Dhammapada

The Dhammapada page is updated every fortnight. Commentaries are by Ajahn Munindo and the verses are from: ‘A Dhammapada for Contemplation’ (2nd edition), Aruna Publications 2006. A complete archive of verses is available, please click here.

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FULL MOON – Friday 9th June 2017

Preparing for the Journey

Resembling a withered leaf, you have the messenger of death at your side. Although a long journey lies ahead, you have still made no provision.

Dhammapada v. 235

We all know that death is the inevitable consequence of having been born, and you would think that we would want to make provision for such a significant event. However, the daunting fear of uncertainty that death generates means we readily default to the pursuit of distractions. If we do wish to make mindful preparation for the inevitable, it is wise to strengthen our confidence in the law of kamma. The Buddha taught to trust in the cultivation of that which is wholesome and the relinquishment of that which is unwholesome. We don’t know the future, but it is not helpful to waste a lot of time worrying about it. Mindful preparation is very different from compulsive worrying. This very moment is the only reality to which we have direct access, so it makes sense to emphasize the quality of attention we bring to this moment, and to trust in that effort. Developing such a trusting disposition is not avoiding responsibility, it is making an intelligent choice.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 25th May 2017

Free from Fear

Becoming lost in enjoyment brings sorrow; becoming lost in enjoyment brings fear. Being free in your experience of enjoyment means sorrow ceases, so how could there be any fear?

Dhammapada v. 214

Is it possible to truly live with all the pleasure and pain of life and at the same time remain free from suffering? Clearly, our confidence in the Buddha’s Awakening means we trust freedom from suffering is possible. Such confidence is a powerful motivator and contributes to the foundation on which we build our spiritual practice. And from a practice perspective, we are not just interested in what we experience, but also in the way we meet all our experiences. Out of unawareness we readily become lost in experiences; the joyous, the utterly intolerable and everything in-between. But when awareness is well-cultivated there is the possibility of receiving all experience without becoming lost; without obstructing freedom.

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FULL MOON, Vesakha Puja, Wednesday 10th May 2017

Transformation

Just as a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus can grow from a pile of discarded waste, the radiance of a true disciple of the Buddha outshines dark shadows cast by ignorance.

Dhammapada v. 58-59

Perhaps there are times when we look at all the garbage we find stored in our minds and feel disheartened. This ‘discarded waste’ is the consequences of previous unawareness. But we can choose how we are going to view these consequences – the regrets, embarrassments and resentments to which we are still clinging. We are not obliged to assume it must always be that way. Before he was the Buddha, Siddarttha Gotama struggled; the Teachers we all look up to have struggled; and we too all struggle when we are not seeing clearly. What matters, here and now, is what we do with the struggle. The Buddha’s Awakening offered the world a vision of that which is possible. Our task as disciples of the Buddha is to uncover the possibilities within us; not to assume that the detritus of ignorance which we encounter inside ourselves is what defines us. When compost is properly processed, it transforms into valuable nutriment.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 25th April 2017

Studying the World

Come, view this world. See it as an ornate festive carriage. See how fools are entranced by their visions, yet for the wise there is no attachment.

Dhammapada v. 171

This very world that we live in is our field of spiritual study. We can learn from all of it, but we probably find on occasion that we prefer to look away. Taking time out to refresh and renew can certainly be helpful, and was regularly praised by the Buddha. Let’s take note, however, that here our Teacher is specifically inviting us to look directly at the world – not to merely look away in judgement, but to study it; to reflect on it; to see where, when and how we are fooled by its appearance. An attractive object such as an ornate festive carriage can be beguiling so long as we are not wise, and similarly utterly unattractive objects can fool us. But projecting love or hate on to an object is something extra that we do; we are not obliged to add anything extra. As the Buddha said elsewhere, in the seeing let there just be seeing. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 11th April 2017

Containing Anger

I say that those who contain anger as a charioteer controls a speeding chariot are fully in charge of their lives; others are merely keeping their hands on the reins.

Dhammapada v. 222

When anger arises we can make an enemy of it or we can view it as energy which needs to be contained. No judgement! Fighting anger with anger will likely lead to more anger, or even hatred. The Buddha’s image of a charioteer controlling a speeding chariot speaks of the risk of being heedless. When we experience an upthrust of anger, it is our responsibility alone to make sure that this energy is skilfully handled. The Buddha isn’t suggesting we should fight it. Nor is he saying we should just let go and allow it to happen; that is, indulge in it. The teaching on the middle way tells us there is another possibility, beyond indulging and repressing.
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NEW MOON – Monday 27th March 2017

