07 March 2014

Thoughts on Vigilance Chapter of Dhammapada

“... the guard [their vigilance] as their greatest treasure.”
Dhammapada, vs. 26, trans. Eknath Easwaran

Diligence comes from the Latin verb diligere, meaning to love, to take delight in.  That isn’t the usual feeling I’ve had when thinking of diligence; my own thinking, and that of many people I have discussed this concept with, is of drudgery, hardship, sacrifice, etc…  But, thinking of diligence with its Latin etymology helps when it comes to cultivating Right Diligence (yes, that is one of the parts of the Noble Eight-Fold Path).  

It’s not a drudgery or a chore; it’s something delighted in.  This line of thought reminds me of Jesus’ “My yoke is easy, my burden in light” (Matt. 11.30).  In the Dhammapada chapter on vigilance, I see the connection between the two concepts: vigilance means to keep awake; diligence means to be careful and persistent, or assiduous.  They are brought together in earnestness (i.e. showing sincere and intense conviction).

The delight gives one conviction to stay awake.  This all leads to one guarding their conquest of the mind, of the four kinds of Mara1.  Without Right Diligence we will lack the earnestness to be vigilant.  

We awaken a little to realize that we need to awaken.  We have an instant of enlightenment to show us we are sitting in darkness.  This is beginner’s mind.  Without that “small” awakening we will not be aware that we are asleep.  Once we have that beginner’s mind we will delight in practice: we will fall in love with the Buddha we are to become.  Love will keep us on the path.  This is why last time I talked about love as being the only thing that will put an end to hatred.  Love is what gave the five “wise” virgins, of the Gospels, their wisdom, i.e. their vigilance.

If what you’re doing feels like a chore, a burden, a drudgery, then it will not be Right Diligence.  There must be and ease and a joy involved in the doing.  Verse 26 of the Dhammapada says, “... the wise guard it [vigilance, heedfulness] as their greatest treasure” (trans. Easwaran).  Treasure is something people love, otherwise it’s not treasure.  If you have trouble with your faith or practice, if they are bothersome, like something you don’t want to do but must, then those are not your treasure--they are your burden.

Think about it like this: people don’t love, don’t take great care, and don’t keep awake and guard a thing they don’t want.  They do those things for things they treasure--for treasure!  This is the reason Jesus said in Luke 12.34, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The thing is: how do you change this?  How do you change what feels like a burden into a treasure?  Sometimes, you can’t, and in that case you have to accept the situation.  

You know the saying, “One person’s trash is another’s treasure”?  It has merit.  It may help to get a new perspective.  Try this: Make two columns on a piece of paper.  Then, write how you truly feel about the concept/practice that you consider a burden/a mere duty.  Then, in the second column, write down a different feeling--one you would rather have, would prefer to have.  Try something like: “I would prefer to see _________ as a splendid treasure instead of as a burden.”  Questions are powerful, so you can ask yourself, several times a day, something like: “Why is this belief/practice/concept/_______ a treasure to me?”  Have fun with it.  “Why is this _______ ‘my precious’?”  ;-)

It may be necessary to find a new practice--one that has ease, joy, peace and happiness in it.  It’s important to walk the Middle Way, i.e. not too tight, not too loose, but perfectly tuned to make the beautiful music of your life.

Once we have experienced the “small” awakening, we need vigilance to keep awake in order that we can walk the path to liberation, to freedom, to cessation of suffering.  Carry the treasure of vigilance with love and earnestness, with ease and joy, within your heart everywhere you go, every day of your life, every precious moment.

Peace! :-)


1. The four kinds of Mara: unwholesome mental factors, the Five Skandhas, death, and distractions.  For more on this, see: Thich Nhat Hanh, Awakening the Heart, note 75.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment. I need and want input. Just be respectful, please, to me and to others. Thanks.