04 March 2014

Thoughts on The Dhammapada, verses 3 and 4

"He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who harbor such thoughts do not still their hatred.
"He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me." Those who do not harbor such thoughts still their hatred.

How does one "be" with their feelings, if those mentioned in verses 3 & 4 are present?  If one is experiencing hatred and stops dwelling on those thoughts, the hatred will cease.  How do we decide to not dwell on a thought?  It is in allowing the thought to flow through the river of the mind.  Often, we create snags that catch our thoughts and then, we dwell on them and, before long, in them.  They become the walls and bars of our self-constructed prison.  Then, we cry that someone else did it to us.  We complain and cry that we're falsely accused, but we don't realize that it is we who are falsely accusing others and we who have imprisoned ourselves with our thoughts.  

So, if I have and dwell in the thoughts like those in verses 3 & 4 of the Dhammapada, I will in reality be reinforcing my prison walls and strengthening its bars, and over time my cell will grow narrower and smaller until it fills my entire head.

Thoughts are things and they can be more powerful than nuclear bombs and harder than diamonds.  They can grow to fill our universe and yet fit in the space inside our heads.  If our thoughts are in line with our path, we can live in happiness and peace.  If they're not, our lives can be hell.  Allowing the kinds of thoughts in verses 3 & 4 can be like another Buddhist idea: i.e. like swallowing a red-hot iron ball and being unable to spit it out.  Hatred is, imho, one of the hell realms.  And, according to verses 5 & 6, love is the only thing that can put an end to hatred.  Love (Sanskrit: Maitri; Pali: Metta) is the key, the jailer, the dismantler of the prison we build for ourselves with hatred.  If that is the case, and from experience I believe it is, how do we "grow" our love, cultivate our love; how do we forge the key of love that will free us from our self-created prison in the hell realm of hatred?  Verse 6 gives us a hint--"People forget their lives will end soon.  For those who remember, quarrels come to an end." (trans. Eknath Easwaran).  We begin to awaken love by remembering that life is impermanent.  Impermanence is an important ingredient in love (not selfish, clinging, or attachment; but, true love--a love that gives).  The Tibetan Buddhists believe that all beings have at one time been our mothers.  If that helps, use it.  

The beauty of Buddhism is that you try things out and if they work, they become the raft (or at least part of the raft) that can take you to the other shore.  Love should be a major part of that raft. Or, in keeping with the prison metaphor: we try different combinations of things in order to fashion a key that will ultimately lead to our liberation--nirvana.  If we are talking about getting out of hatred, then love is the key, if we are talking about getting out of the prison house of samsara, love is only one ingredient of the key.  We will also require self-discipline and faith (to be full of faith), and a purified mind, truthfulness, self-control--all parts of a well-trained mind.  We will also need to be selfless.  Once we have cultivated all of those things through practice of the teachings, we will begin to have more freedom and joy and peace.  Enlightenment can come at any time, but it will not come (I use these words while assuming you understand it does not "come," it is here and now, but, alas, I struggle with language) if we continue to live in our thoughts of hatred, anger, lust, greed, etc.  In other words, it needs the proper conditions.

These thoughts act like a very strong sleeping pill, keeping us asleep.  It is when we learn, and practice what we learn, that we counteract the drug of samsara and thus, are able to wake up.  So, it takes a small amount of waking up to see that we are dwelling on/in the kinds of thoughts stated in verses 3 & 4.  We have to wake up enough to realize that it is our own mind (our own thoughts) that is keeping us in the prison of the hell realm of hatred.  We have to wake up enough to see that love is the way out.  We have to wake up enough to learn the way to cultivate love, faith, compassion, and the other things, that will liberate us.  It's not enough to recognize the key or even to hold the key.  It must be placed in the lock and turned.  This is the practice.  

If someone has done wrong to us or to our loved ones, often we experience anger, hatred, and maybe a host of other emotions.  How do we keep these from becoming a prison (even temporarily)?  One way is by remembering that we have used the key to free ourselves, and we have been practicing with that key: love.  But, how do we love those people?  I answer that with a question: How do we love anyone?  If we love one person, we can love two, and so on.  It is our own mind that produces the thoughts of affinity and of aversion.  If we can let go of those, we can truly love.  And then, we will come to understand the other person better which will lead to a deeper and a truer love.

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