Getting our Bearings

Dhammapada v. 208

Being a follower does not have to mean abdicating personal responsibility. It might mean that, if we are not careful, but being a follower could also mean honouring our personal responsibility creatively and efficiently. The life task of making sense of the apparent chaos around us is our biggest challenge. If we insist on ‘going our own way’ however, we can still end up thoroughly lost, despite the sincerity of our efforts. When those we follow are truly awake to reality, they will serve as a beacon in the dark, helping us to get our bearings. Heading in the right direction doesn’t take away the challenge of transforming rage into something more truly human; nor does it free us from fear. But it can mean that we are not overwhelmed when we are assailed by the consequences of our unawareness, as then there is a better chance we will remember that rage, fear and despair are not ultimate. Freedom from suffering is a realistic goal.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 12th March 2017

Training

Let the dread of endless mediocrity spur you into great effort, like a well-trained horse encouraged by the mere touch of the whip. Relinquish the burden of endless struggle with unapologetic confidence, with purity of action, effort, concentration, and by conscious and disciplined commitment
to the path.

Dhammapada v. 144

It is appropriate to feel afraid at the thought of being endlessly caught up in delusion and suffering. It is a mistake to think that all feelings of fear are a symptom that we are somehow failing. Sometimes, feeling afraid may well be a warning sign that we are in danger and need to be extra careful. Fear can serve to protect us from harm. Like a good friend who points out something that we perhaps don’t want to hear, but need to, fear can also serve as a motivator.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 25th February 2017

Seeing the Real

Mistaking the false for the real and the real for the false, one suffers a life of falsity.

Dhammapada v. 11

We all make mistakes; the question is how to truly learn from them. Even after many years of practice we can still forget ourselves and misjudge situations. If this happens, we should not automatically assume we’ve been heading in a wrong direction. An oak tree is not failing because it takes years to grow. When we deny reality for a long time, inertia builds up and part of us resists change. On the surface we might feel we want to change, but on another level we prefer that which is familiar, even if it hurts. Hence the need for great skill and great patience. For those who have perhaps had a glimpse of ‘the real’, old habits can still return and trip them up. But with time, skill and patience, the momentum of running away from reality diminishes. This gradual wearing away of old habits might not sound as inspiring as a sudden awakening from our dream-world, but it’s what really works that matters.

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FULL MOON – MAGHA PUJA – Saturday 11th February 2017

Moving Through the World

As a bee gathering nectar does not harm or disturb the colour and fragrance of the flower, so do the wise move through the world.

Dhammapada v. 49

The implication of this teaching by the Buddha is that wisdom is required for us to move through this world without causing harm. A bee can gather the nourishment it requires without disturbing the beauty of the flower. We won’t cause disturbance to ourselves and others when we see that which is in front of us clearly. But because we don’t see clearly, we readily misperceive the world with its sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch and mental impressions – and then we tend to blame the world. It is not the world’s fault, but our limited ability to see clearly. If we want to contribute to the beauty around us and not feed into the chaos, we need to work towards wisdom.

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NEW MOON – Friday 27th January 2017

Learning in the Dark

Those possessed of profound wisdom, who see what accords with the Way and what does not, those who have attained to the peak of possibility, I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 403

The idea that we could attain to the ‘peak of possibility’ can inspire us on the spiritual journey. However, not many travellers on this way reach any degree of greatness without at some stage descending into despair. What is essential, is not the feeling that we are getting closer to enlightenment all the time, but the willingness to learn from all aspects of life as we live it. If we cling to lofty ideas, we programme ourselves to cling to, and thereby become lost in, the not-so lofty ones. The path of wisdom requires us to let go of all ideas, and trust in a quiet, receptive quality of awareness. Ideas come and go: the lofty and inspiring, the mediocre and mundane, and the downright depressing. If we are skilled, we learn from all of them. When we truly appreciate how matured awareness can function, we are willing to meet whatever forms of darkness we encounter, and not just take sides with struggling for the light.

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FULL MOON – Thursday 12th January 2017

Slowing Down

There are those who discover they can completely abandon confused reactions and become patient as the earth; unmoved by anger, unshaken as a pillar, unperturbed as a clear and quiet pool.

Dhammapada v. 95

For some, to slow down looks like ‘losing the edge’ and risk becoming irrelevant. In reality, slowing down is probably the very thing needed before we can let go of all our confusion and find true peace. Slowing down might even be needed for our survival. If we can’t stop clouding our minds with compulsive thinking and constricting our hearts with irrational fears, we will continue to compromise intelligence and keep making the same mistakes. Slow or fast, though, is not really the point; seeing clearly is what matters. However, before we can see clearly we do need the subtlety of mind that recognizes it is selfishness which causes all this confusion and suffering. Sitting for hours in samadhi may not be necessary, but when we are always in ‘fast mode’ we miss essential details.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 28th December 2016

Right Action

As a beautiful flower without fragrance is disappointing, so are wise words without right action.

