather than be flying through space spinning out of control hither and thither, but so we can say “what goes around comes around.”  From winter we enter spring, which takes us to summer and then into fall.  This happens year after year, decade after decade, century after century, eon after eon.  The world spins round and round…and your thoughts do the same in your head and determine your actions and words.

As we take time this holiday season to contemplate the tragedy at Sandyhook Elementary let us think about the events in our lives that may not have left physical death, but may have left fear, sadness, anxiety, or trepidation in ourselves or in another.   We could have tempered our thoughts and the actions resulting from them and turned them into thoughts of good, love, compassion, empathy and the like and watched the growth of love, peace, and joy instead.

We never know who can turn into a child like the young men who killed in Colorado, Virginia, Connecticut, and elsewhere.  But surely we do not want to be the catalyst for the next one. So let us revise this quote for 2013: “A loving-directed mind will do great things for us and others and ultimately for the world.”

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