Extracts from Buddhist Texts for Reflection

List of Readings:
Dhammapada
Pingiya’s Praises
The Story of Meghiya
The Story of Bahiya
Mind, Reactive and Creative
Life is King
The Story of Kisagotami

The Dhammapada, from chapter 1 – ‘Pairs’

Translated by Sangharakshita:

Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, and produced by mind. If one speaks or acts with an impure mind, suffering follows even as the cart-wheel follows the hoof of the ox (drawing the cart).

Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, and produced by mind. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows like a shadow that never departs.

Those who entertain such thoughts as ‘He abused me, he beat me, he conquered me, he robbed me’ will not still their hatred.

Those who do not entertain such thoughts as ‘He abused me, he beat me, he conquered me, he robbed me’ will still their hatred.

Not by hatred are hatreds ever pacified here (in the world). They are pacified by love. This is the eternal law.

Others do not realize that we are all heading for death. Those who do realize it will compose their quarrels.

Translated by Thanissaro:

Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart. If you speak or act with a corrupted heart, then suffering follows you – as the wheel of the cart, the track of the ox that pulls it.

Phenomena are preceded by the heart, ruled by the heart, made of the heart. If you speak or act with a calm, bright heart, then happiness follows you, like a shadow that never leaves.

‘He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me’ – for those who brood on this, hostility isn’t stilled.

‘He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me’ – for those who don’t brood on this, hostility is stilled.

Hostilities aren’t stilled through hostility, regardless. Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility: this, an unending truth.

Unlike those who don’t realize that we’re here on the verge of perishing, those who do: their quarrels are stilled.

 

Pingiya’s Praises of the Way to the Beyond

‘I will sing you the praises of The Way to the Beyond’, said Pingiya. ‘It was described to us by this man exactly as he saw it. But then there isn’t any reason why a man like him should lie – a mammoth of knowledge and completely pure, a man without desire.

‘When a voice has none of the glibness of pride and none of the ingrained stains of ignorance, then its words are full of sweetness and beauty. It is such words that I praise now.

‘They call him Buddha, Enlightened, Awake, dissolving darkness, with total vision, and knowing the world to its ends, he has gone beyond all the states of being and of becoming. He has no inner poison-drives: he is the total elimination of suffering. This man is the man I follow.

‘It is like a bird that leaves the bushes of the scrubland and flies to the fruit trees of the forest. I too have left the bleary half-light of opinions; like a swan I have reached a great lake.

‘Up till now, before I heard Gotama’s teaching, people had always told me this: “This is how it has always been, and this is how it will always be”; only the constant refrain of tradition, a breeding ground for speculation.

‘This prince, this beam of light, Gotama, was the only one who dissolved the darkness. This man Gotama is a universe of wisdom and a world of understanding, a teacher whose Dharma is the Way Things Are, instant, immediate and visible all around, eroding desire without harmful side-effects, with nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world.

‘There is no moment for me, however small, that is spent away from Gotama, from this universe of wisdom, this world of understanding, this teacher whose teaching is the Way Things Are, instant, immediate and visible all around, eroding desire without harmful side-effects, with nothing else quite like it anywhere in the world.

‘You see, with constant and careful vigilance it is possible for me to see him with my mind as clearly as with my eyes, in night as well as day. And since I spend my nights revering him, there is not, to my mind, a single moment spent away from him.

‘I cannot now move away from the teaching of Gotama: the powers of confidence and joy, of intellect and awareness, hold me there. Whichever way this universe of wisdom goes it draws me with it.

‘Physically, I cannot move like that – my body is decaying, I am old and weak – but the driving power of purposeful thought propels me with it without break.

‘There was a time when, writhing in the mud of the swamps, I could only drift from one stone to the next. But then I saw the Buddha, fully awake and free from defilement.’

Then the Buddha spoke:

‘Pingiya’, he said, ‘other people have freed themselves by the power of confidence. You too should let that strength release you; you too will go to the further shore, beyond the draw of death.’

‘These words’, said Pingiya, ‘are the words of a man of wisdom. As I hear them I become more confident. This man is Buddha: he has opened the curtains and woken up. There is nothing barren there; his mind is clear and luminous.

‘Everything accessible to knowledge is known to him, even the ultimate subtleties of godhood. There are no more questions for the doubtful who come to him: the teacher has answered them all.

