May 7, 2022
Jenny Hall

Dhammapada Verse 406

Verses from the Dhammapada

While violence seems to be escalating throughout the world, the Buddha’s teachings show us that anger and desire can be transformed into the warmth of the Buddha nature.

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'He is a Brahmin who is peaceful among the violent, free from longing among those filled with craving.’

 In this verse, ’ a Brahmin who is peaceful… free from longing…’ points to the Buddha Nature.

 ‘He is a Brahmin who is peaceful among the violent…’

 This month has seen reports of escalating conflict in the world. Naturally we all hope it can be ended. None the less, however sincere such hopes are, they don’t eradicate the root of violence so prevalent in our society. Reflection reveals this root is in each one of us. We are ‘the violent’. Our violent world is the extension of ourselves. Hate and desire are manifestations of untamed primal energy. The Buddha taught that these passions drive our thoughts and actions which create the delusion of ‘me’. This delusion, constantly insecure, desperately attempts to bolster itself. When faced with a situation we have judged as threatening or not suiting us, we resist it. We become aggressive. We may never physically attack someone but there are many subtle ways we assert ourselves. We complain. We attempt to take control. We monopolise a conversation. We give unsolicited opinions.

 The Zen training helps us to recognise the passions. We are encouraged to meet their discomforting fiery energy. It is then possible to invite it to ‘burn me away’. The energy is then transformed into the wisdom and warmth of the Buddha Nature, which the sage Krishnamurti used to call ‘choiceless awareness’. This ‘unselfing’ is the only path to peace.

 The Greek myth of Hercules gentling the bull points to this transformation. The God Neptune sent to Minos, King of Crete, a bull to be sacrificed to Jupiter. Snow white, with glittering silver horns, it rose up majestically out of the sea. It was so magnificent that Minos decided to keep the bull for himself. He led it to his pastures and allowed it to roam. The gods were consumed with rage. They used their powers to cause the bull to become wild and dangerous. It broke free from the pastures and stampeded through the woods. Everyone was terrified of it. Hercules who was endowed with great strength was sent to capture him. Armed with his club, Hercules entered the bull’s domain. He watched and listened without moving. He waited. Suddenly he heard the bull’s loud bellowing. It appeared before Hercules. It lowered its head. It tossed its silver horns preparing to attack him. Hercules threw his club to the ground. He grabbed the bull by the horns. The bull struggled with all his might but Hercules held on tightly. The bull realised it had found its master. It forgot its wild ways and became gentle. Hercules allowed it to swim across the sea whilst he rode peacefully on its back. 

‘ … free from longing among those filled with craving.’

 The ‘I’ also seeks aggrandisement through acquisitions. We are ‘those filled with craving’. We judge people, objects or situations as being able to improve ‘my’ life and then chase after them. We attempt to pull them into our clutches.

 A well- known manifestation is seen during the January sales. Crowds elbow their way to be first to grab a bargain. Once acquired we may cling tenaciously. The example of Scrooge the miser in Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ points to how quickly covetousness turns into ill-will.

 In the following story, Shichiri Kojun expresses the transformation of craving into the warmth and generosity of the Buddha Nature.

 Shichiri Kojun, whilst reciting sutras was interrupted by a thief. The thief was armed with a sharp sword. He threatened to kill Shichiri if he failed to hand over his money. Calmly, Shichiri asked the thief not to disturb him. He pointed to a drawer. He told him to look for money in it. He added ‘Please don’t take all the money. Leave some for me to pay my taxes’. The thief obeyed Shichiri. Before he left, Shichiri said ‘Don’t forget to say “thank you” for the gift.’ The thief thanked him and left. A few days later he was caught. He confessed to many crimes including the one against Shichiri. Shichiri was called as a witness. He said ‘‘I don’t consider this man a thief. I gave him the money and he duly thanked me.’’ The thief, after he had served his prison sentence, became Shichiri’s disciple.

 Believing ‘I’ am always right and ‘you’ are always wrong is a further way in whichwe build ourselves up. If our partner criticises me, I then fan the flames of irritation into a conflagration by responding in anger. I may be convinced that this is justified because I am ‘innocent’. On the other hand, if the heart is open, it is possible to apologise regardless of whose fault it is. To be first to say ‘Sorry’ usually ends in a smile.

 When the flames of anger and craving are suffered out in choiceless awareness there is at-one-ment with all things. There is no ‘me’ and no ‘you’. Such freedom brings peace and good will to the world.

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