The Dhammapada

These are simply some of my ramblings based upon the themes that are described in the Dhammapada, which is a handbook of Buddhist teachings. Feel free to copy, print and distribute as you wish as long as you attribute my name and do not use this for any material profit. This work is © copyright 1999-2006 to Toshi Takeuchi.

Chapter 1, The Twin Verses
Chapter 2, Vigilance
Chapter 3, Thought
Chapter 4, Flowers
Chapter 5, The Immature
Chapter 6, The Wise
Chapter 7, The Saint
Chapter 8, Thousands
Chapter 9, Evil Conduct
Chapter 10, Punishment
Chapter 11, Age
Chapter 12, Self
Chapter 13, The World
Chapter 14, The Awakened One
Chapter 15, Joy

Any excerpts I quote are from the translation of Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri press.

Chapter 1, The Twin Verses

 Our life is shaped by our mind; we become
what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought
as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.

 This is a central theme in Eastern religion. "We become what we think." I think what this means is that your actions will be dictated by what you think, and what you want. I think most of us are caught up to this in some extent. We go to school and want to buy that car, and then we finally graduate to get enough money to buy that car, and then next we want that house. Once we buy that house, we are looking forward to the next car and the next computer.

In this never ending cycle, what we are thinking about is all of our materials, and all we become is a machine to pay for all of these materials. Eastern religions (well, all religions) teach that there is more to life than this. Why is there suffering? Well, if we are too poor to buy the dream house, then we are always suffering because we are not satisfied with what we have and we are not experiencing and appreciating what we have right now.

I'll write that again, because it's such an important point in my mind. There is suffering because we are not satisfied with what we have; we are wishing we had more and not appreciating how lucky we are right now.
The only time most of us appreciate how good we had it is when we don't have it anymore. This happens to me a lot when I get sick, or hurt myself. When I'm hurt, I remember how nice it is to be free from the hurt, but when I'm fine, I rarely think about how fortunate I am.

 One thing to think about is that our actions are dictated more by habit than anything else. If we have good habits, then we will have good actions. If we don't have good habits, then we need to work at getting good habits. This principle will come up again and again.

 How can we develop good habits? It is suggested in the Tibetan Book of the Living and Dying that we should go through life thinking that it is our last day. One thing this comes in handy is with interactions with other people. For example, if this were your last day of life, then would you spend it thinking about how you are going to retaliate for someone's actions? If we can go to bed every night thinking that we spent our (last) day well, then that would be a positive accomplishment.

 Think carefully about what is really important. We don't really stop and think about what we are doing in our lives. We go to work, come back, eat, watch TV/surf the web, and then we go to sleep and start over again. All of our good and honorable intentions are lost because we don't stop and think about them. Meditation can be very helpful because you slow down and then your mind gets to integrate our daily activities and helps to put things into perspective.

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Chapter 2, Vigilance

 These lines summarize vigilance in my mind:

 If you meditate earnestly, pure in mind and
kind in deeds, leading a disciplined life in
harmony with the dharma, you will grow
in glory.

There are so many distractions in our life that we have to work hard to think about what is really important to us and what we focus our energy and efforts upon. I like to focus on habits because our habits often rule our lives. I will keep coming back to this idea because it seems pervasive to me.

If we have a positive habit of meditating every day, then it takes effort to break the routine and not meditate. Similarly, if we have a negative habit, then it takes effort to break the negative habit. Many people have the idea that we would like to become a different person overnight. We must rid ourselves of our bad habits overnight. This idea of immediately becoming a new person almost inevitably fails, and then we may decide that there is no hope in changing.

The problem with the idea of trying to change overnight is that we can't change years and years of "bad" habits in a day. Just like it's easiest to quit smoking by stepping down on the amount of nicotine through patches or other means, it's easiest to change our habits a little at a time.

 It may be most useful to prioritize goals and try to make incremental changes towards the goal in mind. It takes vigilance and a great deal of effort to follow a course of action that we are not used to doing.

 The verse focuses upon meditation with discipline in life.--

 What does discipline mean? It means making a commitment
of some sort.--

 I will meditate at least 5 minutes a day. For those of you
who meditate every day, then 5 minutes might seem trivial,
but for those of us who have trouble meditating, 5 minutes
seems short, but never materializes.

