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Dhammapada Chapter 15: Final Words

Introduction

Moments arise and then come to pass. At this very instant, I have started what will become the final chapter of this book. A blank page is staring back at me. I have no idea as to what words will follow or where they will lead me.

Once completed and reviewed, this is it. No overall final edit. No second or third editions. The digital pen is at rest for this work.

What you see before you is in its final form. Yet it is incomplete since not every Dhammapada verse was reviewed. It is imperfect because mere words cannot truly capture the underlying ultimate reality. And like the Japanese ideals of wabi-sabi, beauty lies in its incompleteness. From an initial vision of a collection of short stories, this work grew to the present expanded form. The final result is far better than I could have ever hoped for. Thank you for reading any part of this book. I hope that it provides some insights and peace. Blessings to all of you on your own life journey. May all find the true wisdom that they seek.

H.G.

Commentary

Whether partaking in a yoga or meditation session, reading a book like this, or taking a vacation, at some point most of us return to some sense of ‘normal life’. And that is when the real practice begins. In all those moments that elicit happiness, fear, sadness, anxiety, anger, joy, boredom etc. In each waking or sleeping moment. To us are they just one big blur, a time of incessant sameness and meaninglessness, or a chance to get our act together finally? Your answer will determine how easy or hard will be your life.

Wise Dharma teachers have simply said “Watch out for the areas of resistance in our lives.” Because they are the epicenter of our ego’s domain and a major opportunity for our own personal growth.

In time, we realize that our mind, body, and spirit need to work together in each moment to fulfill our life mission of taming and then freeing our mind and emotions.

And our planets also being imperfect, contradictory, and evolving. Each of us should find a “small patch of ground” to heal and make peaceful. Maybe today we start with one friend, or one garden. Coming from a place of abundance, there is no expectations, no pushing one’s ‘hidden agendas’ on others, and no rushing to accomplish anything. Just the rewards and richness of being open, deliberate, and performing non-judgmental observing. So may it be for all of us.

Practice

At the final practice section, what can I say differently than before? As earlier, these suggestions may not be truly Buddhist-inspired.

  1. There are many different translations of the Dhammapada. Reading other translations can give insights. Also Leo D. Lefebure has written some articles and a book on a Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada. Here is a sample of his article https:/muse.jhu.edu/article/522381 and a review of his book https://muse.jhu.edu/article/522386

Book information: The Path of Wisdom: A Christian Commentary on the Dhammapada. By Leo D. Lefebure and Peter Feldmeier. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2011. 379 pp.

  1. If you wish to read more on what I have written on spiritual matters, then feel free to download https://hallettgermanfiction.ml/download/775/ — Transitions 1 (Theravada)

https://hallettgermanfiction.ml/download/780/ –Transitions 2 (Dhammapada)

Or purchase Spiritual Storms at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/712225 with a book sample available for free reading.

  1. Begin and end the day with your own personal ritual — praying, meditating, singing, or wishing only the best for yourself and all beings.
  2. Investigate the “peace fellowships” for your affiliations. One such group for ‘engaged Buddhists’ is Buddhist Peace Fellowship) — http://www.buddhistpeacefellowship.org/ You may also want to read and think about Gary Synder’s “Buddhist anarchism” — https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/buddhist-anarchism/ which was written back in 1961.
  3. There are a lot of books/works on practice. Here are five I found approachable and helpful:

– Janwillem van de Wetering. — “The Empty Mirror: Experiences in a Japanese Zen Monastery.” Practice tip — Have a general practice schedule so you always know what you can be doing at any time.

– Eihei Dogen. “Advice for the Cook” https://wwzc.org/dharma-text/tenzo-kyokun-instructions-tenzo Practice tip: Nothing is Hidden. The path to awakening is right in front of us whether it is through cooking or some other “ordinary” activity.

-Yin Kuang.  “Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-land” — Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang.http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/yin_kuang.pdf  This is from a Zen and Pure Land perspective. Unfortunately, the free version leaves out the many insightful footnotes. Practice Tip: Incorporate all the circumstances in your life into your practice.

– Jack Kornfield. “Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters.” Theravada Buddhist elder teachers share their thoughts on what practice is. Practice Tip: Making small mental notes of whatever you are doing to bring awareness of your activities to the forefront of your mind.

– Ven. Thubten Gyatso. Transforming Problems Into the Dharma Path —http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/transprobs6.pdf Practice tip: Avoid our aversion to suffering.

