Walking along the Dhammapada — Chapter 8: Thousands

I’m taking another journey through the Buddha’s lessons on the path of the Dharma (one way you could translate the title Dhammapada). A few years ago, I wrote posts on a handful of chapters, but I didn’t go over every chapter. This time, I’m challenging myself to post on every chapter and share them here.


This chapter provides a long list of comparisons to make clear what our valued pursuits should be, in contrast to those of the time (and to our time as well). Here’s the list I compiled — simplified bullets even strengthen the message (plus, I did the math to make the numbers clearer):

  • 1 meaningful word > 1000 meaningless statements
  • 1 meaningful verse > 1000 meaningless verses
  • 1 line of Dharma > 100 meaningless verses
  • Self-conqueror > conqueror of 1,000,000 people
  • 1 moment of homage to a self-cultivated person > 1,200,000 rituals
  • 1 moment of homage to a self-cultivated person > 100 years tending ritual fire
  • Expressing respect to the upright > 4 times any sacrifice
  • 1 day of meditation > 100 years of unsettled mind
  • 1 day of meditation > 100 years of insightless life
  • 1 day of exertion > 100 years without effort
  • 1 day of insight into temporality > 100 years without insight
  • 1 day seeing Nirvana > 100 years without seeing Nirvana
  • 1 day seeing ultimate Dharma > 100 years without seeing ultimate Dharma

What are we to make out of this list? What does it teach us other than the Dharma is great and the value of meditation, exertion, insight, and wisdom and that one should cultivate oneself and honor those who have already done so? We’ve heard all of this so far.

I take three things from this list of “thousands”:

  1. How powerful these values are, and how much they truly empower through cultivation
    • Ask yourself: if 1 word is so valuable, how much more so then cultivating as many as possible?
  2. These passages are radically subversive
    • The lines about 1 moment being greater than 1,200,000 rituals and 100 years of tending a ritual fire
      • If one correct moment is worth more than all the effort in these far greater numbers, they are virtually worthless
      • Same goes for greater value of respect over sacrifice: respecting the Buddha is 4 times more valuable than any Hindu sacrifice
    • These are extreme attacks against the existing spiritual order of his day
  3. These lines are inspirational
    • When practice has seemed impossible to do well for me, these lines have shown that even 1 moment of presence in meditation is worth more than the rest of my day distracted in monkey mind

a6235f23acd262580b6c457dcbdb0123

I will close this commentary on the chapter with two of my favorite lines from it:

Greater in combat
Than a person who conquers
A thousand times a thousand people
Is the person who conquers herself.
-Trans. Fronsdal (103)

Better than a thousand meaningless statements
Is one meaningful word,
Which, having been heard,
Brings peace.
-Trans. Fronsdal (100)


May these words on the value of the correctly done and focused over the mass of thousands bring peace.

Gassho!

Heartbreak Wisdom Journal — Entry 6: Forgiveness

Going through heartbreak is one of the trials of a lifetime–of the soul. Everything that was once familiar and taken for granted is now gone, destroyed, lost–but not forgotten. If only it could be forgotten! You won’t be at your best. It’s as simple as that.

In my last entry, I had a quote that said your heart has to be big enough to hold a horse race inside. How do you do this when everything feels wrong and you feel weak? Even if you can muster up the presence to show up and do your best for others and yourself, you will fail–miserably and often. Sometimes your big and beautiful intentions will come to naught. You won’t get any farther than tripping over your own feet. Such moments feel like there is no point, like all you can do is give up.

What do you do? — You forgive yourself. You have two choices: you can either feel guilty and hate yourself as well as everything you’ve lost, or you can forgive yourself for struggling, for wanting to be happy, for being vulnerable, and for having a heart. If you truly want to share deep compassion with the world, you have to begin with yourself. That’s how your heart grows to hold even the hardest emotions with tender equanimity–growing to the size of holding a horse race. This doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to push yourself to learn and to get beyond your own mistakes; instead, it’s giving yourself the gift of patience to do just that.

May this plant a seed of compassion in anyone out there who suffers from the pain of a broken heart.
Gassho!


chinese-676650_1280

Previous Heartbreak Wisdom Journal Entry– Entry 5: Depression – Experience & Practice

Next Heartbreak Wisdom Journal Entry– Entry 7: Letting go of the Person You Used to Be (Part1)

Show Me Practice

“Show me one thing that you didn’t learn from your books.” Better said, show me how these ideas impact a life. Show me how they are concretely experienced and practiced.

Even the barest knowledge of facts must change you and the world in which you live. In learning of photosynthesis, a new world of interaction opens where physics, chemistry, and biology intertwine—a new realization of the intimacy of *natura*, the chiasm of a vibrant unfolding.

Now you see life differently. Your understanding changes – you and the world change. Yet this wonder is so easy to lose and so hard to gain. With your elaborate systems and beautiful arguments, how do you see the world differently, and how do you continue to be in wonder of it, to have gratitude for every moment of it, and to find meaning in it? Or are you lost in a haze of Ideas? Are your ideas lived through concrete experiences, or are your experiences lived through abstract ideas? Wake up.