 Choose what commitment you'd like to make, regardless of how
little it is. One little step forward is much better than
going nowhere.

 My friend used to say that she didn't believe in New Year's resolutions. She thought it was stupid because why do you have to wait until the New Year to make a resolution? Every day is just as good as any other isn't it?

 My comment was that I think she is right, but the problem is that most people do not reflect upon their lives all year long, and if the New Year's resolution is the only time they reflect upon their lives and try to make a positive change, then it is better than nothing.

 However, I do agree with my friend's idea that every day we should make a resolution to become a better person. We should strive to be vigilant and set realistic, achievable goals for ourselves.--

 In a similar discussion with my fiancee, I asked her why I had to buy flowers on Valentine's day. I said that every day of the year is just as good as any others. Well, what I realized is that although every day of the year may be as good as the other, I very rarely bought flowers or did the sorts of things that "could be done any day of the year".

I'm sure that most of us have many things to think about and work on improving, but we just need to make the time to do it. I need to try to do this in small steps and start today...

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Chapter 3, Thought

 As an archer aims his arrow, the wise aim their
restless thoughts, hard to aim, hard to restrain.

 Goldstein and Kornfield discuss some exercises to watch our thoughts throughout the day in Seeking the Heart of Wisdom. For example, think about how many times we have nice thoughts during the day and how often we act upon them.

 Conversely, how many times do we have mean thoughts during the day, and how often do we act upon them?-

 The idea behind watching these thoughts is to observe how we think and behave. We follow our patterns and habits, so if we can observe and understand our habits, then we can begin to train our thoughts, which will lead to helpful habits.

 An idea is that if we often get angry and have to restrain ourselves from striking another person, then one of these days, we may accidentally slip and hit someone without rational thought.--

 However, if you never have thoughts about striking someone, then you will never have a mistake and hit them!

 This is not to say that one should never hit another. However, if you are well trained, then you may only hit another person when it is absolutely necessary, and not when you lose control! --

 If we have helpful thoughts, then we can reinforce these thoughts by acting upon them. After a while, positive actions will then become habitual.

 If we have negative thoughts, then we must try not to act upon them. However, we can't simply turn the thoughts off and ignore them.--

 If I'm angry, then I can't simply turn off the anger. I might try to shove it off someplace, but it may come back stronger twofold. What can we do?

 Anger, love, hate, lust, kindness. All of these emotions are part of our makeup, and we can't ignore them. Yes it sounds new-agey, but let me put it in a different light.

 ANGER does not mean violence. Love does not mean protection.
Hate does not mean avoidance. Kindness does not mean giving.

 In order to train our thoughts, we need to change our associations with a certain emotion.--

 Our instincts may rise up and tell us that we should be angry, but we don't have to associate that with violent actions or thoughts. We can recognize the anger and sometimes the best way to act is the opposite fashion.

 If we love someone, then we may want to protect them from harm, and perhaps that is what our instincts may say, but we can recognize our instincts and allow for that, but sometimes loving means letting go.

 What I think we might do is recognize our emotions and habitual responses, but we don't have to respond to the emotions in the set habitual manner. Accept our feelings but we don't have to act upon them in the same ways that we are accustomed to.

I don't think we should feel guilty for having the emotions, because they are natural. Don't try to push the feeling away if you don't like it. We should come to terms with it and work with it the best we can. There are many ways to work with our emotions, but the easiest way may be through meditation.----

 I think if we meditate, it helps us guide our thoughts and desires. Some things we liked to do just don't seem to be too enticing anymore. Sometimes it's hard because we end up changing our lifestyle a bit, which means the activities that we previously liked to do may no longer seem interesting. The unfortunate aspect of this is that the friends that we used to do these things with may also fade away. This is even more difficult if one person in a relationship changes, while the other person expects a static, unchanging relationship. People change and grow, and both persons in the relationship should try to work at growing together. It would be unreasonable to expect a static unchanging relationship because life doesn't work that way...

 I don't think meditation is easy. I don't think change is easy, but I will continue to try and meditate and work at it because it has been very helpful for me, and I intuitively think that it is best for me.

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Chapter 4, Flowers

 This chapter starts out:

 As a garland-maker chooses the right flowers,
choose the well-taught path of dharma...