‘Yes, I shall go there. I shall go beyond change, I shall go beyond formations; I shall go beyond comparison. There are no more doubts. You may consider this as mind released.’

 

The Meghiya Sutta

Thus have I heard: On a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying at Calika, on Calika Hill. Now on that occasion the venerable Meghiya was in attendance on the Exalted One. After questing for alms food and eating his meal, Meghiya went towards the bank of the river Kimikala, and saw a lovely, delightful mango-grove. At the sight of it he thought:

“Truly lovely and delightful is this mango-grove! A proper place surely is this for a clansman for striving (for concentration). If the Exalted One would give me leave, I would come here to this mango-grove to strive for concentration.”

So the venerable Meghiya went to the Exalted One and sat down at one side, and as he sat thus he told the Exalted One (of his find and what he had thought) and said:

“If the Exalted One gives me leave, I would go to that mango-grove to strive for concentration”

At these words the Exalted One said to the venerable Meghiya: “Wait a little, Meghiya. I am alone till some other monk arrives.”

Then a second time the venerable Meghiya said to the Exalted One: “Sir, the Exalted One has nothing further to be done, has nothing more to add to what he has done. But for me, sir, there is more yet to be done, there is more to be added to what I have done. If the Exalted One gives me leave, I would go to that mango-grove to strive for concentration.”

Then a second time the Exalted One replied: “Wait a little, Meghiya. I am alone till some other monk arrives.”

Then yet a third time the venerable Meghiya made his request, and the Exalted One replied: “Well, Meghiya, what can I say when you talk of striving for concentration? Do what you think it is time for, Meghiya.”

Accordingly the venerable Meghiya rose from his seat, saluted the Exalted One with his right side and went away to that mango-grove, and on reaching it plunged into it and sat down for the midday rest at the foot of a certain tree. Now as the venerable Meghiya was staying in that mango-grove there came habitually upon him three evil, unprofitable forms of thought: thoughts lustful, thoughts malicious and thoughts harmful.

And the venerable Meghiya thought: “It is strange, in truth! It is a wonderful thing, in truth, that I who in faith went forth from home to the homeless should thus be assailed by these three evil, unprofitable forms of thought: thoughts lustful, thoughts malicious and thoughts harmful!” So in the evening he arose from his solitude and went to the Exalted One, and on coming to him said: “Sir, while I have been staying in that mango-grove there came habitually upon me three evil, unprofitable forms of thought. Then, sir, I thought: It is strange, in truth! It is wonderful, in truth, that I should be assailed thus!’

Meghiya, when the heart’s release is immature, five things conduce to its maturity. What five? Herein, Meghiya, a monk has a lovely intimacy, a lovely friendship, a lovely comradeship. When the heart’s release is immature this is the first thing that conduces to its maturity.

Then again, Meghiya, a monk is virtuous, he abides restrained with the restraint of the obligations, he is perfect in the practice of right behaviour, sees danger in trifling faults, he undertakes and trains himself in the ways of training. When the heart’s release is immature, this, Meghiya, is the second thing that conduces to its maturity.

Then again, Meghiya, as regards talk that is serious and suitable for opening up the heart and conduces to downright revulsion, to dispassion, to ending, to calm, to comprehension, to perfect insight, to Nibbana, that is to say, – talk about wanting little, about contentment, about solitude, about avoiding society, about putting forth energy; talk about virtue, concentration of mind and wisdom, talk about release, knowledge and insight of release, – such talk as this the monk gets at pleasure, without pain and without stint. When the heart’s release is immature, Meghiya, this is the third thing that conduces to its maturity.

Then again, Meghiya, a monk abides resolute in energy, for the abandoning of unprofitable things, for the acquiring of profitable things, he is stout and strong in effort, not laying aside the burden in things profitable. When the heart’s release is immature, Meghiya, this is the fourth thing that conduces to its maturity.

Then again, Meghiya, a monk possessed of insight, endowed with the insight that goes on to discern the rise and fall, with the Ariyan penetration which goes on to penetrate the perfect ending of Ill. When the heart’s release is immature, Meghiya, this is the fifth thing, and these are the five things that conduce to its maturity.

Meghiya, when a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will be virtuous…

When a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will get to hear at will, easily and without difficulty, talk that is truly sobering and conducive to the opening of awareness…

When a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will keep his persistence aroused for abandoning unskilful qualities, and for taking on skilful qualities…

When a monk has admirable friends, admirable companions, admirable comrades, it is to be expected that he will be discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away — noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress.

