By Oneself

By oneself is evil done;
by oneself is one defiled.
By oneself is evil left undone;
by oneself is one made pure.
Purity and impurity depend on oneself;
no one can purify another. 

The Dhammapada
translated by Venerable Buddharakkhita



The practice of gratitude is very important in Buddhism. But so often, we forget about feeling grateful. When things go our way and we receive what we desire, we congratulate ourselves and all too easily slip into arrogance. We forget about all those who have helped us get where we are, allowing us to enjoy what we have. When we do not receive what we desire, we blame others! We forget that what we receive in life is due to our own causes and conditions, our own merits or lack of merits. But arrogance and blaming others are both afflictions and, thus, are obstacles to our progress on the path to awakening.

If instead, we are grateful for all the help we have received from others, in our happiness, we will in turn want to share what we have with others.


Causes of Anger

Why does anger occur? Where does it come from? Anger arises from thinking of unpleasant objects and situations in a mistaken way. Once anger arises as the result of such mistaken thinking, it increases.

Our personal experiences will bear this out. When we see an object or an occurrence that we view as unpleasant, feelings of resentment, bitterness, and anger can easily arise. We want the experience to stop. We want to be rid of the undesirable object. We want the annoying person to go away. If only these would happen, then we would be happy.

But such thinking is mistaken. Just as the presence of objects and experiences does not necessarily make us happy, neither does their absence. Attempting to satisfy our emotional desires will not lead to happiness. In truth, wanting to stop that which is unpleasant only leads to more wanting, more emotional reactions, more turmoil—not happiness. Not yet realizing this, we continue to buy more tickets to get back on our emotional roller coaster of wanting, attainment, disappointment, and anger.

What should we do instead of falling back into this negative pattern? We need to train ourselves so that our minds remain stable and focused. We should neither feel attached to pleasant sensations nor feel averse to those that are unpleasant. If we can accomplish this, we will remain content with what we have and calm in any circumstance in which we find ourselves. Content and calm, we will know how to act wisely. Our anger will gradually diminish, and, eventually, cease to arise.


Speech Karma

The Buddha often cautioned us against speech karma because it is so easy for us to commit. To help us learn to speak more wisely, we can endeavor to never again say words that are false, harsh, divisive, or enticing. This guideline of saying only what is correct, honest, and beneficial enables us to keep our speech proper. So often when we are speaking with others, we do not say anything helpful, but instead indulge in idle chatter or frivolous talk. If there is nothing correct, honest, and beneficial to say, it would be wiser to remain quiet. This way we will not have to regret what we have said or wonder how to undo the harm we have done.

When speaking with others, it is also important to find the right time to discuss sensitive matters. Embarrassing or hurting someone because we choose the wrong time to speak to them will cause additional suffering. Furthermore, it will do nothing to correct the situation. We need to find both the right words and the right time to say those words.


Members of Society

956849-661693-thumbnail.jpgAs caring members of society, it is our responsibility to practice the virtues of harmlessness, compassion, and equanimity. These virtues lie deep within us, within our true nature. This true nature is the same as that of all Buddhas. The true nature of Buddhas—their very essence—is loving-kindness, altruism, and tranquility. These qualities lie at the core of their being. And ours.

Although such virtues are already within each one of us, all too often they lie dormant. Why?

Because we are thoroughly engrossed in foolish attempts to satisfy our personal desires. We are convinced that our way of doing things is correct and that our happiness lies in possessions and power. And so we are intent on getting others to do things our way and on accumulating wealth and influence. Although we have the same true nature as a Buddha, we fail to experience the wonders of this true nature. We consistently fall back into our bad habits. Thus, we end up acting from our human nature, all the while burying our true nature even deeper within us.