 One simple definition of dharma is the ultimate truth as taught by the Buddha.--

 What is this ultimate truth that we should follow?

 The truth that we should follow is already within us. Although we may like to pretend we're stupid, we realize a great deal about what is good for us and how we should act. Please, let's strive to be the best we can!--

 What is this analogy with a garland maker? The garland maker can choose the right flowers, just as we can choose the right course of action.

 A simple point is that if we are going to act unfavorably in a given situation, then we have to stop ourselves from being placed in the awkward position.

 If I happen to drink and smoke when I go to a bar, and I don't like that behaviour, then the best thing to do for me is to avoid the bar in the first place.

 I know that hard habits are difficult to break, so we have to try things step by step. I've talked about that in previous sections, so I'll move on.

 Another idea expressed within this verse is that we should work with ourselves, rather than focus on the deficiency of others.

 What we don't like in others is in part a reflection of ourselves.--

 Since we see something that we don't like in others, this means that we are able to recognize the trait that we don't like.

 1. It could mean that we have overcome that deficiency so we might get irritated that the other person has not overcome it. (This is the "ideal scenario" a more likely scenario is that we haven't really overcome the trait either! :-)

 We can recognize this irritation and have sympathy for the
person and act accordingly. Some things that may be easy
for us will be difficult for others. The converse is also
true. Others will help with things that are difficult
for us.

 2. This irritation of others actions may be caused because we see other people doing what we do and it's being used against us instead of used against them.

 This is a funny one. (Well, not so funny during the time...)
This experience is a good reflection in the mirror. A good
example may be if someone else tries to make you do something
you don't want to using the same tactic that you use on others.

 An interesting way to deal with this situation is to behave in an unexpected way. If someone is poking at you and expecting to make you angry, then if you act in a happy way, then the other person becomes aware of this tactic and is faced with dealing with this issue (they'll get angry when they get an opposite response).

 The thing is that many of our interactions are so natural that we don't recognize what we are doing. The more we become aware of what we are doing, the less we become creatures of habit...--

 The final idea of this verse is that a beautiful flower amidst the pile of garbage lifts the spirit of all passerbys.

 Most people are quite susceptible to their local environment. If the environment is gloomy, then people will tend to be quite gloomy themselves. If the environment is happy, then it will be hard to stay unhappy there. The issue that arises, especially in negative environments is that our mood and actions will be dictated by the environment rather than being dictated by what we know to be good and right.

 If people bicker and fight over stupid things, then our natural tendency may be to join in the battle and bicker better than other people and make others even more miserable than we are.--

 The idea described in the Dhammapada is that more garbage in a bad environment only makes things worse. However, a beautiful flower in a bleak environment will be uplifting to all. We should strive to have positive actions at all times--not only when it's easy to behave well. If you have trouble doing it, then try hard to find someone else who is positive and hang out with them. Positive interactions will feed upon each other.

 Another thing that may help is to visualize yourself in a negative situation, but act in a positive fashion. If you can practice at being positive in a negative situation, then when the time comes, it will be easy. If it is still difficult in real life, then keep practicing the visualization of positive actions.

 Another example of this may be in a relationship where there is truly a connection of love, but the little patterns of annoyance keep rising up, sometimes to the point of disaster.--

 Because those patterns are so ingrained in our reactions, it is difficult to overcome. This visualization exercise may be of use. Most of us are so used to the pattern that we don't know how to react any other way! If we visualize the occurrance, then we can plan out a better course of action. However, this doesn't mean that there shouldn't be any conflict. Sometimes conflict is necessary (especially since relationships must be worked on from both sides); however, the interaction can be planned instead of coming from angry reactions, which usually don't help anything.

 It is easy to stay the same and behave the same. So in the end, I think that it all comes down to making an effort to become a better person.

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Chapter 5, The Immature

 I will comment on this verse:

 If you find no one to support you on the
spiritual path, then walk alone. There is no
companionship with the immature.