Dhammapada v. 51

The beliefs that we hold have a direct effect on our speech. But then, the most profound speech disappoints when not well-matched by our actions. How we actually behave toward each other really matters. We might talk about cultivating a heart of compassion, yet not make the effort to show sensitivity to those in need around us. We might profess to trust in the Buddha’s wise words on letting go of resentment, yet spend years behaving unkindly. The Eightfold Path begins with Right Understanding, then quickly moves on to Right Action. We bring the beautiful fragrance of Dhamma into the world when we offer all of ourselves, whole-heartedly, into practice.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 14th December 2016

Greatest Joy

Hunger is the greatest affliction, conditionality the greatest source of despair. The wise, seeing this as it is, realize liberation, the greatest joy.

Dhammapada v. 125

Our Teacher, the Buddha, realized that knowing the true nature of existence is the source of the greatest happiness, not by our struggling to gratify preferences. Conditioned preferences exist for all beings, those who are liberated or those lost and confused. Our spiritual work is to see all conditions for what they truly are – the natural activity of existence – and not become caught up in this activity. The temptation that we face is to try to hold onto those conditions which accord with our preferences and to get rid of those which don’t. This futile pursuit leads to perpetual disappointment; at best we manage to gratify preferences once in a while. Dhamma teaches us that the effective way to true satisfaction is by letting go of preferences with understanding; it is this right understanding that leads to joy.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 29th November 2016

Trackless Land

Some are reborn as humans; evil-doers are reborn in hell. Doers of good are reborn in bliss, and the pure enter the trackless land.

Dhammapada v. 126

Whatever our views on the potential for future rebirth, we can witness daily our constantly being born into and dying out of states of mind. An agreeable experience, when clung to, can make us feel we will be happy forever; when we cling to a disagreeable experience, we may feel as if we are in hell and it will always be that way. Our lack of perspective means we don’t see the connection between clinging to experiences and getting lost in them. Even goodness if clung to, will lead to suffering. Only when we see clearly that all experiences are what they are – gladness feels pleasant, sadness feels unpleasant – and that no experience lasts forever, will we truly embrace the path of purification. Those who have purified their hearts and minds from all compulsive clinging know reality in a way that the rest of us can’t imagine; hence their reality can be called the trackless land.

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FULL MOON – Monday 14th November 2016

Self-harming

If you intentionally harm an innocent person, someone who is pure and blameless, the harm will come back to you like fine dust thrown into the wind.

Dhammapada v. 26

We could plant good quality seeds, but if we didn’t water them or protect them from encroaching weeds, it is unlikely they would amount to anything worthwhile. We might invest in a high-end computer and install the best software, but if we don’t develop the skills required to operate that software, our investment will be wasted. The outcome of our efforts is determined by the quality of our ongoing cultivation. Having an insight now and then, or going on a retreat once in a while, do indeed have their place. We optimize on such wholesomeness by maintaining effort that is modest, gentle and constant.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 30th October 2016

Cultivation

Those who are foolish and confused betray themselves to heedlessness. The wise treasure the awareness they have cultivated as their most precious possession.

Dhammapada v. 26

We could plant good quality seeds, but if we didn’t water them or protect them from encroaching weeds, it is unlikely they would amount to anything worthwhile. We might invest in a high-end computer and install the best software, but if we don’t develop the skills required to operate that software, our investment will be wasted. The outcome of our efforts is determined by the quality of our ongoing cultivation. Having an insight now and then, or going on a retreat once in a while, do indeed have their place. We optimize on such wholesomeness by maintaining effort that is modest, gentle and constant.

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FULL MOON – Pavarana Day – Sunday 16th October 2016

Worthiness

One should not be considered worthy of respect because of birth or background, or any outer sign; it is purity and the realization of truth that determine one’s worth.

Dhammapada v. 393

What personal attributes do we hold as truly worthy? From the content of everyday conversation, it sometimes appears that it is things like who we know or where we have travelled which define us. If we move in spiritual circles, it might be the teachers with whom we have sat on retreat who really seem to matter. In this verse the Buddha points out that taking any outer sign as an indicator of worthiness is a mistake. Although burnishing outer appearances can indeed impress others, what impresses them is unreliable. What is truly reliable is a heart freed from the distortions of greed, hatred and delusion.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 1st October 2016

Imperturbability

No tracks are found in the air, there is no liberation apart from the Way. There are no conditioned things that are permanent, and yet the Buddhas remain unperturbed.

