Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sample Chapter of Easing into the Dhammapada

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Great Idea #2

Hatred Cannot Overcome Hatred

I once read that some people can only see beauty when it is there in front of them, while others can take any situation and create beauty. It’s a different kind of awareness, a deeper seeing and presence, that often allows beauty to bloom from seemingly ugly experiences, spaces and individuals.  The saint makes holy where-ever they dwell because of the consciousness they embody. In a very real sense, they call on you to see what is possible and beautiful in yourself.
We live in a world of violence.  Even in our sports, we laud victory over another.  The Dhammapada points out, however, that the truest victory is always the one over yourself.  Once you no longer harm yourself, you are less likely to harm others.  Once you struggle with destructive habits, you are able to be compassionate with the habits of others.  Once you realize that much of violence arises from people who are seeking happiness just like yourself, you will open your heart.
The Dhammapada uses your own awareness and experiences as a fertile garden to grow compassion for others.  Gradually, as you awaken, you begin to understand that usually when you do not harm others, you will not be harmed. You feel deeply that everyone fears punishment and death like you, so why would you punish or kill? You begin to see that gentle speech really does “catch more butterflies than vinegar” and that when you hate people, you are really separating yourself from the real joy of living.
“Those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins” (verse 222). The image is powerful, and for the false charioteers, nothing less than a wreck is waiting to happen.  The whole body is at your disposal to do good—this thing you call the physical self that can smile and hug and bend over and help; this speech that can edify and uplift or drag down and condemn; this mind that can be clear and kind or clouded, driven and aggressive; this breath that can flow without effort or be tight, choking, or rough; this intuitive self can be aware of the beauty as well as the garbage that is around you; and this lightness that is the joy, your birthright that knows even in the midst of conflict, evil and defeat, “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well (Julian of Norwich)”.  In the end, peace really is your choice, one you make moment by moment.

Poetic Response:

A mob has been seeded into Facebook posts,
with words like
They and Them and Him and Her,
soundbite micro-realities mixing
with the rush of false intuitions,
illusions heated in little silver children’s spoons,
the flames media-fed and blue-screen hot,
and thundering
word by word by word
full color aura
into the pupils of millions of eyes.

Questions to Take You Deeper:

1.      Do you believe, way down deep, that if you do not harm, you will not be harmed?  Why or why not? What attributes do you need to refine to live a life of no harm?
2.      Can you recall a time when your compassion for another diffused a difficult situation in your life?  What concrete ways can you practice compassion? Choose one and “try it on” for a period of time.  What differences do you notice in your life?
3.      How does “mob mentality” show up in your life?  How does cultivating awareness help you keep your balance in charged situations?
4.      For one day, choose to practice gentle speech.  How do YOU feel at the end of the day?  What did you notice about how others responded to you?  Did you know that in some monastery and retreat settings, folks are asked to not talk about anyone unless they are physically present?  Try that practice for one day and jot in your journal or share with others what you learned about yourself.
5.      How does non-harming feel in your body, this sense that you are filled with awareness and goodwill to all?  Be concrete!  How does your body feel when you are afraid, angry or confused?  Again, be as concrete as you can. Do you think being able to recognize physical states can help support your desire to be compassionate?

Reference Verses
  1. 3, 4, 5, 6 (Hatred cannot overcome hatred)
  2. 98 (saints make holy wherever they dwell)
  3. 103-105 (victory over yourself, rather than others)
  4. 117-118 (awareness of evil habits)
  5. 124 (no harm comes to those who do no harm),
  6. 129 (everyone fears punishment and death like you do)
  7. 131-32 (do not strike at those seeking happiness and you will not be struck)
  8. 133-134 (gentle speech)
  9. 137-140 (the pain that comes from harming the innocent)
  10. 197 (live in joy, never hating those who hate)
  11. 222 (“those who hold back anger are real charioteers, others merely hold the reins.”)
  12. 231 (use your body, tongue, mind for doing good)

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