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Archive for November, 2009

So I just moved into a new neighborhood, its pretty nice; although I think life has a funny sense of humor because now, after writing that article about not killing cockroaches, it seems that I have found an apartment with them in it. But I am just keeping the place very clean, giving them little reason to be here, and I installed some of those electronic devices in my wall outlets that say they release high pitch sounds that make the little things look for a new home to dwell in. So far it is working very well, and I haven’t seen one in days.

Last night I had an interesting meeting with my next door neighbor — it was the first time we have met. It wasn’t a bad meeting or anything like that, in fact we got along quite well, but there was just something odd enough about the interaction that I thought I should document it.

I was coming home from a dinner meeting, and she was coming home from work. She introduced herself as my neighbor and we got to your basic, token, first meeting question and answer session. When she discovered I was not a total weirdo, about her age, and single… she invited me into her house so we could sit down and talk more.

In an shockingly short amount of time I was told that she was single, sexually active, and asked if I was into casual sex. I was a bit taken aback by this, but never lost my composure of anything like that. I just politely acted like I was dull to the fact that this was some kind of an advance and mentioned that as a “Spiritual” person I don’t let myself fall into irresponsible sexual behavior.

“What? You mean you are not saved? You are not Christian?” she said.

I then got a talking to about how I needed to get saved and be Christian like she is. When I mentioned that I was quite happy with my current religious situation, and obviously quite moral as well, she mentioned how maybe I was “too moral” and that her church is great because they don’t care at all about if the people going there are having sex, living together, drinking a lot, or anything like that. “You should try it,” she said.

I asked her if they were so open minded about that kind of stuff how the church treated gay people that wished to attend there… “Oh no,” she said “gay people can’t go there. That’s a sin.”

Now that’s interesting. I think the irony of that one escaped her.

I politely said “no”, to her offer(s), said that it was nice to meet her and excused myself since it was getting late and I still had a few things to do before bed. I don’t think that the conversation ended awkwardly or anything like that.

When I got home I started thinking about something that a pastor I know was telling me about his church a few months ago. It’s one of the fastest-growing in America, but some things about it were frustrating him; he was telling me about how just about every unmarried couple that he knows that goes to his church are having sex, and how most couples he is giving marriage counseling to are already living together and sleeping together.

He said it with a bit of surprise in his voice, and I asked him if he has considered WHY that is the way that the current situation is. His automatic response was simply that these people must be too caught up in the world, not close enough to Jesus, and they are the product of their MTV, Sex in the City, iphone environment.

Obviously, he hadn’t ever really thought about if maybe it was something that he or his church were doing wrong.

Now, I can’t speak for him or his church but should we not at the very least consider for a second if maybe it is something that “we” are doing wrong? Some point that “we” are missing?

These people… they are in your church, some of them have been for years. Are they not also a product of the environment of the church they are going to? Have you had so little impact on their lives that you can’t even consider church or your leadership a factor of influence on your churchgoers? Interesting.

And look at the statistics… you are saying that just about ALL, the overwhelming majority, of the people you are bringing up in your church are doing this, and you have not even stopped to consider for a second that MAYBE this has something to do with your church leadership or direction?

Or have you considered that maybe the same thing that is making your church so appealing that it is growing so fast is the same thing that is lessening its redeemable qualities? Sure you are growing, and you are popular, but at what cost?

The Dhammapada tells us that if the people in your care are screwing up, stop concentrating on their faults and start looking at your own faults, because as leaders after your correct your own, the other’s will naturally fall into line.

If there is disorder it normally flows from the top-down, and not the bottom-up.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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CHAPTER IV: FLOWERS

(44)

Only a skillful flower arranger knows how to select from all the beautiful flowers the very best for their arrangements. But who can rightfully discern the choice flower of the Dharma from all the other tantalizing flowers that the world has to offer?

(45)

The learner who has dedicated themselves to this training will rightfully discern, as the flower arranger. The learner on this path will spot the correct Dharma teachings, it stands out among the others as plain as day to them, but to the rest it remains obscured and hidden.

(46)

Having learned that this body is as temporary as the foam produced by the waters, that it offers no more substance than a mirage, the learner has moved beyond the reach of the temptations and traps which ensnare.