Dhammapada v. 255

We take the Buddha as our teacher because we trust in the perfection of his realization. The Buddha lived in this world as we do, with all its instability, disappointment and conflict, yet his heart remained free from distress – imperturbable. It is this fully liberated heart that most naturally expressed itself as limitless compassion. Whatever actions the Buddha performed, by way of body, speech or mind, they were aimed solely at generating benefit for living beings. And we need not fear that such trust in our Teacher will lead to the cold-hearted beliefs that see doubts as a form of disloyalty. Rather, as trust matures we discover the ability to include more of our doubts, worries and fears in a warm-hearted appreciation for receiving these Teachings.

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FULL MOON – Friday 16th September 2016

A Mirage

The King of Death cannot find those who look upon the world as insubstantial, as transient, a bubble – illusory, only a mirage.

Dhammapada v. 170

The Buddha gave us a great gift when he invited us to look directly at death. Within all cultures, throughout all ages, human beings have adopted strategies for avoiding the perception of their mortality. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to rely upon consoling messages aimed at numbing ourselves against the pain of loss. Our Teacher has offered specific, practical instructions on how to build the strengths needed to face reality. All the suggestions for contemplation on impermanence, uncertainty, instability, are aimed at helping us loosen habits of clinging. When the heart truly knows how to let go with wisdom, it won’t be overwhelmed by fear and dread. Because we trust that it is possible to live free from all fear, we gently encourage ourselves to welcome uncomfortable feelings; we learn to see those feelings as pointing in the direction of clarity and true peace.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 1st September 2016

Purification

“All conditioned things are impermanent”; when we see this with insight we will tire of this life of suffering. This is the Way to purification.

Dhammapada v. 277

Feeling tired of the pursuit of gratification can be a sign of progress on the path. The consumer culture we live in will never stop telling us that accumulating things leads to contentment. But we can choose for ourselves to drop out of this current of craving. According to the values of unawakened society, all experiences are as important as we say they are. According to the Buddha, all experiences are impermanent, but while some have the inherent value of leading to understanding, others definitely lead to delusion. We can invest our time and energy in sustaining stories about the false “reality” – such as that this or that condition will last forever, so we can safely cling to it – or we can use our time and energy to purify our hearts, freeing ourselves from false beliefs.

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FULL MOON Thursday 18th August 2016

Happiness

While in the midst of those who are greedy, to dwell free from greed is happiness indeed.

Dhammapada v. 199

It is one thing to have feelings of greed arise, but it is another thing altogether to follow them. This principle holds true for all our emotional activity. Sometimes we simply can’t stop moods from arising, but we can always exercise skilful restraint and wise reflection; and this, the Buddha says, leads to happiness. So the emphasis in our spiritual practice needs to be on the wise reflection of the nature of experience, not just on attempting to control everything. The original story associated with this verse talks about two neighbouring communities arguing over water rights. The situation had deteriorated to the point where they were about to go to war. The Buddha’s intervention taught them the futility of fighting and, fortunately, not only was war averted, but many grew wise in the process. Sometimes the conflicting members of our emotional household argue and possibly even go to war. It is important to remember at such time that wisdom and real happiness can be born out of conflict – not just to assume that because things don’t look so good that it’s all falling apart.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 3rd August 2016

Right Restraint

Ably self-restrained are the wise, in action, in thought and in speech.

Dhammapada v. 234

The word ‘restraint’ can trigger an association with other words, such as ‘inhibition’ or ‘repression’; the opposite of what we might think of as joyfulness. Yet the Buddha is telling us here that restraint is one of the characteristics of those who are wise. This is because there is a huge difference between deluded ego’s habits of blindly controlling, and the skilful effort to contain. As long as our passions are not truly informed by insight, they can be wild and get us into a lot of trouble, hence the need to contain energy. But we train our actions of body, speech and mind with an attitude of respect and kindness. Training a horse doesn’t mean we have to hurt it. We can admire the strength of the animal, while at the same time remembering we could get hurt if we are not careful. Right training involves care and mutual respect. Containing our passions enables the heart energy to build up and contribute to opening, enlivening and, eventually, transformation. Without restraint we operate at a very low level of energy and progress on the path will be limited.


FULL MOON – Asalha Puja – Tuesday 19th July 2016

Gratitude

Devotion and respect should be offered to those who have shown us the Way.

Dhammapada 392

One of the best ways of nurturing wholesome qualities within ourselves is to admire those qualities in another. As disciples of the Buddha we all aspire to awaken from unawareness, but we know how hard the task can be. Of course we want to take responsibility for the difficulties we encounter along the way, but it doesn’t help to get lost in thoughts about those difficulties. We also need to take responsibility for developing the sense of goodness that sustains us along the path. Sometimes just the simple act of intentionally dwelling on thoughts of respect and gratitude towards our teacher is what is called for.