  1. Inspire yourself and others through your daily example of speaking, thinking, and acting without harshness, judgment, or ill well.
  2. Watch for those moments when tired, angry etc. This is when you need to mind yourself the most to avoid harmful actions!
  3. Joining/starting a small practice support group of a few kindred spirits can help keep your practice on track.
  4. Being in silence or “just observing” throughout the day can keep your mind on track. It does not have to be that longa period. Just five to twenty minutes.
  5. Avoid emotionally-laden souls and situations as much as you can until you have developed the inner strength to deal with them. Just go a different way.
  6. Leave time in your day to explore and experience without an objective in mind.
  7. It all passes so quickly and circumstances can change dramatically in just a few seconds. Today is always the right day to do practice and encourage others to do the same.
  8. Work especially hard through those moments when you are ‘stuck’ on what happened in the past or planning for the future. Once you understand why you are ‘stuck’ and how temporary it is, the emotional/mental bindings shall free up.
  9. When in doubt, step back and breathe slowly. Let the thoughts arise and then pass. And then continue with your day.

15, Finish the sentence on your intention, “Today I choose not to …” and then follow-up doing just that throughout the day.

  1. All beings are not ‘others’, or threats to us. We all live their lives the best that we can just as you do. Once recognized, act through compassionate eyes.

17. Lastly, never stop practicing. Each day, you are already being more aware of yourself and avoiding harmful actions “in the heat of battle”. Each day, the sense of non-reactivity and spaciousness grows. Have the faith in yourself and the practice. And as Warren Zevon once said in his final days, “Enjoy every sandwich” whether it is your first or last. Because everything happening to ourselves and others are our precious teachers. Embrace their lessons and then move on to the next moment. For the past will never occur again except in our heads. And if we so choose. May we all practice well in each of our present, past, and future moments.

Dhammapada Chapter 17: Right Career Path

Introduction

I wanted to add a chapter on ‘Right Livelihood’ but could not find a proper location to include it. So, I made it a separate bonus chapter. It is one part of the eightfold path of the Buddhist teachings. The other parts of the path impact the guiding principles of a suitable career.

Characteristics of a Harmful Career

So, what would be some of the negative guiding principles on careers to avoid?

-Do not harm or exploit anything or anyone in any way. (Such as selling weapons, exploiting the natural materials on your planet, contract killer etc.)

– Do not provide access to any drug, alcohol, or other intoxicants that can confuse or hurt the mind.

– Do not have a career that includes lying, cheating, stealing, or causing others to hate or kill.

– Do not sell or provide sexual ‘goods’ that could excite the mind.

–  Do not be a creator of artistic works that could stimulate the mind or bring about certain powerful emotional/mental mind states. (Such as a playwright, artist, musician, or writer).

Characteristics of a Beneficial Career

What would be the characteristics of an acceptable career?

– Something that can benefit others and yourself.

– Something that heals others beings and yourself.

– Something that will heal, sustain, or grow the natural life on this planet.

– Something that removes those that harm, confuse, or exploit others.

These principles are timeless and may lead to a more satisfying career than a short-term focus could. They also can be extrapolated as to what makes up a healthy and unhealthy community or society.

Lewis Richmond has further insights on this topic and sees this as a conscious and very much needed life choice. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lewis-richmond/right-livelihood-is-consc_b_832298.html

Dhammapada Chapter 14: A Mind in Stillness

Introduction

The seventeen verses of the Dhammapada chapter named ‘Thirst’ cover some of the most profound teachings in just a few words.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0025

  1. The Bhikshu who controls his mouth, who speaks wisely and calmly, who teaches the meaning and the law, his word is sweet.
  2. The Bhikshu whose body and tongue and mind are quieted, who is collected, and has rejected the baits of the world, he is called quiet.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

A practitioner speaking with care and deliberation, and exemplifying beneficial practices through their efforts, is pleasing to others.

A practitioner living with a stilled mind, as a peaceful being, with a restrained tongue, and free from the mental suffering, they are called silent.

Practice

The previous chapters offer various suggestions of practice. Here are some more a few may not be necessarily Buddhist-inspired.