 

The Bahiya Sutta

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying near Savatthi in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika’s monastery. At that time Bahiya of the Bark-cloth was living by the seashore at Supparaka. He was respected, revered, honored, venerated, and given homage, and was one who obtained the requisites of robes, almsfood, lodging, and medicines.

Now while he was in seclusion, this reflection arose in the mind of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth: “Am I one of those in the world who are Enlightened or who have entered the path to Enlightenment?”

Then a devata who was a former blood-relation of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth understood that reflection in his mind. Being compassionate and wishing to benefit him, he approached Bahiya and said: “You, Bahiya, are neither an arahant nor have you entered the path to Enlightenment. You do not follow that practice whereby you could be an arahant or enter the path to Enlightenment.”

“Then, in the world including the devas, who are Enlightened or have entered the path to Enlightenment?”

“There is, Bahiya, in a far country a town called Savatthi. There the Buddha now lives who is the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One. That Buddha, Bahiya, is indeed an arahant and he teaches the Dharma for the realization of Enlightenment.”

Then Bahiya of the Bark-cloth, profoundly stirred by the words of that devata, then and there departed from Supparaka. Stopping only for one night everywhere (along the way), he went to Savatthi where the Buddha was staying in the Jeta Wood at Anathapindika’s monastery. At that time a number of bhikkhus were walking up and down in the open air. Then Bahiya of the Bark-cloth approached those bhikkhus and said: “Where, revered sirs, is the Buddha now living, the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One? We wish to see that Buddha who is the Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One.”

“The Buddha, Bahiya, has gone for almsfood among the houses.”

Then Bahiya hurriedly left the Jeta Wood. Entering Savatthi, he saw the Buddha walking for almsfood in Savatthi — pleasing, lovely to see, with calmed senses and tranquil mind, attained to perfect poise and calm, controlled, a perfected one, watchful with restrained senses. On seeing the Buddha he approached, fell down with his head at the Buddha’s feet, and said: “Teach me the Dharma, Buddha; teach me the Dharma, so that it will be for my good and happiness for a long time.”

Upon being spoken to thus, the Buddha said to Bahiya of the Bark-cloth: “It is an unsuitable time, Bahiya, we have entered among the houses for almsfood.”

A second time Bahiya said to the Buddha: “It is difficult to know for certain, revered sir, how long the Buddha will live or how long I will live. Teach me the Dharma, Buddha; teach me the Dharma, so that it will be for my good and happiness for a long time.” A second time the Buddha said to Bahiya: “It is an unsuitable time, Bahiya, we have entered among the houses for almsfood.”

A third time Bahiya said to the Buddha: “It is difficult to know for certain… Teach me the Dharma so that it will be for my good and happiness for a long time.”

“Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: ‘In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.’ In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

“When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen… in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘with that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘with that,’ then, Bahiya, you will not be ‘in that.’ When, Bahiya, you are not ‘in that,’ then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering.”

Now through this brief Dharma teaching of the Buddha the mind of Bahiya of the Bark-cloth was immediately freed from the taints without grasping. Then the Buddha, having instructed Bahiya with this brief instruction, went away.

Not long after the Buddha’s departure a cow with a young calf attacked Bahiya of the Bark-cloth and killed him. When the Buddha, having walked for almsfood in Savatthi, was returning from the alms round with a number of bhikkhus, on departing from the town he saw that Bahiya of the Bark-cloth had died.

Seeing this he said to the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, take Bahiya’s body, put it on a litter, carry it away and burn it, and make a stupa for it. Your companion in the holy life has died.”

“Very well, revered sir,” those bhikkhus replied to the Buddha.

Taking Bahiya’s body, they put it upon a litter, carried it away and burnt it, and made a stupa for it. Then they went to the Buddha, prostrated themselves, and sat down to one side. Sitting there those bhikkhus said to the Buddha: “Bahiya’s body has been burnt revered sir, and a stupa has been made for it. What is his destiny, what is his future birth?”

“Bhikkhus, Bahiya of the Bark-cloth was a wise man. He practiced according to the Dharma and did not trouble me by disputing about the Dharma. Bhikkhus, Bahiya of the Bark-cloth has attained final Nibbana.”