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NEW MOON – Monday 4th July 2016

Release

Relinquish anger. Let go of conceit. Release yourself from all that binds you. The pure-hearted who cling neither to body nor mind do not fall prey to suffering.

Dhammapada v. 221

When we feel beset with difficulties, we readily look outside of ourselves for the causes. Certainly, the causes of the painful feelings that we experience could lie on the outside. But our Dhamma teachers point to another set of causes: those which turn natural painful feelings into suffering. Those causes lie on the inside. All beings, even the Buddha in his last life, experience pleasant and painful feelings. If awakened beings eat bad food, they are liable to develop a stomach ache. If they are surrounded by unruly, badly behaved disciples, they are likely to find that disagreeable. However, they don’t add that extra ingredient which turns painful feelings into suffering. Because of their clarity of mind, anger and conceit do not arise. Having freed their hearts from all habits of clinging to the body/mind, they no longer fall prey to suffering.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 19th June 2016

Limitless Being

Whether in a town or a forest, low in a valley or high on a hill, delightful is the dwelling place of one fully set free.

Dhammapada 98

Traditionally, we have images of the Buddha in the four postures of sitting, standing, walking and lying down. We can view these images as reminders that our spiritual practice is not relative to where we are or what we are doing: everywhere and everything are part of practice. Awakened beings experience everywhere and everything as freedom from limitation, because their consciousness is liberated from all clinging. The experience of unawakened beings, on the other hand, is consistently characterized by feelings of limitation. It is not because of where we are or what we are doing that we feel limited, but because of what we impose on experience. Realizing this leads to letting go. Hence the Buddha’s encouragement of the cultivation of all-round mindfulness.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 4th June 2016

Travelling

To many places beings withdraw to escape from fear: to mountains, forests, parklands and gardens; sacred places as well. But none of these places offer true refuge, none of them can free us from fear.

Dhammapada vv. 188–189

It is almost certainly the case that global travel has never been more popular. In general, the idea of going somewhere on a journey has probably always held a certain appeal, but affluence and technology have amplified that appeal. But whatever reasons we may give for travelling – trying to ‘find ourselves’, free ourselves, enlighten ourselves – there may be other factors driving all this activity as well. Does increased restlessness have anything to do with it? When our impulse to go places and see people arises from a sense of adequacy and well-being, certainly the experience could inspire insight and broaden awareness. But when it is our unacknowledged fears of inadequacy that motivate us to travel, when the urge to travel derives from our limited ability to mindfully receive feelings of restlessness, travelling could be no more than another indulgence in distraction. All the energy we might invest in our travels won’t free us from the fear that drives us. The true refuge to which the Buddha pointed is the training of our awareness until it expands beyond all the limitations we habitually impose upon it, and come to realize inherent fearlessness.

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FULL MOON – Vesakha Puja – Friday 20th May 2016

Learning how to let go

Alert to the needs of the journey, those on the path of awareness, like swans, glide on, leaving behind their former resting places.

Dhammapada 91

Letting go is not always easy. But if the Buddha hadn’t learnt how to relinquish all habits of clinging, we wouldn’t have a path of practice today. Through his ardent effort and eventual Enlightenment, the Teacher showed us that it can be done. When we start out in practice, we might feel daunted by the task of taming this monkey mind; it runs around endlessly, refusing to settle. When we first learnt to swim or attempted to speak a foreign language, the task perhaps seemed equally daunting. The Buddha wasn’t born enlightened; it was through his persistent devotion to practice that he realized the freedom from attachments. His many years of teaching were aimed at inspiring us in our work.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 5th May 2016

Guaging Our Actions

Hurtful deeds are better left undone as they always lead to remorse. Harmless deeds are better done as no regret will follow.

Dhammapada 314

The Buddha’s guidance on how to live a truly beneficial life is consistently practical. In this Information Age many of us fall into the habit of accumulating ever more data. However, it is a big mistake to believe that having information about reality is the same thing as knowing reality. Information can approximate to reality and obviously has its place in directing attention. For instance, if we didn’t have the information about the Four Noble Truths, we would certainly be worse off. However, when we are identified as the owner of that information, or we perceive the approximation to be the fact, we fall into conceited views of self-importance. So instead of merely thinking about the nature of reality, the Buddha encourages us to feel it. Here and now, what is the consequence of those hurtful actions which we have performed in the past; what is the consequence of those actions which were kind and considerate?

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FULL MOON – Thursday 21st April 2016

Real Benefit

It is easy to do that which is of no real benefit to oneself, but it is difficult indeed to do that which is truly beneficial and good.