(47)

The pleasures of the world are like beautiful flowers in the forest, one could become so absorbed in collecting them that they forget to stay alert of the dangers that are present, being easily swept into their downfall as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

(48)

The person immersed in gathering pleasures drowns in their own insatiable thirst, never satisfied, always reaching for the next and greater sensation.

(49)

As a bee travels from one type of flower to another, bringing out the honey but leaving each flowers own unique fragrance and color intact, so should a sage bring out the good in each village or person they meet without altering their uniqueness.

(50)

While working to bring out the good pay no attention the faults of others, or what they have haven’t done; instead, pay attention to your own faults and your own inactions.

(51)

For even a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent is worthless, as worthless as your eloquent words if only spoken but never lived out personally.

(52)

But a beautiful flower, full of color, and full of scent is a joy to others, like one whose good words matches their own good deeds.

(53)

One may look at a heap of flowers, cut down and consider them futile, knowing they will soon wither and die, but a skillful flower arranger knows they can use the time they have left to make beautiful garlands. Just so, your own life is mortal and fleeting but you can still do many skillful things.

(54)

The scent of a flower cannot travel against the wind, not even the strongest incense or perfume can. But the fragrance of a person of virtue will spread to the ends of the earth, regardless of how the wind blows.

(55)

The aroma of flowers, incense or perfumes can be excellent, but the aroma of virtue surpasses them all.

(56)

Compared to virtue, whose scent reaches up to the heavens, even the strongest incense becomes nothing.

(57)

Living life as a fragrance, the virtuous have no body or home to be found in by their enemies, like a vapor they cannot be grasped by their snares, for they dwell in mindfulness and are freed by right understanding.

(58-59)

Every once in a while a beautiful flower sprouts forth out the piles of trash heaped on the sides of the road, and when it does it dazzles us all. Just so, you, the disciple of the Buddha have risen out of the heap, distinguishing yourself as a light to those still blind and bound to the limitations of this world.

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Preface

This lovingly made, non-literal, contemporary translation of the Dhammapada is provided for you as a free service. For those of you who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha on meditation, concentration, discipline and even the morals and ethics of Buddhism but who are turned off by “Religious Buddhism”, it is my hope that this more proverbial, even somewhat humanist translation will be of use to you. For others, who were leery of it such an old writing could be pertinent to them today, I hope this more modern translation will show you that it still is. For those who already know this text well, and even live by it, it is my hope that this may either challenge you to think of it anew, or at the very least may it refresh your spirits.

THE DHAMMAPADA

CHAPTER ONE: TWIN VERSES

(1)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with impure thoughts and suffering follows, as the wheel of a wagon follows the ox which pulls it.

(2)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with a pure thought and happiness follows, as a shadow follows a traveler on a sunny day.

(3)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Holding onto these thoughts only keeps the pain alive.

(4)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Letting go of these thoughts releases you from suffering further.

(5)

For hating those who wronged you will not release you from hate, it will only create further suffering. The cycle of hatred will only be broken by non-hatred. This is an ancient truth.

(6)

Most do not live in the realization that life is short. For those who fully realize this, quarrels become unimportant.

(7)

One who lives for self gratification, is over-indulgent, uncontrolled, unrestrained, full of laziness and apathy, is easily broken by hard-times and temptations, just as a small storm can easily break a weak tree.

(8)

One who lives for a higher purpose, is moderate, controlled, restrained, not afraid of hard work and devout, cannot be easily broken by hard-times and temptations, as even a great storm still cannot move a mountain.

(9)

The robe does not make the monk. If the one wearing the robe lacks self-control and honesty, they have defiled it.

(10)

One who is free from inner defilements, having self-control, and honesty, standing strong in the precepts, only such a person is worthy of a monk’s robe.

(11)

Those who consider the unimportant things in life to be important and the truly important as unimportant will never find that which is important, for they were looking in the wrong place all along.

(12)

However, those who correctly see the important as important and the unimportant as unimportant will find the important, rightfully discerning where to begin their search.

(13)

As rain will always find the crack in a poorly-made roof, so Want will find its way into an undisciplined mind.

(14)

As rain cannot find a way through a well-made roof, so Want cannot find its way into a well-disciplined mind.

(15)

For those who do wrong to others it will only end in grief, grief in the present, grief in the future. In both states the wrongdoer grieves; from the initial seed, to seeing the seed come to bear fruit.