 The first thing that comes to mind is that we are all immature, so this verse is not meant to put people down, but for us to strive to do our best. Perhaps it can be used to help us reflect upon what we are doing and the importance it has in our

 The point is that if we associate with mature people, then our own immaturity may be good for a little comic relief, but other than that it would feel childish after a while. If we associate with people who are interested in improving their lives and growing as a person, then we will tend to be interested in the same things. On the flip side of the coin, if we hang out with people who are only interested in making money, then we will get bored of talking about money, or else we will also be interested in making a bunch of money.

As discussed in Chapter 4, our surroundings greatly influence our behaviour, and so we should try to improve our surroundings by first improving ourselves. If we are tired of talking about money, then we should try to bring up some other point of conversation. Perhaps we'll end up talking to someone else at work who is interested in the same topics. Eventually, we may end up with a whole new set of friends and other friends will fall away.

 I had this experience when I first started meditating. I was in high school and I was worried about what this person or that popular person was thinking about me, but after a while, whatever the popular people were interested in, I wasn't interested in, and I didn't care about what they were thinking. At first I was worried about being brainwashed because nothing was getting better, but I felt happier. I eventually realized that my priorities were changing for the better and that was why I was much happier.--

 The opposite of immaturity is maturity. Unfortunately what comes with maturity is responsibility. I don't think that any one of us particularly likes increased responsibility. However, when we are faced with a decision to act irresponsibly (with immaturity) or responsibly (with maturity), then we should try our best to act responsibly. This seems obvious in writing, but if we carefully examine ourselves, then we will probably find something immature that we do reflexively and we really would have to work to be more mature. Here's a simple example:

 Is it my turn to wash the dishes? Aww :(, sucking my thumb.--
Sometimes it's nice just to be of help without having to battle to be nice. I know from experience that men probably have more of a problem with this than women :).

 I'm not trying to make moral judgements about household chores or anything, but I'm simply saying that we have our patterns of behaviour. If we look closely at ourselves than we can see those patterns and act in the best way. Sometimes it feels really nice to be childish and immature, but we can have a very positive impact all around by acting with maturity, the best we can.

 For example, parenting imposes a great deal of responsibility and forces a great deal of maturity from the parents. Is there any reason that we can't act towards others the best we can the same way we may act towards our children?

I think that many people we interact with are just children in grown up bodies. (The same can be said for ourselves in many respects, like the dishwashing for me.) If we had patience for ourselves and others as we unlearn our childish actions, then life could go much more smoothly.

If we can carefully examine our actions and recognize our own immaturities, then we can think about how to better ourselves and act with more maturity.

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Chapter 6, The Wise

If you see a wise man who steers you away
from the wrong path, follow him as you would
one who can reveal hidden treasures. Only good
can come out of it.

 If we have friends that live their lives honorably and with "wisdom", then that positive effect will rub off on us. Conversely, if we have people around us that live their lives dishonorably, then the negative effects will also rub off negatively on us.

 What a wise person can impart is not rules and regulations about religious doctrine. Wisdom comes from experience and understanding, which is different from rote knowledge or intelligence. In other words, a person with wisdom will "steer you from wrong" not because they hide and shield you from the wrong but because they teach you the principles that underlie the rules. They will give an understanding behind the proper actions. However, this understanding will not necessarily impart wisdom upon us. Sometimes we will need to learn the hard way.

 To give a simple example, suppose there was a rule that thou shall not touch hot pans. The pan zealot says, "Do not touch the hot pan! It has been so decreed." Someone with a little more wisdom may say, "Do not touch the hot pan because it will burn you..." I, lacking experience with hot pans may decide to touch it to see what all the fuss is about. I thereby burn myself and decide that hot pan rule is a good one!--

 Sometimes there may be other more difficult problems that can give a lifetime of difficulties. However, a person with great wisdom may be able to guide us in ways that will minimize our difficulties and speed our learning process. Also meditate earnestly. Meditation does not mean just sitting down and meditating. It is a process of gaining awareness of our habits, thoughts and actions throughout the entire day. If we know how we act, then we will be able to see the true impact of our actions...

 Finally, if we have friends/teachers who are on an honest path of learning and wisdom, then keep the friendship strong and then we may be able to share our "hidden treasures".

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Chapter 7, The Saint

 This seems to be a somewhat difficult chapter conceptually for many people. For example, take this quote:

 Like the flight of birds in the sky, it is hard to
follow the path of the selfless. They have no
possessions, but live on alms in a world of
freedom. Like the flight of birds in the sky,
it is hard to follow their path.