Dhammapada 163

When faced with the madness of the world, it is easy to lay the blame on others. If we had finished our work and realized the unshakeable freedom to which the Buddha was pointing, that would make sense. Presumably, though, we still have plenty to do. And if we are committed to doing that which needs to be done, we will know how genuinely difficult this work can be. But let’s remember that by giving ourselves to it, we contribute goodness and benefit to the world. When we don’t, we too become part of the madness.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 6th April 2016

Now and the Future

Live your life well in accord with Dhamma – avoid a life of distraction. A life well-lived leads to contentment, both now and in the future.

Dhammapada v. 169

Probably most of us have benefited from the encouragement given by our spiritual teachers to pay attention to the ‘here-and-now’. The way we apply this teaching, however, makes a big difference. For instance, clinging to it as an ideal and not really applying it moment to moment can lead to naivety. Such naivety sometimes even parades as spirituality. A wise way of relating to this teaching by the Buddha would be to remember to not-cling, even to great ideals like this one. And to contemplate clearly, with sensitive awareness, how paying attention to ‘here-and-now’, directly contributes to well-being in the future. It is not that we should blind ourselves to considerations of the future; rather to reflect on how our conduct in this moment affects our experience of the future.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 22nd March

Responsibility

By ourselves we do evil and by ourselves we are made impure. By ourselves we avoid evil, and by ourselves we are made pure. The matter of purity is our own responsibility. No other can take responsibility for us.

Dhammapada 165

It can be quite a wake-up call when we begin to accept that we alone arereally responsible for ourselves; nobody else is. Perhaps we secretly prefer the idea that our family is always going to be there for us, or the welfare state, or some celestial being. Of course, hopefully we do have companions who will befriend and support us as we go through life. But that is different from their being ultimately responsible for us. The Buddha warned against those disabling notions that undermine our trust in the law of kamma. He encouraged us to find what it takes to accept full responsibility for our actions of body, speech and mind and to be careful. One of the rewards of doing so is self-respect.

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NEW MOON – Monday 7th March 2016

Like and Dislike

One who has ceased from following like and dislike, who is cooled, who is not swayed by worldly conditions – I call a great being.

Dhammapada 418

It is not the sense objects that create problems for us, it is our being swayed by them. The Buddha and the great realized beings all lived in the same material world as we do, but remained undisturbed. The beautiful and the not-beautiful were experienced, but without giving rise to suffering. Because they knew the reality of the world, inner and outer, they stayed cool, unintimidated, free. They were free to experience preferences without moving, either for or against.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 7th February 2016

Changlessness

Awakened Ones do not cause harm. They are rightly restrained and they move to changelessness where they grieve no more.

Dhammapada 225

There is a lot that could and should be done to address prejudice and tyranny in the world. Our Dhamma practice is lacking when we chose to ignore opportunities where we could help. But our Dhamma practice is also lacking if we chose to focus only on the outer tyrants. Certainly, the Buddha wanted us to train body, speech and mind to not cause suffering for others. More than that though, he wanted us to realize the changeless reality in which suffering simply does not exist. Awakened beings who know this reality, which is free from all clinging, are not capable of intentionally causing harm to any being, oneself or others.

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FULL MOON – Saturday 23rd January 2016

Equanimity

There never was, nor is there now, nor will there ever be anybody who is only blamed or wholly praised.

Dhammapada v. 228

To receive unjustified criticism can be difficult. Feelings of indignation might arise and perhaps we think, ‘I don’t deserve this’. But what happens when we receive unjustified praise; are we equally quick to ask ourselves whether we truly deserve it? The reality is, throughout all time, everyone is praised and blamed, sometimes it’s deserved, sometimes not. Thinking, ‘this shouldn’t happen to me’, is like thinking ‘I shouldn’t have to feel the wind blow’. The wise response when we receive praise and blame, is to restrain the storyteller in our heads, come back into the body, exercise our best quality awareness, and simply feel how it feels; adding nothing to it and taking nothing away. Attempting to set up life in order that our preferences are always met, is to hide from reality. The Buddha’s way is to receive reality.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 10th December 2015

Positively Uncertain

With an image of liberation as the goal the wise abandon darkness and cherish light, leave petty security behind and seek freedom from attachment. To pursue such release is difficult and rare, yet the wise will seek it, detaching themselves from obstructions, purifying heart and mind.

Dhammapada v. 87-88

In this ever changing world it is understandable that we seek out security. But if we seek for this security in the wrong places, we’ll end up disappointed. So long as we insist on clinging to fantasies, setting them up as facts, we create the causes for suffering. The fact, for instance of the uncertainty of all things, is something we really can’t afford to ignore. Children do need some degree of protection until they have grown up, but as adults we need to let go of false security. Growing up spiritually means acknowledging when we are still holding to worn out stories, about ourselves and about the larger reality. It means that when we are tripped up by our naivety we don’t rush to hide it, pretending we are more aware than we are. Rather we say thank you for the valuable teaching.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 25th November 2015

Untroubled

While in the midst of those who are troubled, to dwell free from feeling troubled is happiness indeed.