(16)

For the doer of good there is much rejoicing, rejoicing in the present, rejoicing in the future. In both states there is joy; seeing one’s own pure acts bear good fruit brings joy and delight to everyone.

(17)

Those who do wrong suffer in the present, suffer in the future. In both states there is suffering. Tormented today by the thought, “I have done wrong”, tormented tomorrow, having fallen into the cycle of suffering.

(18)

Those who do well to others delight in the present, delight in the future. In both states there is delight. Here they are delighted knowing, “I have treated others well”, and tomorrow for they have entered into the cycle of bliss.

(19)

One, who studies the teachings, memorizes them, quotes them often, but doesn’t do what they say, is like a banker, surrounded by other people’s wealth, counting it as their own, deluding themselves into thinking that they are now rich. Such a person does not gain any real benefit from their studies.

(20)

One, who knows little of the teachings, but still lives according to them, free of grasping, hate, and delusions; revering and discerning what truth they find, not clinging to this life or the next, such a person, will gain the benefits of the contemplative life.

CHAPTER II: DILIGENCE

(21)

Diligence is the path of liberation; negligence the path to bondage. The vigilant can never be truly bound; the negligent can never be truly free.

(22)

The wise, knowing this to be true, develop their diligence; consider it a joy to do so, having found their happiness in the wisdom of the noble ones.

(23)

Now awakened, dedicating themselves to meditation, striving forward with firm minds, they find the ultimate liberation.

(24)

The glory of a virtuous person is their reputation, and for one who is active in pursuing that which is good, diligent, pure and considerate to others, it is ever increasing.

(25)

The wise, by much effort, discipline, restraint and self-control, make for themselves an island which no flood can submerge.

(26)

The foolish surrender themselves over to negligence; while the one who is wise carefully guards their discipline as their most valuable possession.

(27)

Don’t give in to negligence; don’t look for pleasure in temporal desires — for it is the disciplined, who having absorbed themselves in meditation find true happiness.

(28)

The wise, drives out negligence with discipline, like a climb up a tall mountain; now free from sorrow, they see the sorrow of the masses in the valley from which they came.

(29)

The disciplined among the negligent, the awake among the sleeping — so the wise advance, like a well-trained racehorse surpasses the weak and untrained.

(30)

Even in the fable of Indra, it was through diligence that he became king of the gods, for even these gods praised diligence, and looked down on negligence with contempt.

(31)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees the danger in negligence advances like a fire, burning the ropes which bound them both great and small.

(32)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees danger in negligence is bound to never fall astray and is close to liberation.

CHAPTER III: THE MIND

(33)

As a skilled arrow maker knows to shape the arrow straight so that it will not waver, so does a skilled meditator know they must shape their wavering mind.

(34)

Like a fish when lured of its watery home thrashes about on dry land, so a mind thrashes about from thing to thing when lured into the land of pleasing the senses.

(35)

It is difficult to wrestle with the mind; it is hard to pin down, nimble and quick — wishing to wander wherever it pleases. Difficult but worth it, for a well disciplined mind brings much happiness.

(36)

The wise should pay close attention to what tries to slip into their minds, for its enemies are subtle and can be difficult to perceive. A mind well guarded brings much happiness.

(37)

The mind like a ghost is bodiless, strays far and wide, and can hide itself alone in secret chambers; however those who learn to restrain it will be freed from their bonds.

(38)

For a person with an unsteady mind, not knowing the true Dharma will be incapable of recognizing it until their mind and wavering faith has settled.

(39)

For the one who is awake, whose mind is calm and steady, having abandoned the dualities of good and evil, there is no more fear or danger to perplex their hearts.

(40)

Aware that this body is fragile like a clay jar, and that it is the mind which we must make strong like a fortress; fortify your mind, and then battle the enemy with the sword of truth, protecting the spoils you have won, knowing never to let your guard down, even in victory.

(41)

For soon this body will simply lie on the ground, lifeless, deprived of this consciousness, to be cast aside like a useless scrap of wood.

(42)

Think of two people who hate each other, or two mortal enemies locked in combat, then realize that your mind if not under your control can cause you more difficulties than either of these.

(43)

Think or a loving mother, father, or any friend or relative who cares for you, then realize that your mind if well-centered can do you more good than any of these.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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