Hatred Is Never Appeased By Hatred

Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world.
By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased.
This is a law eternal.

– Dhammapada, verse 5.

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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.”

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Starfish thrower

Here is a lovely story written by Loren Eisley, a man of many titles but I think ‘anthropologist and philosopher’ may be a passable summary. 

From time to time we all come across the attitude of “I’m just one person. I can’t make a difference so why bother trying?” Or “The task is so large that I’ll never do it, so I might as well not even bother trying.” Maybe sometimes that attitude is coming from within. 

When we practice Buddhism it’s all about small steps leading to a larger goal – a goal that sometimes seems overwhelmingly huge. But step by step we abandon unskillful qualities and nurture skilful ones. De parvis grandis acervus erit. 

This story is a reminder of how we can each make a difference. So without further ado:

Once a man was walking along a beach. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a person going back and forth between the surf’s edge and and the beach. Back and forth this person went. As the man approached he could see that there were hundreds of starfish stranded on the sand as the result of the natural action of the tide.

The man was stuck by the the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish. Many of them were sure to perish. As he approached the person continued the task of picking up starfish one by one and throwing them into the surf.

As he came up to the person he said, “You must be crazy. There are thousands of miles of beach covered with starfish. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The person looked at the man. He then stooped down and pick up one more starfish and threw it back into the ocean. He turned back to the man and said, “It sure made a difference to that one!”

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Taking care of others is the same as taking care of myself

“If I am good to someone, he or she will learn goodness and, in turn, will be good to others. If I am not good, he or she will harbor hatred and resentment and will, in turn, pass it on to others. If the world is not good, I have to make more effort to be good myself.

Taking care of others is the same as taking care of myself. When I respect and serve others, I am serving all Buddhas everywhere. This is called great compassion. Compassion is a happy mental state.

When we protect ourselves through mindfulness, we are protecting others as well. When we protect other living beings through compassionate actions, we are also protecting ourselves.”

– Maha Ghosananda, Theravada Tradition

The woman at the well

Ananda, the favorite disciple of the Buddha, having been sent by the Buddha on a mission, passed by a well near a village. He saw a girl by the well who was called Pakati, a girl of the Matanga caste. He asked her for water to drink. Pakati said:

“O Brahman, I am too humble and mean to give you water to drink, do not ask any service of me lest your holiness be contaminated, for I am of low caste.”

And Ananda replied:

“I ask not for caste but for water”;

And the Matanga girls heart leaped joyfully and she gave Ananda a drink.

Ananda thanked her and went away; but she followed him at a distance. Having heard that Ananda was a disciple of Gotama Sakyamuni, the girl followed him back to the Buddha and cried:

“O Lord help me, and let me live in the place where Ananda your disciple dwells, so that I may see him and minister unto him, for I love Ananda.”

The Blessed One understood the emotions of her heart and he said:

“Pakati, your heart is full of love, but you do not understand your own sentiments. It is not Ananda that you love, but his kindness. Accept, then, the kindness you have seen him practice unto you, and in the humility of your station practice it unto others. Verily there is great merit in the generosity of a king when he is kind to a slave; but there is a greater merit in the slave when he ignores the wrongs which he suffers and cherishes kindness and good will to all mankind. He will cease to hate his oppressors, and even when powerless to resist their usurpation will with compassion pity their arrogance and supercilious demeanor.

“Blessed are you, Pakati, for though you are a Matanga you will be a model for noblemen and noble women. You are of low caste, but Brahmans may learn a lesson from you. Swerve not from the path of justice and righteousness and you will outshine the royal glory of queens on the throne.”

– An old Buddhist story.

Open Your Heart

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. 
– Pema Chodron, Tibetan Buddhism. 

Tetsugen’s Work

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at that time the Uji Rive overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation.

Then he began again his work of collecting.
Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.

For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

– Unknown origin, Zen Tradition.