Jun 18, 2023
Jenny Hall

Dhammapada 142

Verses from the Dhammapada

“Even though richly clothed he who is calm and controlled who lives a good life and does no harm to others is a Brahmin or Bhikkhu.”



“Even though richly clothed he who is calm and controlled who lives a good life and does no harm to others is a Brahmin or Bhikkhu.”


Even though richly clothed…

This verse is linked to the following story.

King Pasenadi rewarded his Royal minister, Santati, for curbing a rebellion. The king showered him with luxuries including a ravishing court dancer. After seven days of carousing, Santati, still dressed in Royal finery mounted an elephant and headed for the river to bathe. On the way he met the Buddha accompanied by his disciple Ananda. Despite his hangover, Santati managed to bow his head. The Buddha smiled. Ananda was surprised and wanted to know the reason. The Buddha predicted that on that very day, Santati, although richly dressed would become his follower. On returning to the palace, during a performance, the alluring dancer died of a heart attack. In his grief, Santati realised that only the Buddha could remove his suffering and sought refuge in him. 

When we start the Zen training, we are not asked to change anything such as our way of dressing. We are just advised to become aware of attachment to such things. Like Santati, we vow to take refuge in the Buddha. 

On May 6th King Charles III and Queen Camilla were crowned. Their robes were resplendent and crowns encrusted with sparkling gemstones. These coronation jewels and regalia may be seen as symbols of the ceremony’s spiritual significance. Jesus once said "the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field". When we turn towards the Buddha we are also seeking this inner treasure. 

… he who is calm and controlled…” 

Our change of heart is expressed and supported first and foremost by our posture. One of the outstanding features of the coronation processions and service was the perfect poise and deportment of everyone taking part. The 4,000 servicemen and women marched as one. Amongst the 2,200 guests there was no fidgeting. When our backs are straight, our feet firmly on the ground, ears in line with our shoulders it is possible to meet the fiery emotions of hate and desire that drive our thoughts and create the delusion of "me". Rather than squandering the precious energy it is invited to burn me away. The transmuted energy becomes the strength to bear situations that the "I" had judged unbearable. 

“… who lives a good life and does not harm…” 

When “I” is burned away the spaciousness of choiceless awareness opens. This open heart is expressed in unfailing compassion flowing in service to all. At the opening of the coronation service King Charles was welcomed by a young chorister. In great humility King Charles said "I come not to be served but to serve". The coronation involves the consecration of the monarch to such service; it is a sacrament in which divine grace is bestowed. 

In the Zen training we put our faith in the Buddha nature. "I" is emptied out as I wholeheartedly vow to benefit all beings. 

This emptying out into silence and stillness was symbolised by the king being divested of his outer regal robes before being anointed with holy oil. The deep mystery of the sacrament was revered by screening it from view as is the inward mystery of the Buddha nature, God, Christ, Krishna or the life force. It is the deep source of our being. King Charles wishes to be regarded as the defender of faith. The diversity of the congregation is united in this mystery as the diversity of all forms are unified in the ground of being. 

… a Brahmin or Bhikkhu” 

The phrase refers generally to one who practises a spiritual life of warm humanity, free from self-consciousness and self-regard. 

There was once a great Lama called Dipankara. His followers were so grateful for his compassionate teaching that they presented him with many gifts including gold and silver ornaments. One evening, on the way to the village, Dipankara and his followers decided to camp in a beautiful clearing between the snowcapped mountains. Some destitute people lived amongst the nearby rocks. They gathered on a high ridge and waited until midnight. They then crept down to the camp. They bound the sleepers with rope and stole all of Dipankara’s treasure. The next morning, the villagers who were expecting the Lama and his entourage could not understand why they hadn't arrived. A search party soon discovered them. They untied the rope and set off to capture the robbers. They were successful and soon returned Dipankara’s possessions. Much to the astonishment of the villagers, Dipankara insisted on meeting the captives. When they stood before him, he said, "These are destitute men. They need our compassion and forgiveness. They also need food, clothing and shelter." He donated his money to the robber's welfare. They were filled with gratitude. 

Within the open heart, all needs are seen and met. It is manifest in King Charles's commitment to projects such as The Prince’s Trust which has helped over one million young people. It is revealed in his love and care of the natural environment. It is seen in his deep interest in the rich diversity of cultures. 

The joyful singing of the coronation choirs, the harmonious playing of the orchestra, the jubilant cheering of the crowd all point to the deep at-one-ment when "I" stop being "me" and become “us".

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