Friday, July 17, 2015

Dhammapada Reflection #7

Dhammapada, Verses 15 & 16:

The evil-doer grieves here and hereafter;
He grieves in both worlds.
He laments and is afflicted,
Recollecting his own impure deeds.

The doer of good rejoices here and hereafter;
He rejoices in both worlds.
He rejoices and exults,
Recollecting his own pure deeds.

Can a wrong-doer ever be completely happy? Some would argue that if he or she gets away with their wrong actions, a person will indeed be content. However, this presumes that happiness follows evil actions solely dependent upon not being punished or found out. But what of one’s own mind, one’s sense of right & wrong? In verses 15 & 16 it is not the outer effects of one’s action (karma) that is being referred to, but the inner effects.

In verse 15, Buddha suggests that the evil-doer grieves both now and in the future due to their own recollections of their wrong deeds. But, in Buddhist understanding, what exactly is an ‘evil-doer?’ Buddhist ethics are centred upon the five precepts which are: to avoid killing sentient beings, to avoid stealing, to avoid sexual misconduct, to avoid lying, and to avoid taking intoxicants. These precepts are based on the Buddhist principles of wisdom & compassion. Buddha suggests that if we live wisely & compassionately, we will avoid the above actions. Living thus is to live in balance with the interconnectedness of our lives together; we all wish to live, keep our possessions, have faithful sexual partners, know truth & to not be mistreated by drunkards. It works both ways, of course – if we all keep these precepts, we’re all happy and avoid some major suffering… and grief.

From the Buddhist perspective, if we are awakened to our true nature, we naturally avoid the evil actions described above. Being awakened, we are at one with all beings & life itself; there is no harm left in us. However, if we’re not awakened – and I guess you’re not, dear, reader, if you feel the need to read this meagre article – then precepts can help us to live in a better relationship with those around us. And, if we don’t do keep them, then at least at some level of consciousness, perhaps the subconscious if not the conscious, regret & grief will be follow. Who amongst us, if we’re truly honest about it, has never regretted our words & actions, even our thoughts?

To do good releases the mind from dwelling on evil, selfish actions. Instead, the person who’s actions are pure is free from the regrets that otherwise haunt the mind. To know that one has not killed another sentient being, stolen another’s belongings, had inappropriate or abusive sex, told lies or lost one’s mindfulness through intoxication results in a happier, more contented mind. A person having done such good can rejoice in their actions (karma), knowing that they are sowing the seeds of future well-being for both themselves and those that they interact with, especially those close to them. It’s time to take pleasure in our good, positive actions: there’s no other time to do so but now. Let’s be good & glad, not bad & sad!

The Dhammapada ('Verses of Dharma' or 'Path of Dharma') is an ancient Buddhist text that is said to contain some of Buddha's teachings in poetic form. The first chapter is called Yamakavagga, 'Chapter of Pairs,' and the above two verses are from this part of the book.

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