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Dhammapada Chapter 6: Our Transitory World and Bodies

Introduction

In this chapter, we look at some words the Buddha said about the world and the bodies that we inhabit ever so temporarily. We learn whether or not if either is something to rely on. Verses from two different chapters of the Dhammapada are being used here to illustrate the ties between these two topics.

Müller version

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0011 — Old Age

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0013 — The World

  1. How is there laughter, how is there joy, as this world is always burning? Why do you not seek a light, ye who are surrounded by darkness?
  2. This body is wasted, full of sickness, and frail; this heap of corruption breaks to pieces, life indeed ends in death.
  3. After a stronghold has been made of the bones, it is covered with flesh and blood, and there dwell in it old age and death, pride and deceit.
  4. This world is dark, few only can see here; a few only go to heaven, like birds escaped from the net.

My ‘paraphrased’ version

How can you enjoy temporary delights in a world caught in the flame of self-suffering? Why do you stay sheltered in the shadows when the light of clarity is so nearby?

Our bodies are always in some state of decline. Illness is the unwanted guest that we can keep away only for so long. A weakened state and the death’s arrival is guaranteed at the end.

Some incorrectly view their body as a fortress. But our skin and bones are unreliable guardians to keep out aging, illness, and our eventual demise. Our hardy physical frames will not protect us from our raging emotions and thoughts.

In a world where so many are locked into their own minds and emotions, few are free from self-suffering. Far fewer will live awakened here and beyond.

Practice

Many of the suggestions above may apply here as well.
1. During the week I wrote this, I listened to a wonderful talk from Dharma teacher Bill Weber on “Getting Back of the Eightfold Path”.  Play at the linkhttp://gaybuddhist.org/talks/2018.02.11%20Bill%20Weber%20(Getting%20Back%20On%20The%20Eightfold%20Path).mp3

But it also deals with aging. The Gay Buddhist Fellowship talks are funny, honest, insightful, and a good use of time for any planetary resident.

2. Recognize that Old Age, Sickness and Death are just another spiritual teacher and practice.

3. Lovingkindness meditation, Dedication of Merit, and tonglen practice allows us to recognize the suffering of ourselves and others. And offer love and light to help others that are suffering from any human condition or situation.

4. One of the freeing realizations that you can have is finding out that you are not alone with your situation. So perhaps doing a meditation dwelling on the following may be liberating.

Just as I am suffering, others are also suffering. May all beings be free from suffering.

Just as I am ill, others are also ill. May all beings be free from suffering while ill

Just as I am aging, others are also aging. May all beings be free from suffering while aging.

Just as I am dying, others are also dying. May all beings be free from suffering while dying.

5. There is a saying, “pain is a given, but suffering is optional”. We will always endure some form of physical and mental pains. But how we react to them is up to us. Wishing you and yours a meaningful, full, and mindful life journey.

Dhammapada Chapter 18: References

References

These are various Dhammapada-related references in addition to the two above. I particularly like the Easwaran and Fronsdale translations and commentaries.

Buddha, Gautama. 2013. Dhammapada. September 12. Accessed January 6, 2018. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Dhammapada.

—. 2013. Dhammapada: “O Caminho da Sabedoria do Buddha”. Translated by Acharya Buddharakkhita and Bhikkhu Dhammiko. Floresta: Mosteiro Budista Theravada. http://sumedharama.pt/Dhammapada%20de%20Buddharakkhita.pdf

—. 2007. The Dhammapada / Introduced & Translated by Eknath Easwaran . Translated by Eknath Easwaran. Tomales: Nilgiri Press. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhammapada_(Easwaran_translation).

—. 2005. The Dhammapada: A new Translaion of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations. Boston: Shambala Publications. http://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/dhammapada/ Gil Fronsdale.

—. 1986. The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin. Rangoon: Burma Pitaka Association. http://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/.

Burlingame, Eugene Watson. 1910. “Buddhaghoṣa’s Dhammapada Commentary.” Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Dhammapada Commentary) 45 (20). https://archive.org/details/jstor-20022589.

  1. Hymns of the Faith (Dhammapada): Being an Ancient Anthology Preserved in the Short Collection of the Sacred Scriptures of the Buddhists. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company. https://archive.org/details/hymnsfaithdhamm02edmugoog.

Dhammapada Chapter 1: Twin Verses

Public Domain Links

  1. Max Muller — http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0001 
  2. Wikisource – https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Dhammapada#Chapter_1:_The_twin-verses

3. Commentary by Bhaddantacariya Buddhaghosa for Chapter 1

My ‘paraphrased’ version of opening:

Even though we have our senses to help organize things outside us, most of our interactions occur inside our minds. Mind is the star and director in our ongoing play starring our thoughts. If I come from a place free from egoistic and judgmental thoughts, then satisfaction will be my lot. If I come from a place clouded in misguided views, then suffering is sure to follow me. ‘I am a victim and was hurt by others.’ Following this mental trap of ‘poor me’ will ensure being stuck in a life of continuous self-loathing and hatred. Refraining from this thought pattern brings us ever closer to peace. Each day we see that a fresh dose of hatred will not solve any perceived wounds and scars. Each day we see examples of unconditional love overcoming hate. Once we know that hatred must end, then our internal and external battles will ebb away and cease.

 Practices

  1. In times of stress, deep calming breaths to soothe the mind. Joseph Goldstein in his talks mentions saying simple verbal phrases such as ‘it is going to be okay’ helps tremendously. In time, you can feel various muscles in your body release their tensions and relax.
  2. Looking at someone especially another driver 🙂 and send them loving thoughts. Or think ‘you are real to me.’
  3. When dealing with mental affliction in some situation, think “Just as I am suffering, so are other beings. May all beings be free from suffering.” Or just “May all beings be free from suffering.” Repeat frequently as many times as needed until the anguish subsides. Or just think, “heal.”
  4. Find a way that works ever briefly or for a lifetime to get away from the mental distractions. It could be listening to contemplative music or mantras. Or a walk. Looking at nature. Or doing tai chi. Unfortunately, these are typically temporary remedies. Perhaps taking up a life of service to others and recharge as needed. There is an approach(es) out there just for you.
  5. Be grateful for the riches and gifts that you already have. They are typically more than you know.
  6. Truly accept what you are given. Coming from a sense of abundance rather than lack in time brings about in time real contentment.
  7. Observe your thoughts without judgement or reactivity. Note when patterns are repeating. See if they are reoccurring because of a sense of lack, a perceived injustice, or some other reason. Calmly and patiently investigate. In time, these thoughts will lose their power and hold on you.
  8. For many of us, it would be impossible to do this all on our own. It it makes sense for you, find one or few kindred beings or a spiritual community that resonates for you. It may take several encounters with the above to determine if they are right for you. This may be supplemented with online resources/communities with talks and documents.
  9. Release the unwanted ‘mental anguish calories’ of ruminating the past, planning for the future, and thoughts of inadequacy, fear, anger, torment, and more. At some point, one comes to a crossroads. You either double down and hold on to these ‘mental movies’, or let go and move on. Just letting go is always an option. But too often, the obvious choice is forgotten or placed in the background. Don’t buy into the drama and get sucked in.
    10. Be kind to yourself and never stop growing your practice. Our lives are one ongoing experiment. Think of the long-term view and reflect on the mental progress that you have each day. Learn from recent emotional and mind-numbing setbacks. Our life journey is rarely a straight line. Then when the lessons have been found, forget dwelling on both any further and take the next steps.