  1. Focusing on a question like WHO AM I? can be helpful in determining what really makes up our ‘I-identity.’
  2. If in a period of doubt and depression, then review what are the causes and conditions resulting in these feelings. Examine what makes these mental fictions so powerful. See if they have any impact of your body. Then say the words right for you designating that they have no hold.
  3. Imagine how your life would be if you were confident, fearless, peaceful, content, or any other highly desired attribute. Now work backwards to figure how you can get there. Figure at least one thing that you can do differently. Then follow through on it. Believe and have the determination and faith that you will get there regardless whatever the day may bring

Dhammapada Chapter 16: The Path of Customer Service

Introduction

This was not originally planned. But after talking with my manager, I promised to do this. Your job life is just as much a place as any to practice the teachings of the Dhammapada. But a career in customer service is even more so.

Commentary

A customer service position offers many opportunities to practice the teachings of the Buddha. You can follow one of these paths:

– Just getting by. Tuning out or tolerating the ‘bad’.

– Overwhelmed or drowning due to workload, emotional customers, reactivity, etc.

– See customer support as important a place to practice as a meditation mat. Because it is dealing with the stuff that arises in our work day that is a clear path to mental freedom.

Which path will you choose?

Practice

As you go through the work day dealing with customers, thinking occasionally the following will keep you on the right path,

– “Know who you serve.” Come from a place of service, compassion, and joy. Do not think ‘it is another darn customer that I have to help.’” It will lead to disappointment for both of you.

– “You are just like me. The same mental and emotional formations. The same desire for products to work and not offer any unexpected surprises. The same wish to be appreciated and treated with respect. “

– “I will not rush things along just to resolve an issue. Having unrealistic expectations and forcing an outcome may lead to dissatisfaction for all.”

– Watch how you manage reactiveness and your time. Make small but important adjustments throughout the work week. If conflicting priorities come in, are you reactive or reflective?

– Work hard to make a real difference to Your Customer. Your Product. Your Customer Support Team And Yourself. Else nothing will ever change.

Dhammapada: Chapter 13: Craving

Introduction

The seventeen verses of the Dhammapada chapter named ‘Thirst’ cover some of the most profound teachings in just a few words.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0024

  1. The thirst of a thoughtless man grows like a creeper; he runs from life to life, like a monkey seeking fruit in the forest.
  2. Those who are slaves to passions, run down with the stream (of desires), as a spider runs down the web which he has made himself; when they have cut this, at last, wise people leave the world free from cares, leaving all affection behind.
  3. Give up what is before, give up what is behind, give up what is in the middle, when thou goest to the other shore of existence; if thy mind is altogether free, thou wilt not again enter into birth and decay.
  4. If a man is tossed about by doubts, full of strong passions, and yearning only for what is delightful, his thirst will grow more and more, and he will indeed make his fetters strong.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

The cravings of grasping beings grow rapidly out of control. They seek to have their innumerable desires quenched while moving frantically about from one unsatisfying situation to another.

Those driven only by their numerous appetites are trapped on an unfulfilling path of incessant hunger. Once free of wanting, one is unburdened by the worries and emotions of their earlier life.

Release yourself from the memories of a hurtful past. Release yourself from dilemmas of the passing present. Release yourself from the planning for a perfect future. When one has liberated the mind from such stories, they are unaffected by the transitions of their lives.

If one is tied to constant uncertainty, motivated solely by inner thirsts, and seeking just momentary amusement, then they will tighten their own created restraints until passing from this life.

Practice

  1. Read about the Ten Bulls listed above and reflect on your life.
  2. Think about your own ‘mental ocean’ and focus on improving one ‘mental/emotional wave causer.’
  3. Spend time outside in nature just observing.
  4. Write a song/poem/story or paint your ‘mental ocean’.
  5. Observe in others the same and jointly think how to change things internally.

 

Dhammapada Chapter 12: The Path to Skillful Understanding

Introduction

The seventeen verses of the Dhammapada chapter named ‘The Way’ cover some of the most profound teachings in just a few words.Müller versionhttp://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0020

  1. `All created things perish,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way to purity.
  2. `All created things are grief and pain,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.
  3. `All forms are unreal,’ he who knows and sees this becomes passive in pain; this is the way that leads to purity.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

All sentient beings are born, grow old, and soon pass away. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

All sentient beings experience sorrow and discomfort. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

All things exist because of prior causes/conditions. We fail to perceive their true essence correctly. Those that observe and understand this take their first steps to liberation.