At first glance I can see that I am no saint, so what can I learn from this text?

 The saints live properly "like the flight of the birds in the sky". It is effortless. This is a crucial point.--

 I look at myself and see that my life is not effortless.
How can we live effortlessly?

 In order to live effortlessly, we need to observe the things that cause suffering in our life. It's simple in many ways. If we are a smoker and have breathing problems, then the solution is to stop smoking. Nevertheless, although we intellectually know what we need to do, we still may not be able to overcome our habit.--

 One way to overcome our unhelpful habits is by paying close attention to our actions, so that we can catch ourselves falling into the habit. A habit is something that we often do without thinking, so thinking about what we do can help in this aspect. The practice of meditation can also be very helpful in this process. The act of sitting down and meditating can help us to step back from the daily grind and patterns of reaction and action.

If we build up positive habits, then soon these good habits will be effortless, and we are that much closer to our state of sainthood :). Furthermore, the more time we spend doing something positive, the less time we can spend doing something negative.--

There are still more difficult lines in the text:

 Freed from illusion and from personal ties,
they have renounced the world of appearance
to find reality. Thus they have reached the

 Many people will say, "Hey, I don't want to renounce my personal ties. I don't want to live without possessions."

 That is missing the point.

 We can have personal interactions and can still live in our world with possessions. The aspect to observe is our interaction with others and our possessions. The saint will probably live within their means and not get extra
possessions that are not needed. Extra money, for example could be given to others who may need it more.

 Similarly, we probably shouldn't interact with others just looking out for ourselves. e.g. what am I getting out of it? Sometimes doing what is best will require that we make concessions and an effort in our relationships.--

 Some people complain that we are supposed to renounce all attachments. Another way of looking at it is to make the best of every moment:

 If we went through life living our last day, then we probably would behave a lot differently! We take things for granted. We are attached to our life
and our relationships, and so we are attached to our expectation that they will last forever. They never last forever!--

 If we are not attached to those around us, then we never take them for granted; we can live life proudly, and if we lose a loved one, we can go on knowing that we made the best of every moment.

 The chapter ends:

 They make holy wherever they dwell, in village or
forest, on land or at sea. With their senses
at peace and minds full of joy, they make
the forests holy.--

 I seems that the saint lives their life making the best of their time and acting in the best interest of all concerned.

 This does not sound dreary and dull to me; it is worth striving for.

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Chapter 8, Thousands

 This chapter previously seemed so straightforward, leaving me nothing to say. However, at this time it has a good lesson for me, and I'll try to pass it on.

 Better than a speech of a thousand vain words is one
thoughtful word which brings peace to the mind...

 Better to live in virtue and wisdom for one day than
to live a hundred years with an evil and undisciplined

The point that struck me is that it says forget the past and think about now. It is better to be your best now than to worry about the past wrongs and continue along your same path.

 If we wasted 1000 days doing nothing useful, it doesn't matter because if we start now and act with wisdom and virtue, then we can truly start to live.

 Every moment counts, and this one moment here can be the start of a better future, but if we don't take the steps to make our lives better, then we will continue on the same path without gain.

 Let's act now at this moment for our better growth and understanding.

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Chapter 9, Evil Conduct

 Here is an excerpt from the chapter:

 Hasten to do good; refrain from evil. If you
neglect the good, evil can enter your mind.

 If you do what is evil, do not repeat it or take
pleasure in making it a habit. An evil habit
will cause nothing but suffering. If you
do what is good, keep repeating it and take
pleasure in making it a habit. A good habit
will cause nothing but joy.

 This verse sums up much of what I really appreciate about Buddhism. It is so simple and obvious in its philosophy.

 The above verse gives a simpleminded view of karma. If you perform evil actions, then you will form a habit to do evil, and it will take much work to undo that evil habit. If you perform good actions, then it will take alot of effort to unlearn your good actions. Keep reinforcing the good and try to stay away from the bad.

 I would try not to make too much of what is "evil" and what is "good". We are grown people and can make decisions on our own. The idea is simply to try to emphasize what we know to be good for us, and to avoid those things that are not good for our well being.

