Apr 11, 2024
Jenny Hall

Verses from The Dhammapada 68

Pursuing goals at all costs can often leave a trail of destruction and suffering.

Moloch, the act of child sacrifice and a contemporary symbol for incentives that encourage a race to the bottom.



It is a good deed which needs no regret…” 

Sometimes we may look back to the past regretting actions that have caused harm. 

We may resolve to act differently in the future. However, as the Buddha taught, everything is in a state of flux. This includes the delusion of ‘I’ which is no more than a constantly changing thought stream. Such a monologue of opinions, prejudices and plans obscures clear seeing. Our intentional actions always ‘miss the mark’. Driving these thoughts are the passions, desire and hatred. True repentance requires suffering their churning and reverently allowing ‘me’ to be burned away. The precious energy is then transformed into the Wisdom and Compassion of the Buddha - right action can then flow spontaneously. 

There was once a woman who had two daughters. The elder was both selfish and lazy. Her mother, sharing a similar temperament, favoured her more than the younger. The younger daughter was both hard-working and warm hearted. Sadly, her mother and sister were very unkind to her. They treated her like a slave from morning till night.

One day they sent her to the well to fetch water. As she lowered and then pulled up the heavy bucket, she noticed an old woman watching her. The old woman said she was very thirsty and begged for a drink of water. The younger daughter smiled and gave her a ladleful. When the girl returned home her mother scolded for for taking so long. The younger daughter said ‘I’m very sorry. Next time I’ll be quicker.’ Much to their amazement as each word was spoken a beautiful iridescent pearl dropped from he girls lips. The widow scrambled to pick up each pearl. In great excitement, she demanded to know what had happened at the well. The younger daughter told her how she had given a drink of water to the old woman.

The widow then ordered the elder daughter to go to the well and look for the old woman herself. She told her to give her a drink of water regardless of whether she asked for one. Very reluctantly the elder daughter agreed to go. She grumbled to herself all the way to the well. She lowered the bucket down Ito it. Her arms ached and she splashed her dress with water as she heaved it up again. Suddenly a graceful young woman appeared. She requested a drink of water. In temper, the elder daughter scowled at her. ‘You’re the reason my arms ache and my dress is soaked!’ She yelled.  ‘You’d better give me diamonds for all my trouble.’ She hurled the ladle at the young woman shouting ‘Get it yourself!’ She trudged back home with the bucket of water. On her return she screamed at her mother eagerly waiting at the front door, “Are you happy now?” Immediately four fat toads jumped out of her mouth. 

The widow and the elder daughter represent the ‘I’, always concerned exclusively with its own desires. Like these characters , it is often ruthless in its pursuit of its goals. The mother instructs her to force the old woman to drink whether or not she wants to. Such intentional action fuelled with desire leads to disharmony and suffering as symbolised by the toads. It also depletes energy resulting in fatigue as expressed in the elder daughter’s aching arms. 

The younger daughter in the story is both selfless and open hearted. She is compassionate toward the old woman. She is polite even when unfairly scolded. She is energetically tireless without complaint. The pearls point to the fruits of such altruism. The younger daughter symbolises the Buddha Nature - choiceless awareness.

Choiceless awareness free from self consciousness clearly sees what is required in all circumstances. It can be relied upon and trusted always as the following story illustrates. 

One day, Sumana, King Bimbisara’s gardener picked some colourful and fragrant flowers for the royal household. On his way to the royal palace he noticed a crowd of people. They were listening to the Buddha who was giving a teaching to them. Sumana stopped and joined them. As the Buddha spoke, his radiant presence emptied Sumana’s heart completely. He was filled with reverence and joy. After the sermon was over, Sumana approached the Buddha. He bowed down to him. He presented him with the flowers that he had planned to give to the King. A delightful floral arch spontaneously formed around the Buddha. Afterwards, Sumana began to worry that he had incurred the King’s wrath by giving the flowers away. However the King was overjoyed to hear that the Buddha had received such a gift. Rather than denouncing Sumana, the King praised him. 

Often ‘I’ leap into action in an attempt to feel in control. Sometimes choiceless awareness reveals that all that is required is to ‘let things be’ . In the garden there is a border that is constantly being taken over by moss. In the past much time has been spent removing it. However it always quietly returns. One day there was the realisation that it doesn’t disturb the plants. Many little birds use it to line their nests. Insects take refuge in it. It is also very beautiful. The moss is now allowed to flourish. Everything and everyone is content. There is no regret.

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