Knowing, But Not fully Understanding

When we read or hear that our thoughts and actions will have consequences that we will have to bear in the future, many of us say, “Yes, that’s right” and nod in agreement. And while we are reading or listening, we believe and accept. But, how long will we remember and how well will we understand after the book is closed or the speaker has ceased speaking?

We do not truly understand. We have been told, but we cannot remember, we cannot do, and we cannot change. So easily we fall back into those comfortable bad habits of desire and attachment, selfishness and anger. We try: We want to do what is good. We sincerely do not want to hurt another person, put ourselves first at the expense of others, or be consumed again by our anger. But as time passes, we slip back into forgetting.

Maybe, in this age of almost instant communication, we have become desensitized to wrong doings. What’s a little bit more anger? A little bit more hate? A little bit more gossip? A little bit more falsehood? Besides, everyone is doing it. Stealing. Coveting. Lying. People argue, “Surely, the law of cause and effect does not apply to little indiscretions.” But it does. It is a universal law, which means it applies 100 percent—not 60 percent or 80 percent—of the time. In our desensitization, we conveniently rationalize that certain wrong actions are OK to do, and that only certain wrong actions are truly wrong. And so we end up with our own little law of cause and effect. And we end up with knowing—but not fully understanding.

Our old habits blind us to remembering the principle of cause and effect. Maybe, if we can be reminded right away, or just before we do anything wrong, that a wrongful action is forthcoming, maybe we can stop our old bad habits. If only we can, just like when we hit our fingers with a hammer (the cause) we feel pain (the effect), feel the consequences right away, maybe we will stop all our wrongdoings.

The fear of instant repercussions, in this case, instant throbbing pain in the finger, will surely stop further causes. Alas, most times we do not have such instant reminders. And so we slip back again and again, further and further. To knowing, but not fully understanding.




When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Kindness Remembered and Forgotten

He who receives kindness should never forget it,
but he who performs it should never remember it.

We should always be grateful for the kindness that others show towards us. Kindness can relieve our fears and worries, and lessen our suffering. Remembering the kindness of others, we will be more inclined to pass the kindness on because we know how much it meant to us.

But why should we not remember when we are kind to others?

Thinking of our kindness to others can result in our looking down on the person who needed our help. Feelings of superiority can arise as we mentally pat ourselves on the shoulder and the other on her head, like we would a child. There goes our regarding all beings equally.

As we dwell on our good actions, we tend to congratulate ourselves. Unaware of what is happening, we allow pride to creep in. And there goes our humility. The Buddha warned us of the four poisons of greed, anger, ignorance, and arrogance. Even a touch of pride is arrogance. So just as we need to guard against any rising of anger or craving, we need to also guard against pride.

With our act of kindness, we laid the foundation for the future enjoyment of some good fortune. Ideally, we will want to use our good fortune to continue helping others. But if we ourselves enjoy our good fortune, for example by feeling even a trace of pride, we reduce that good fortune. So it is much better to dwell on thoughts of the kindness of others and to let go of memories of our own kindness.



Trustworthiness inspires confidence and a sense of security in others, and to us it brings contentment and a sense of ease. Those who depend on us—our family, friends, and those we work with—will know that we will speak honestly and considerately, and act from an uncompromising sense of integrity. They will know that they can depend on us to fulfill our promises and to meet our responsibilities. By striving for qualities like sincerity, truthfulness, and thoughtfulness, we will find a purpose and direction for our lives.



In life, it seems that so many of our hopes and expectations remain unfulfilled. And what of those that are? They end all too quickly. We can walk around in a perpetual gloom over our disappointments and frustrations. Or, we can look around us and realize that others are probably equally unhappy, and very likely, even more so. Seeing the sufering in someone’s eyes, or hearing the sadness or worry in their voice, how can we not care? How can we not be kind?