Then, on realizing its significance, the Buddha uttered on that occasion this inspired utterance:

Where neither water nor yet earth
Nor fire nor air gain a foothold,
There gleam no stars, no sun sheds light,
There shines no moon,
yet there no darkness reigns.
When a sage, a brahman, has come to know this
For himself through his own wisdom,
Then he is freed from form and formless.
Freed from pleasure and from pain.

This inspired utterance was spoken by the Buddha also, so I did hear.

 

Mind Reactive and Creative – Sangharakshita

The reactive mind is the unaware mind. Whatever it does, it does without any real knowledge of what it is that it is doing. Metaphorically speaking, the reactive mind is asleep. Those in whom it predominates can, therefore, be described as asleep rather than awake. In a state of sleep they live out their lives; in a state of sleep they eat, drink, talk, work, play, vote, make love; in a state of sleep, even, they read books on Buddhism and try to meditate.

It is with this realization — when we become aware of our own unawareness, when we wake up to the fact that we are asleep — that spiritual life begins. One might, indeed, go so far as to say that it marks the beginning of truly human existence, though this would imply, indeed, a far higher conception of human existence than the word usually conveys — a conception nearer what is usually termed spiritual.

This brings us to the second kind of relative mind, to what we have termed the creative mind.

The characteristics of the creative mind are the opposite of those of the reactive mind. The creative mind does not re-act. It is not dependent on, or determined by, the stimuli with which it comes into contact. On the contrary, it is active on its own account, functioning spontaneously, out of the depths of its own intrinsic nature.

Even when initially prompted by something external to itself it quickly transcends its original point of departure and starts functioning independently. The creative mind can therefore be said to respond rather than to react. Indeed it is capable of transcending conditions altogether. Hence it can also be said that whereas the reactive mind is essentially pessimistic, being confined to what is given in immediate experience, the creative mind is profoundly and radically optimistic.

Its optimism is not, however, the superficial optimism of the streets, no mere unthinking reaction to, or rationalization of, pleasurable stimuli. By virtue of the very nature of the creative mind such a reaction would be impossible. On the contrary, the optimism of the creative mind persists despite unpleasant stimuli, despite conditions unfavourable for optimism, or even when there are no conditions for it at all.

The creative mind loves where there is no reason to love, is happy where there is no reason for happiness, creates where there is no possibility of creativity, and in this way builds a heaven in hell’s despair.

 

Life is King – Sangharakshita

Hour after hour, day
After day we try
To grasp the Ungraspable, pinpoint
The Unpredictable. Flowers
Wither when touched, ice
Suddenly cracks beneath our feet. Vainly
We try to track birdflight through the sky trace
Dumb fish through deep water, try
To anticipate the earned smile the soft
Reward, even
Try to grasp our own lives. But Life
Slips through our fingers
Like snow. Life
Cannot belong to us. We
Belong to Life. Life
Is King.

 

The Story of Kisagotami and the Mustard Seed

Kisagotami, a newly married woman, lost, soon after his birth, her only child. And as mothers naturally tend to be, she was very, very much attached to the child. She couldn’t believe that the child was dead. She didn’t want to believe that the child was dead, and she took it in her arms from house to house asking for medicine for her child to make it well. And she became almost crazed with grief.

People eventually sent Kisagotami to the Buddha, saying that “He is a great physician; He can heal your child”. So she asked him to help her and to heal her child, to bring her child back to life.

The Buddha didn’t give her a long sermon. He knew that would be useless; she was crazed with grief; she couldn’t listen to words of that sort. So he said, “I will cure your child if you bring me a certain medicine”. So very eagerly she said, “Of course”. And he said, “Bring me just a few grains of mustard seed, but bring them from a house where none have died”.

So, off she went, knocking on the door of house after house, and everywhere she went, they said “yes, we can give you a mustard seed”. But when she asked “has anyone died in this house”, they said “do not remind us of our grief. The dead are many, but the living are few.”

So from house to house she went, and at every door that she knocked, at every house from which she sought the mustard seed, she learned the same lesson – that the dead are many, but the living are few. Death comes to all, death takes away father or mother or brother or sister, and she wasn’t the only one, she wasn’t the only one who had been bereaved.

So eventually she came back to the Buddha, and she just sat quietly at his feet. And the Buddha said to her, “Where is your child?”, but she didn’t have the child any more, she’d just left the child’s body in the jungle.

She didn’t say anything for a long time. And then she said at last, “Give me a refuge”. The Buddha gave her the three traditional refuges – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. And she became a nun, and later in her life, Enlightened herself like the Buddha.