Practice

    1. Old age, sickness, and death is a practice that we along with others have or soon will experience. Can we learn its lessons without having emotional and mental preconceptions? Can we treat others experiencing the same thing with compassion? Or will we push them away in disgust?
    2. The teachings in the later Dhammapada chapters have transitioned from discussing individual moments to seeing things as part of an unending cycle. Even if rebirth does not occur, there are many transformations in just one lifetime for better or worst.

    The concept of Samsara is used to explain this phenomenon of ongoing suffering and rebirth. You can look at it one of two ways.  It can viewed as a process that is so impersonal, cruel, and repetitive. Or it can be seen as a wakeup call in this life. “I need to break the pattern today. By meditating on alleviating the suffering of others, so I begin to reduce my own. I need to think just as I grow old, age, and die, so do all others that share this life. May all of us be truly free of this cycle of suffering and live liberated lives.”

    1. If these teachings resonate with you, then take the time to understand how the Buddha and his followers

    – view the self

    – view objects

    – view this world

    – view our lives

    – view what the concept of nothingness is and is not.

    Some teachings may appear to be contradictory, or too broad or unclear to take in one sitting. Ingest the lessons in small bites. Reflect. Place into action. See what works or not. Read, listen, or watch other Buddhist teachers on the same topic. Repeat as often as needed. And a light of clarity should begin to grow within you.

Dhammapda Chapter 11: Learned Practitioners

Introduction

The verses used below are from the Dhammapada chapter called “The Just.” It reinforces the idea that we are not considered wise by any age, title, or birthright that we achieve. It is our actions alone that determine how our knowledge should be viewed by others.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0019

  1. A man is not learned because he talks much; he who is patient, free from hatred and fear, he is called learned.
  2. He in whom there is truth, virtue, love, restraint, moderation, he who is free from impurity and is wise, he is called an elder.
  3. An envious greedy, dishonest man does not become respectable by means of much talking only, or by the beauty of his complexion.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

 One’s wisdom is not shown by how long that they speak. A wise person is deliberate in their speech and actions. They are liberated from worry and disrespect of others.

Those embracing the ethical practices of the Buddha, and are liberated from mental distractions, they may be called a worthy teacher.

Those trapped into lying, jealousy and desiring to acquire will not have a good reputation due to their lengthy speech or sheer good looks.

Practice

  1. Ask the above questions as others as you go through your day.
  2. Focus on one Brahmavihara or Paramita for a given time until you have learnt it thoroughly. Revisit it at a later point as a refresher.
  3. Practice loving-kindness meditation.
  4. Seek like-minded people or a community that also practice these key qualities. Time away from the “real world” living in such a community may help these practices grow.
  5. There are many on-line commentaries and documents on these qualities that may be helpful in providing some insights. I found Zen teacher Robert Aitken’s work: “The Practice of Perfection” a good read on this topic. See https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/1361/the-practice-of-perfection-by-robert-aitken/9780307817471 for more information.

Dhammapada Chapter 10: A World Without Rage

Introduction

This chapter is based on the Dhammapada section called typically “Anger.” With just a few verses, it talks about how if left unchecked, anger will rule and destroy our lives.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0017
231. Beware of bodily anger, and control thy body! Leave the sins of the body, and with thy body practise virtue!
232. Beware of the anger of the tongue, and control thy tongue! Leave the sins of the tongue, and practise virtue with thy tongue!
233. Beware of the anger of the mind, and control thy mind! Leave the sins of the mind, and practise virtue with thy mind!
234. The wise who control their body, who control their tongue, the wise who control their mind, are indeed well controlled. My ‘paraphrased’ version Do not be trapped by the negative emotions flowing through your physical being. Instead, train your physical being for skillful use. Do not be trapped by speaking hurtful words. Instead, train your speech for skillful use. Do not be trapped by the resentments of the mind. Instead, train your mind for skillful use. Those that guide well their physical essence, words, and mind are indeed skillful beings.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

Do not be trapped by the negative emotions flowing through your physical being. Instead, train your physical being for skillful use.

Do not be trapped by speaking hurtful words. Instead, train your speech for skillful use.

Do not be trapped by the resentments of the mind. Instead, train your mind for skillful use.

Those that guide well their physical essence, words, and mind are indeed skillful beings.

