It is always a pleasure
not to have to encounter fools.
It is always good to see noble beings,
and a delight to live with them.
Dhammapada v. 206
We may or may not be blessed with the good fortune of living with noble beings, but we can all make the effort to cultivate noble mind states. Mind states are similar to living beings: when they are wholesome it is a joy to have them; when they are foolish, they can be very hard work indeed. If we establish such qualities as gratitude, forgiveness, kindness and discernment in our minds, we will be able to dwell in delight even when external conditions are difficult.
Do not ignore the effect of right action,
saying, “This will come to nothing.”,
Just as by the gradual fall of raindrops
a jar is filled
so in time the wise
become replete with good.
Dhammapada v. 122
The enormity of what appears to lie ahead can at times feel overwhelming. But this is only the case when awareness is dominated by what we imagine lies ahead. Of course we don’t really know the future. We have an amazing facility for imagining and extrapolating, but the Buddha says we are wise to include in awareness an appreciation for the reality happening right now. When we are in touch with the here-and-now reality we are more likely to remember those things that we can do that immediately make a difference: slow down; steady attention; feel the ground beneath your feet; expand the sense of space which you occupy; simply receive this moment without taking sides for or against. Remember to not become lost in speculation.
A healthy mind is the greatest gain.
Contentment is the greatest wealth.
Trustworthiness is the best of kin.
Unconditional freedom is the highest bliss.
Dhammapada v. 204
We might assume that the perfect realization of unconditional freedom is some way off, but we can already plant the seeds of the possibility in our hearts. The conditions of the world keep changing: at times quite wonderful, at other times challenging and often something in-between. How do we stay stable with such instability? We orient our hearts toward true principles, Dhamma. Establishing an initial understanding of true principles gives our hearts direction. Contemplating these principles is nurturing the seeds. As to when they will bear fruit is not something we can control. In the meantime cultivating trust in the possibility of unconditional freedom is something we can do.
By renouncing unworthy ways
and by not living carelessly,
by not holding to false views,
we no longer perpetuate delusion.
Dhammapada v. 167
The way our senses work we find it easy to look outside at that which is wrong with the world – indeed, there is plenty we would wish was otherwise. When the mind is trained with wise reflection, we remember that we can also turn our attention around and look at what can be done to help; we don’t just dwell on the deluded conduct of others. In this short teaching the Buddha is indicating how it is always possible to make a wholesome contribution. It is good to know that we are not powerless and our situation is not hopeless.
Disciples of the Buddha
are fully awake both day and night,
in cultivating the heart.
Dhammapada v. 301
The Buddha encouraged the cultivation of our heart’s potential to awaken. We are already aware of the need to look after our physical health, and the benefits of maintaining mental well-being; if we heed the Buddha’s advice we will also invest in those qualities which lead to wisdom and compassion. Wisdom sees the advantages and disadvantages in any given situation. Without wisdom we risk seeing only that which pleases us. Sometimes it is more wise to endure discomfort and disappointment for the sake of being able to see deeply, beyond the world of preferences. Compassion, the heart’s warmth and impulse to care, is the natural expression of wisdom.
While in the midst
of those who hate,
to dwell free from hating
is happiness indeed.
Dhammapada v. 197
It takes a certain sort of strength to not be pulled into the moods of those around us. Part of us possibly wants to feel included in the group, to not stand out as different. But when our sense of well-being is defined by whether we are included or excluded by others, we are perpetually vulnerable. Although feeling excluded can produce a sense of suffering, it is suffering that we can learn from. There are two types of suffering: that which leads to more suffering and that which leads to freedom from suffering. If we are willing to endure the suffering which arises from being excluded by others who are caught in hatred, in gossiping, or in greed, then that is the sort of suffering that leads to happiness.
Blessed is the arising of a Buddha;
blessed is the revealing of the Dhamma;
blessed is the concord of the Sangha;
delightful is harmonious communion.
Dhammapada v. 194
We all delight when we receive blessings. Let’s also delight in our ability to generate blessings. Whatever our circumstance in life, we have the power to bring virtue into the world. To some it appears naive to dwell on developing virtue; they think it is up to others to stop causing darkness. But we are not responsible for what others do or don’t do. We are responsible for our own actions. Sometimes we are surrounded by light, at other times it seems the light has disappeared. But we don’t have to be defined by external conditions. We always have the possibility of being a bit more kind, a bit more patient, a bit more honest.