Take My Hand, We Will Walk

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk,
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

– Thich Nhat Hanh, Linji School, Thiền Buddhism.

<blockquote>If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the <a href=”https://bitesizedhamma.com/full-listing/”>Bite-Size Dhamma archive</a>!</blockquote>

<a href=”https://bitesizedhamma.com”>Back to Home Page</a>

Ageing Drops On Us Like A Curse

The Buddhist texts include a great number of wonderful teachings from the Buddha. But they also contain other gems.

There is a collection called the Khuddaka Nikaya which contains a number of suttas, fragments of teachings, and poems. In the eighth book of the Khuddaka Nikaya, the Theragatha, there are a number of poems from early Buddhist monks. These poems are wonderful, and I recommend you take a look at them. Here is one of my favourites:

As if sent by a curse,
it drops on us —
aging.
The body seems other,
though it’s still the same one.
I’m still here
have never been absent from it,
but I remember myself
as if somebody else’s.

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page

Content On Vulture’s Peak

Here is a poem from around 250BC, attributed to one of the Buddhist Elders of the Third Council.

He grew up as a Prince, younger brother of one of India’s greatest Emperors; King Ashoka. However, he was inspired one day, by seeing an admirable monk, and decided to abandon his royal duties to become a monk himself. He was given the name Tissa Kumara, which translates to ‘The Elder Who Lives Alone’.

I love the beautiful imagery in this poem, and I think you can really sense the joy he takes in peaceful solitude out there in the forest.

I hope you enjoy it too:

If nobody is to be found,
In front of one or behind one,
That is exceedingly pleasant
For the lonely forest dweller.

So be it! I will go alone
To the forest, praised by Buddha;
For the self-resolute bhikkhu,
Dwelling alone, it is pleasant.

Pleasing, and joyful to sages,
Haunted by rutting elephants,
Seeking my goal alone, quickly
Will I go to the wild forest.

In the well-flowered Cool Garden,
In a soothing mountain grotto,
Having anointed all my limbs,
I will walk back and forth, alone.

When indeed shall I come to dwell
All alone, without companion
In the great forest, so pleasing!
My task accomplished, without taint?

While the gentle breezes flutter,
Soothing and laden with fragrance,
I’ll burst asunder ignorance
While seated on the mountain top.

In a grove covered with flowers,
Or maybe on a cool hillside,
Gladdened by the joy of release,
I’ll be content on Vulture’s Peak

The translation was done by Andrew Olendzki.

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page

Loving Kindness

“You should train yourselves thus:

We will develop and cultivate the liberation of mind by loving-kindness,
make it our vehicle,
make it our basis,
stabilize it,
exercise ourselves in it,
and fully perfect it.

Thus should you train yourselves.”

– Buddha, from the Samyutta Nikaya

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page

From Striving Comes Wisdom

From striving comes wisdom;
from not, wisdom’s end.

Knowing these two courses
— development and decline —

conduct yourself
so that wisdom will grow.

– Verse from the Dhammapada.

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page

Buddhaghosa

I’ve quoted Buddhaghosa very recently, about anger. 

It occurred to me that many of you may be interested to know more about Buddhaghosa himself.

Buddhaghosa lived about 1000 years after the Buddha, in the 5th Century AD.  His name means “Voice of the Buddha” in Pali. He was called this because he completed many respected written works on Buddhism. 

We don’t know a lot about his life, but it’s likely he was born into a Brahmin family (a priestly caste) in either East or South India. 

It’s said that he was a Vedic Master who travelled around ancient India debating spiritual topics with others. He was a debating superstar, with a flawless record of victories.  That was until the day he came across a Buddhist monk named Revata.

Buddhaghosa and Revata first debated a Vedic teaching, and afterwards they debated a teaching from the Buddhist texts. Revata triumphed in both debates and Buddhaghosa was so impressed he decided he would become a Buddhist monk. 
Buddhaghosa, with his academic leanings, soon became a knowledgeable scholar of the Buddhist texts. One day he came across evidence of a missing text, long lost in Indian records. 

Obviously not being one to simply accept this knowledge gap, he began a pilgrimage to Sri Lanka where it was said a preserved version still existed. Whilst there he discovered many other preserved texts that were missing from the Indian collection. As a result he approached the Buddhist Elders for permission to compile a joint collection written in Pali.

Legend has it that the Elders and even deities forced him to undergo several tests before he was granted permission, but the eventual result was a systemised collection of Theravada Teachings and the Visuddhamagga – a comprehensive summary of the teachings of the Buddha, organised into a manual of sorts. 

He went on to write several other commentaries on the Pali cannon of texts and his words became respected interpretations of the scriptures.

It’s said that after he finished his work in Sri Lanka he returned to India and pilgrimaged to the Bodhi Tree, under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. 

Nothing is known about the rest of his life, or how he died. His commentaries live on and are still respected and studied to this day. 

To round off the post, here’s a lovely Visuddhamagga sample I wanted to share; about compassion:

“When there is suffering in others it causes good people’s hearts to be moved, thus it is compassion. 

Or alternatively, it combats others’ suffering, attacks and demolishes it, thus it is compassion.

Or alternatively, it is scattered upon those who suffer, it is extended to them by pervasion, thus it is compassion.”

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page

It Will Pass

In Buddhism we often talk about impermanence; ‘anicca’ in Pali. We sometimes joke that it’s both the good news and the bad news.

There’s a story that really encapsulates this sentiment for me. It’s an old Zen story, I believe, and it goes a little something like this:

A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”

“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.

A week later, the student came back to his teacher, and said, “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!”

“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.

It’s a funny little story, but the Teacher is absolutely correct, and not just about meditation. 

Impermanence – the bad news:

Everything you love and hold dear will be gone eventually, and the only things we truly own are our deeds (kamma). 

We don’t like to think about losing the people and objects we love, but to think we will have them forever is folly and will lead to greater shock and suffering when the loss comes. 

In my experience, remembering impermanence helps loosen our grip on our attachments. This is the silver lining around the bad news – we can learn ways to accept this truth, and this can be a step towards happiness. It can also lead us to avoid taking the people and things we love for granted, and love them for them not for us – to nurture them and not stifle them. 

Impermanence – the good news:

The good news is that the same applies to the things you dislike. A lot of stress comes from aversion to things we do not like – feeling ill, going for a job interview. But those things pass. 

Equally, states of mind that come from craving are just temporary, but subtly the mind can think these things are permanent. It sounds silly, but if you watch the mind you can see it works this way sometimes – like an infant. 

For example you want a second slice of cake, but you know you shouldn’t have more cake. The craving for the cake is subtle suffering but it will pass. So if it will pass what’s the big deal? Wait it out. But the mind doesn’t operate this way without mindful intervention. It’s in turmoil about the cake and as far as it is concerned the turmoil will never end unless it gets the cake!

Remembering impermanence helps us to accept that the negative states of mind will pass, and we don’t have to act unskilfully in order feel at ease again. Do it enough times and the mind realises this too. That, in turn, helps to keep the mind from the habit of holding onto aversion and turning it into attachment. At least, that’s what I’ve found over the years!

So it’s a quaint little story at first glance, but it’s pointing out a deep truth. Accepting that things change, sometimes not in the way we want, is an important part of operating a mature state of mind and helping the ‘infant’ grow up. 

Take care!

If you enjoyed this post you might find others you like in the Bite-Size Dhamma archive!

Back to Home Page