Though originally published on our Blog almost 10 years ago, spiritual articles never lose their relevance, so we are re-pubishing this today.
From the first time I ever heard it until today, “everybody does it” seems to me one of the most moronic and irrelevant–not to say almost always untrue–things anyone can say, especially if it is meant to justify some thought or action. So when I came across a similar section to this in one of the Pali sutras, I commented to other members of our ashram that it might be good to recite it every day to remind us that running with the herd is not an option for those seeking higher consciousness.
Happy indeed we live who are free from hatred among those who still hate. In the midst of hate-filled men, we live free from hatred” (Dhammapada 197). Thanissaro Bhikkhu: “How very happily we live, free from hostility among those who are hostile. Among hostile people, free from hostility we dwell.”
The world seems to run on hate and anger–all we need do is look at history and see that humanity is a bundle of conflicts. That is the way things are, and we should accept it but not approve of it. Rather than waiting for a “better day” when hatred will be abolished–something that absolutely will never happen–we should determine to live ourselves without hatred or hostility, even when encountering those who do hate, and who may hate us for not hating.
It is foolish to wait for “everyone to do it” before doing it ourselves. Waiting for a more congenial time or environment to practice virtue is a great folly. After all, it may be our friendliness (metta) and peaceful response to others that will help them be the same. But do notice that Buddha does not say that we shall attempt to change others and get them not to hate, for they have to put forth their own will to change themselves, just as we are doing.
The principle set forth in this verse applies as well to the ultimate activity of hatred: war. Rather than engaging in futile “peace efforts” that are usually embittered and violent–not to speak of being impractical and unreasonable–we must settle our hearts in peace. I have met many good men and women of peace who were saddened at the prevalence of war, and who strove to live lives of peace themselves. But I have met no “peaceniks” that were not narrow, hateful, and devoid of peace in mind and heart, and politically uninformed and bigoted. Blaming others for war, they did not see that they were contributing to the universal vibrations of anger and spite.
Fundamentally, this and subsequent verses teach us that each person must determine to follow the path of right thought and action and let others alone. Over a hundred years ago a wise man wrote an article on spiritual life entitled: Others May, You Cannot. That is a good rule to remember.
“Happy indeed we live who are free from disease among those still diseased. In the midst of diseased men, we live free from disease” (Dhammapada 198). Thanissaro Bhikkhu: “How very happily we live, free from misery among those who are miserable. Among miserable people, free from misery we dwell.”
Narada Thera comments that the disease spoken of here is “the disease of passions.” It is strange but true that a great many people continually stir themselves up, deliberately choosing to live is a state of constant ferment, upset, and misery. Oftentimes this is because nothing else goes on in their life. Many neighborhoods have their local grouch whose only purpose in life is complaining and making trouble for others. This often includes complaints to the police and other authorities for petty “crimes” on behalf of others, especially regarding parking in front of their property. Children and adults are equal targets for their frustration and malice.
When growing up I knew three of these bitter people, all of whom were old, ill, and without family or friends. Their ways were inexplicable. But one of them came out differently. She had done some nasty, spiteful thing to an aunt of mine, and her son retaliated with some prank. The old lady did not know who did it, but my cousin began to feel really bad about what he had done. So he went to her house and apologized and asked her forgiveness. The poor woman nearly passed out in shock, since for years everyone had despised her. She was so moved she hugged and kissed him and apologized for being such a grouch. The result was she became friends with my aunt’s family and soon was friends will all the neighbors. This is the power of goodness, even if belated.
Living amongst the passion-ridden, we can be passion-free and at peace.
“Happy indeed we live who are free from worry among those who are still worried. In the midst of worried men, we live free from worry” (Dhammapada 199).
This must be an ambiguous verse in the Pali original, for Harischandra Kaviratna renders it: “Blessed indeed are we who live among those who are yearning for sense delights, without yearning for such things; amidst those who are yearning for sense delights, let us dwell without yearning.” Narada Thera agrees in his translation, but Thanissaro Bhikkhu has it: “How very happily we live, free from busyness among those who are busy. Among busy people, free from busyness we dwell.”
Whichever it is, we can profitably resolve to put away, worry, desire, and obsession with externals from our minds and live at rest in our hearts.
Happy with nothing
“Happy indeed we live who have nothing of our own. We shall feed on joy, just like the radiant devas” (Dhammapada 200).
This can be followed in two ways. The first is the obvious one of living in blessed simplicity without the burden of many things. A friend of mine used to take stock of everything in her house about every six months, and get rid of everything she did not really need. She had realized that the habit of possession creeps up on all of us, and each time she made her inventory, sure enough her own weakness had begun tripping her up.
The second way is to live happily in the realization that absolutely nothing is ever really ours, that everything, including our body, eventually dissolves away. And besides, it is all just a dream which must end in time. This is the key to really enjoying things, for they are not hanging around our necks demanding that we look after them, guard them, protect them, and identify with them. To be possessed by possessions is misery, but freedom from them is the happiness of the gods.
- Dhammapada for Awakening—A commentary on the words of Buddha, available for reading online.
- The Dhammapada for Awakening: A Commentary on Buddha’s Practical Wisdom, available as paperback or ebook at Amazon: Universal Amazon Link
[sc_fs_faq sc_id=”fs_faqfjvskmbb7″ html=”true” headline=”h3″ img=”10423″ question=”What are 4 ways you can be happy?” img_alt=”” css_class=”” ]1. Live free from hatred. <br/>2. Live and be healthy. <br/>3. Be free from worry and yearning (be contented). <br/>4. Be free from attachment to things.[/sc_fs_faq]