 How do you put the above into practice? Well the simplest thing is to avoid being put in a position where you will do wrong and try to be put into a position where you can do right.

 Much of this has to do with the company we hold. If we associate with people who do wrong, then we will tend to do wrong. If we associate with people who do right, then we will tend to do right. (We have habits of association too...)

 Let's try to strengthen our association with positive influences.

 In my own experience, the practice of meditation helped me strengthen my positive associations and decrease my negative associations. It wasn't as if I was cutting myself off from my friends just because they were bad influences. It was more like our common interests grew apart and we spent less time together. Similarly, some other friendships grew as we reinforced our positive aspects and were less interested in other aspects.

 Meditation is supposed to train our mind and help us in our actions. For this reason, I am trying to work hard to meditate regularly and hopefully this will be one positive habit in all of our lives!

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Chapter 10, Punishment

 There are several interesting concepts in this chapter. The first idea is:

 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

 Here is how this is stated in the Dhammapada:

 If, hoping to be happy, you strike at others
who also seek happiness, you will be happy
neither here nor hereafter.

 This idea seems very simple, but hard to put into in practice. I will discuss more of this below.

The second concept is that the evil you do will come back and haunt you. This idea is somewhat difficult to grasp. Why is it that if you do bad things, that bad things will necessarily come back to you?

 It comes back to the principle that what your desires are, determines what you do. For example, do you interact with others because you mistreat or manipulate them? If so, then people will treat you with suspicion and avoid you as much as possible. Do you interact with others in a kind, gentle, and helpful way? If so, then you will be welcomed by others and the gift of kindness will be returned twofold.

Therefore the kind of person you are will determine the people that are around you and how they will treat you in general. Be the best person that you can be, and you will be rewarded.--

 Another important principle described in this chapter is that it is not how you appear on the outside that is important, but what you are like on the inside that is important.

You can wear the robes of a monk and appear like a monk, but the robes do you no good if your thoughts and actions are impure. Conversely, someone who lives on the street and looks dirty and unclean may be pure in heart and spirit and truly blessed.

 This consequence of this simple idea is that we have to treat everyone by who they are and not what they look like. For example, it may be instinctual to look away from someone handicapped because you don't want to stare at their problems. However, I was on the train one day, and a lady in a wheelchair was angry and saying that people treat her as if she doesn't exist and that is what was getting her down in her spirits. She would much rather that people acknowledge her as a person and not avoid her like the plague. That seems so reasonable, and I will try not to forget that!

 Here is another personal example. I always used to avoid people who tried to hand things to you (because you figured that they just wanted something from you). So, I would avoid them and basically pretend they didn't exist. However, one day I volunteered at the Hollywood bowl at a LA Philharmonic concert, and our job was to hand out some flyers to the people who were attending the concert. Now I got to be the one who was distrusted and ignored by many people, and I sure didn't like that much. So now, I definitely treat people who hand out things differently. I may not take what they are giving out, but I don't treat them like trash either...

 This comes back to the principle of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we were down on our luck and on the street, then I'm sure that we would appreciate it if people treated us like human beings and not untouchables.
As you can imagine, these things are hard to put into practice because we have our habits ingrained within us. Perhaps for many of us, it will not be until we are on the street one day that we will not respect others in the same situation, but hopefully we can examine our interactions with others throughout the day so we can act with understanding rather than instinct. --

 The final point in this chapter is that being good means being well trained. If we work hard at being the best that we can, then acting with compassion and understanding will be natural, and will require no thought. Let's work hard to achieve this in our lives...

As a well-trained horse needs no whip, a well-trained
mind needs no prodding from the world to be good.

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Chapter 11, Age

A common theme in the Dhammapada is to raise awareness of the impermanence of things that we have attachments to. This increased awareness will help focus our actions and thoughts upon things that will have lasting benefits upon our lives.

Age is something we rarely think about, especially while we are young. -When we are healthy, young and strong, we do not appreciate it; -conversely, when we are sick, old or weak, we may pine away for our youth, not appreciating everything we are blessed with.

In the Dhammapada it states, "Goodness does not grow old with the passage of time. A man that does not learn from life grows old like an ox: his body grows, but not his wisdom."

The main point of this chapter is that we should focus our actions on things that have lasting benefit to our beings.