Dhammapada 198

To have empathy does not denote merging with the moods of those around us. Putting it another way, abiding with sensitive equanimity while others get upset, doesn’t mean we’re cold-hearted. It could appear so, which is why it is skilful to remember sensitivity, not just equanimity, when we are with those who are troubled. At the time our companions might want us to join them in their suffering, but in the long run, keeping our head clear and our heart open is the greater gift.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 10th November 2015

Nourishment

A deed is well-done when upon reflection no remorse arises: with joy one harvests its fruits.

Dhammapada 68

Our hearts are nourished by joy. As our physical being benefits from healthy food, so our spiritual being benefits from joy. We are all aware of how the body suffers when we consume junk food. Junk food for the heart is resentment, bitterness, envy and fear. We are wise to protect ourselves from them. When we can see clearly the benefits of consuming that which is truly nourishing, and the disadvantage of indulging in that which is harmful, we will naturally incline towards the wholesome.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 27th October 2015

Home

Tedious is the company of fools, always painful, like being surrounded by enemies; but to associate with the wise is like being at home.

Dhammapada 207

We don’t need to pretend we enjoy the company of those who challenge our commitment to integrity. We can be honest with ourselves that at times it is tedious. Such honesty in fact contributes to strengthening equanimity. Even equanimity however, won’t protect us from from feeling undermined or uncomfortable. It will mean though that we are not so drained by our preferences – liking and disliking. The wise already know this, which is one reason why their company is so appealing.

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NEW MOON – Monday 12th October 2015

Meeting Darkness

Transform anger with non-anger, badness with the good, meanness with generosity and deceit with integrity.

Dhammapada 223

Light always conquers darkness. This holds true however long darkness may have reigned: once light enters, darkness is dispelled. Our training talks of the need to be ready so that when required we can meet darkness wisely. If we are well-prepared and we are confronted with anger, we respond with non-anger; if we encounter stinginess we give a gift; if we experience dishonesty we show integrity. The power that light has over darkness is a principle in which we can afford to trust.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 27th September 2015

Self Regard

If we hold ourselves dear, then we maintain careful self-regard both day and night.

Dhammapada 157

It is common sense to want to take care of ourselves. It is also what the Dhamma teaches us to do. However, it is possible to interpret the Buddhist teachings as saying we should forget all about ourselves; that any thought of self is to be dismissed. This verse says quite the opposite is the case. Taken from what is known as the Attavagga, or the section in the Dhammapada on Self, we are specifically encouraged to develop careful self-regard. We are told that paying attention to ourselves in the right way at the right time can lead to knowing directly, beyond speculation, that which brings true benefit and that which brings harm. The Buddha wanted us to know that which is ultimately beneficial – perfect understanding and limitless compassion.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 12th September 2015

Storehouse of Goodness

Here and hereafter those who live their lives well, abide in happiness. They are filled with a natural appreciation of virtue, and dwell in delight.

Dhammapada 18

Transformation takes energy. The energy that most of us have in abundance – greed, anger and delusion – is wild and dangerous; uncontained it leads to intolerable suffering. To ‘live life well’ means to build up a storehouse of goodness so that when these wild energies threaten to leak out, we are not overwhelmed. By cultivating such forces of goodness as restraint and wise reflection, we begin to transform this wild energy into something more suitably human: generosity, kindness and understanding. The Buddha describes how this path of practice leads to an abiding filled with delight. Our work is finding the willingness to begin again, however many times we fail.

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FULL MOON – Saturday 29th August 2015

Awakening

Disciples of the Buddha are fully awake, dwelling both day and night in contemplation of Reality.

Dhammapada 297

What the Buddha and all his realized disciples awakened to, was the truth that was right in front of them. Like many other millions of seekers, the Buddha-to-be had been looking for the answers to his deep questions in techniques and belief systems. The rigours of renunciation had even driven him near to death; yet none of it had worked. What did work however was renouncing all effort to avoid suffering, either by way of indulgence in pleasure or indulgence in pain, and taking the experience of suffering itself as his teacher. The Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha are his way of helping us not waste time. He wanted his disciples to awaken to the truth that exists here and now; to discover for themselves the joy and clarity which comes with Right Understanding.

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NEW MOON – Friday 14th August 2015

Slow Down

Do not dismiss the effects of evil, saying, “This will come to nothing.” Just as by the gradual fall of raindrops the water jar is filled, so in time fools are corrupted by evil-doing.

