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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 2: The Wise Being

Müller version:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2017/2017-h/2017-h.htm#link2HCH0006

  1. Well-makers lead the water (wherever they like); fletchers bend the arrow; carpenters bend a log of wood; wise people fashion themselves.

My ‘Paraphrased’ Version of the Verse:

Sailors steer their ships forward; Cooks measure their ingredients; Wise beings never stop watching and sculpting their minds.

Practice

The practices in Chapter 1 on observing the mind are an important step in taming the mind. Consider as well the following.

  1. Practice is a great daily and lifelong experiment. We can try out various tools and techniques and see what works for today. Some techniques may be useful later. Keep on trying and do not get easily discouraged. What you are undertaking is not an easy thing to do. But it is achievable. Thoughts do not go away. But with persistence, the power that they hold over us should recede over time.
  2. We all get insights every day. Sometimes, we have to relive certain lessons until they become clearer. The non-judging mind will see the lessons clearer.
  3. Consider starting and/or ending your day with a dedication of merit such as the first paragraph of http://www.katinkahesselink.net/tibet/blessing.html or singing https://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/merit.html
  4. As we observe our thoughts and feeling more, what happens? Do we find them to be permanent or temporary? Do we identify with them more or less? Are thoughts solitary or do they start chains of other thoughts? Are there feelings and a growing sense of identification associated with these chains? Is there a sense of wrong and hurt? On further reflection, was this a correct assessment? If we observe others, do we see the same sort of behaviors as we see in ourselves? Does that observation make us more or less compassionate to them?
  5. One helpful signpost is when we become aware that we are ensnared in one of these mental trips and traps. Another one is when we can correct our behavior and identification and thus loosen the grip some that these formations have over us. When these signposts occur more often, we are moving ever closer to the mental liberation that we truly seek.