Practice

There have already been many previous suggestions in this chapter and book. Some of the following may not be Buddhist-inspired:
1. Walk away or start deescalating the situation.
2. Realize you are in a condition of feeling anger. Understand that it is a “hook” trying to ensnare you and let it grow no further.
3. Practice lovingkindness and tonglen meditation.
4. Stop, Reflect. Breathe.
5. Think of something ridiculous to break the pattern and defuse the situation.
6. See how being angry is absurd. Like being manipulated by a small uncontrolled child just to have a few passing moments of feeling good and right.
7. Find a place or way to reflect. It could be just walking. Or just sitting. Or having a hot slice of pizza. Whatever works for you.
8. Simply release after realizing that it will not stay forever.
For many of us, anger will be a visitor that will keep returning. Keep experimenting to see what works well for you to dissipate its hold. It is important to never relent changing ourselves to have one less moment of anger. Or one less day.

Dhammapada Chapter 9: Our Ever Changing Mind States

Introduction

This chapter is based on the Dhammapada section called typically “Pleasure” or “Affection.”  However, verses 212-216 are more about how rapidly our oceanic minds transition from one mind state to another. 213 is removed to reduce repetitions.

Müller version

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0016

  1. From pleasure comes grief, from pleasure comes fear; he who is free from pleasure knows neither grief nor fear.
  2. From lust comes grief, from lust comes fear; he who is free from lust knows neither grief nor fear.
  3. From love comes grief, from love comes fear; he who is free from love knows neither grief nor fear.
  4. From greed comes grief, from greed comes fear; he who is free from greed knows neither grief nor fear.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

Today’s delights may soon pass. Anguish may then arise. Discomfort may then arise. One not seeking desires experiences neither anguish or discomfort.

Today’s longings may dissipate. Anguish may then arise. Discomfort may then arise. One not seeking such cravings experiences neither anguish or discomfort.

Those we hold dear today may soon become strangers. Anguish may then arise. Discomfort may then arise. One not seeking such bonds experiences neither anguish or discomfort.

Things that we seek today may soon lose our interest. Anguish may then arise. Discomfort may then arise. One not seeking to acquire experiences neither anguish or discomfort.

Practice

The above parts of this chapter contain already many other practices already. Here are some more.

  1. This book is not recommended for brand new students. But reading “The Heart of Buddhist Meditation: The Buddha’s Way of Mindfulness” by Nyanaponika Thera has many good practice suggestions. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18654414-the-heart-of-buddhist-meditation
  2. Sometime instead of reading a book before sleeping or just after being awake, watch your thoughts come and go. I find this a helpful practice.
  3. Throughout our day, especially during the stressful/busy part of the day, check in with ourselves. What are we feeling? thinking? What is distracting us? What have we learned to do or to avoid?
  4. Some recommend keeping a journal of your mental day. But this could aggravate rather than result in realizations. Or they review they same at the end of the day before sleeping. As long as you are not stuck in prior moments, this is good.
  5. Some Buddhist Sangha groups have a group that they text or send emails to. Each correspondence is a brief reminder to keep at it. Or an obstacle encountered or overcome.
  6. Simply saying ‘my thoughts and feelings are nothing to hold onto’, ‘this mind state will pass soon by’, ‘my thoughts and feelings are temporary’ and the like may be enough to keep us going and stay centered.

Dhammapada Chapter 8: Contentment and Difficult Situations

Introduction

This is from the Dhammapada chapter titled “Happiness.” But it is just as much about obstacles to avoid along the way.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0015

  1. Let us live happily then, not hating those who hate us! among men who hate us let us dwell free from hatred!
  2. Let us live happily then, free from ailments among the ailing! among men who are ailing let us dwell free from ailments!
  3. Let us live happily then, free from greed among the greedy! among men who are greedy let us dwell free from greed!

My ‘paraphrased’ version

Throughout our days, we resolve to live a contented and peaceful existence. We will not return in kind to those who treat us unpleasantly. Among the discontented, we shall reside, free of what distresses them.

Throughout our days, we resolve to live a contented and peaceful existence. We will not return in kind to those who see us unfavorably. Among the distressed, we shall reside, free of what troubles them.

Throughout our days, we resolve to live a contented and peaceful existence. We will not return in kind to those who believe us to be a threat. Among the afflicted, we shall reside, free of what affects them.

Practice

  1. Treat everything encountered as a teaching and everyone as a teacher.
  2. Do not go blindly from situation to situation without learning the key lessons. Reflect and make the needed adjustments at your own speed.
  3. It is in a challenging situation that we need our greatest mindfulness, not afterwards. Observe your circumstances with non-reactivity. Then act in a manner beneficial and not harmful to all parties involved.