“I have been insulted! I have been hurt! I have been beaten! I have been robbed! Anger does not cease in those who harbor this sort of thought. I have been insulted! I have been hurt! I have been beaten! I have been robbed! Anger ceases in those who do not harbor this sort of thought” (Dhammapada 3, 4).
Earlier I spoke about people who like to tell of how cruel, selfish, dishonest, and disloyal others habitually are to them, and that they are merely telling us how cruel, selfish, dishonest, and disloyal they are. As Jesus said: “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). So those who speak habitually of evil, especially in an emotional or angry way, are harboring that very evil in their hearts.
We have all known people who love to foster resentment, brooding on “wrongs” of various sorts, both personal, social, and religious. These miserable souls continually stir themselves up to negative emotions, seeking justifications for their anger, hatred, and all-round discontent. Wishing to feel and spew out anger and hostility, they work themselves up into a state of “righteous indignation” to cover up the evil that resides in them. Many hope that by pointing the finger at others their own evil will remain undetected.
The truth of things
The main idea of this quotation from the Dhammapada is that by such thinking people consciously perpetuate their anger–and therefore their delusion. From these we see that all delusion is not only self-caused, it is self-maintained–even self-defended. Such a state is classically pathological–sociopathic, actually, as it is used to manipulate others as well as one’s self.
Modern society trains its members to be sociopaths. We are never to blame for anything. Criminals have been “failed” by society. Laws make people criminals(!). Others have been failed or harmed by their family, religion, or close associates (including spouse). Others are failures because they did not have the support of family, friends, or society. A great deal of government programs are based on sociopathic thinking. The moving finger points everywhere but to the source: the individual himself. Psychiatry in many instances is a major factor in the creation of a sociopathic attitude.
Buddha shows us how to free ourselves from this vicious cycle. This is not easy, but Buddha is speaking to those who want to strive for enlightenment, not to those who want an easy path. The first step in weaning ourselves–or guarding ourselves–from falling into the muck trap of self-pity is the facing and accepting of some basic facts such as karma and the source of all things being in the mind.
Nothing that occurs in the world is an entity unto itself. Rather, all things are reactions to previous actions: karma. I am stolen from because I stole; I am lied about because I lied; I am harmed because I harmed. My actions may have been in previous lives, but the reaction is no less a revelation of my present life. And it is much more a revelation of my mind as it is right now.
In the nineteenth century children were often told the story about a little boy who visited his aunt that lived in a valley where sounds were echoed. One day he came into the house and told her: “There is a bad little boy who lives up on the hill.” “Really? And how do you know he is bad?” inquired the aunt. “Because he called me bad names.” The aunt understood the situation. The little boy had called out something while playing and heard an echo of his voice. Thinking it was another child, he began calling out and became frustrated by the “bad boy” just repeating everything he said. So he started calling out insults, and got them back, so he went to “tell on” the bad boy to his aunt, who sat him down and told him the facts, showing him that he was only getting back what he had first projected. Karma is like an echo. What we shout will be shouted back at us.
Our life is a continuous stream of karmic echoes. Yes, others become instruments for the manifestation of the karma, but we are the origin of it all. So who shall we blame? As Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and they are us.” The answer is to get busy and change ourselves. Then our lives will change automatically.
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