What kind of things are permanent?

In Buddhism, there is the concept of Nirvana, which is a state beyond death and beyond time. Furthermore, there is the idea that we as beings are locked in a cycle of birth and death for thousands of lifetimes until we learn and grow to a point that we can attain this state of enlightenment.

-I previously have not written about these ideas because one really does not need to know, understand or believe in any of these concepts in order to achieve the benefits gained by practicing the teachings described.

However, these concepts raise important points that should be considered. The idea is that our actions may benefit not only this lifetime, but many lifetimes.

In other words, if you can act in such a way that you can prevent many sorrows and misfortunes in our lifetime but also in the future, then these actions would certainly be very valuable. Thus, these concepts of enlightenment and reincarnation should be brought up.

However, these concepts should not be blindly believed nor should we have expectations of others to understand or believe these concepts. The validity (or invalidity) of these ideas should be personally investigated and experienced. In other words, these ideas have been developed based upon the experiences of others and will ultimately be experienced by us. Thinking about these ideas can raise our awareness and guide our experiences.

This question is asked by many people, 'Why should I want to change? The ups and downs are part of life, and you are not experiencing life to the fullest by just being in the middle all the time. It seems kind of flat and boring to me.'

Let's look at it from another perspective. Being in the middle ground means enjoying life all the time.

Why be happy only sometimes and sad sometimes? If we appreciate everything we have, then every moment there is a reason to be joyful. There is something good to be seen in every experience.

Let's look at today, right now. Have we appreciated our situation right now? Have we appreciated our friends, family and other loved ones? When we are driving in the car, are we only thinking about what a jerk the person is in front of us, or are we enjoying our surroundings and our fellow passengers in the car?

--If we can learn to appreciate even the simple joys in our life, then we won't be so busy looking for happiness when it may really be there right in front of us. The highs and lows of the past will seem like a cheap thrill in comparison to the constant joy that we are capable of experiencing in our lives.

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Chapter 12, Self

The basic point of this chapter is that we must be vigilant about our own self and our own actions. We are quick to judge others but very slow to judge ourselves.

We should examine ourselves and our actions and work with that first. Once we have a solid foundation with our own selves, then we can set a good example for others.

"let he who cast the first stone..."

True compassion comes from understanding the weaknesses within all of us. Once we have strength within ourselves, this wisdom can assist others through compassion and understanding.

Strangely enough, the line between compassion and cruelty is very thin. When we understand ourselves and our weaknesses and our strengths, we can see the same characteristics in others, since we recognize them in ourselves. What this means is on one side, we can see the weakness and leverage that for our own gain, but on the other hand, we could help and strengthen the individual, since we understand the weaknesses and can act compassionately.

What we don't realize, however, is how reflexive some of our behaviours are. I was shown this fact when I was younger through my relationship with my younger siblings, with whom I would somehow manage to say the most damaging things at the wrong time. Of course I love them all deeply, but somehow my ill-timed words got to the point of where I had to shake my own head in disbelief at the almost comical nature of the situation. This experience helped me to realize that I need to be much more aware of myself and my actions.

How can we further develop awareness of ourselves? I think we can keep a closer eye on our actions and thoughts throughout the day. By being more aware of our actions, we will learn to be aware of each moment and be able to act with greater understanding as opposed to habitual responses.

Perhaps one of the simplest places to start is to examine our thoughts and actions on our way to work or school. How do we interact with others during our way to work? Are we constantly impatient and getting angry at our fellow people? Can we enjoy our way in and appreciate our surroundings? Can we spend a few moments thinking about the good things in life and what we have to appreciate? Every once in a while, shut off the music and shut off the radio. Go to work with yourself and reflect upon our Self.

-What is the best thing to be doing? I'm sure that we will each need to figure that out for ourselves, but it is certainly something that is worth thinking about and evaluating.

-A second point to consider is what we do after work.

So much of our time is spent having others think for us when we watch TV or surf the web or play video games or etc... Take one night and shut the computer and TV off etc... Be with yourself and friends/family. Have some mindful conversation and take more time for ourselves to meditate and reflect upon our lives. Please take a moment now to reflect upon our Self and if possible.

Please, make some time every day to do reflect and meditate.

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