Dhammapada v. 121

The way things appear to be and the way things are can be completely different. For instance, we might travel the same ten mile journey to work every day and feel convinced we know the countryside that we pass through. But how would it be if one day we walked that same route to work, instead of going by car or train. When we slow down we see things differently. The Buddha wants us to slow down. Not because being slow is necessarily a virtue in itself, but by not seeing the way things actually are, we misperceive life and make mistakes.

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FULL MOON – Thursday 30th July 2015

How to be Happy

These three ways lead to the heavens: asserting the truth, not yielding to anger, and giving, even if you have only a little to share.

Dhammapada v. 224

The Buddha is instructing us here on the ways that lead to true happiness. If we are misinformed on such matters we could, for example, think that intentionally distorting truth is OK. What lying actually does do is undermine our confidence by setting up self-doubt. We might think that hurting others will give us a sense of satisfaction, when in fact it just projects our inner pain onto the outer world, making things worse. With giving, we could make the mistake of thinking that the quantity of our gift is what matters. In reality it is the quality of our intention that is important and determines any outcome. Regularly studying and reflecting on these simple teachings by the Buddha has the potential to correct our wrong thinking and thereby creates causes for genuine happiness.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 15th July 2015

Informed Faith

Even those who perform evil can experience well-being so long as their actions have not yet borne direct fruits. However, when the results have not yet borne direct fruits of their actions ripen, the painful consequences cannot be avoided.

Dhammapada 119

We trust that the chair we are about to sit on will support us because similar objects have done so in the past. Having tried them out before and found them to be trustworthy, we henceforth suspend doubts and operate from faith. Dhamma principles similarly are available to be tried out; to be tested. There are many aspects of what the Buddha taught that we can examine and see for ourselves to be true. Some aspects however, like the law of kamma, we probably don’t have the facility to see and fully understand directly. But given the accuracy of so much of the Teachings it can be a wise decision to suspend doubts and operate out of faith. This is not a naive form of faith conjured up in compensation for the anxiety we experience when we encounter chaos. This is an informed faith that we can consciously engage; a trusting relationship to life borne out of our careful investigation into what works. Because we trust does not mean we lose the ability to question.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 30th June 2015

Actuality

Though one may know much about Dhamma, if one does not live accordingly – like a cowherd who covets another’s cattle – one experiences none of the benefits of walking the Way.

Dhammapada v. 19

To know about something is not the same as actually knowing something. Similar to the way a photograph taken on holiday might remind us of an experience we had, but is clearly not the same as that actual experience. The photograph, as with ‘knowing about’, is an approximation. The function of approximations is that they can give direction to our attention. For example, the teachings on the Four Noble Truths can inspire us to attend to the actuality of suffering. Without such encouragement we could heedlessly assume suffering to be no more than a symptom of something going wrong. Indeed most of the world operates on such a flawed assumption. Which is why we need teachings. We must remember though that these teachings only point the direction, we still must walk the way. There are those who profess a belief in selfless wisdom and its expression as selfless compassion, yet their beliefs remain little more than nice ideas unless they lead to making effort. Living according with Dhamma means we are willing to make the effort to drop our habits of avoidance and discover ways of being fully open to that which disappoints us, motivated by an interest in seeing beyond appearances.

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NEW MOON – Monday 15th June 2015

Truly Independent

Those who remain friendly amid the hostile, at peace among the aggressive, and who do not attach themselves to that upon which others depend are great beings.

Dhammapada v. 406

We might think of independence as not having to depend on others. But we all rely on others at various stages of life: in early life it is our parents, later on it is our teachers, then at some point it is bound to be skilled medical practitioners. And we are probably also familiar with other aspects of Dhamma teachings on interdependence. The Buddha identified true independence as a heart that has been cultivated to the point where it is no longer intimidated by external conditions. Training in this true independence involves being mindful or how, where and when we get caught up in conditions, and then reflect on the consequences.

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FULL MOON – Monday 1st June 2015

Honesty

This body wears out with age; it becomes a host to disease – vulnerable, fragile, a decrepit, disintegrating mass, which eventually ends in death.

Dhammapada v. 148

Honesty is at the heart of all true spiritual practice. You might find the unsubtle honesty of this Dhammapada verse feels a bit blunt, but that doesn’t mean to say it is unsuitable. What is unsuitable is wasting our life away with propped-up deluded stories about an imagined reality. If we can learn to wisely and compassionately accept real reality, then the energy which was previously consumed by compulsive story-telling, becomes available for living in daring, open, awareness. Some of the most energy-extravagant stories are those believed by the masses. Hence the Buddha’s admonition to not heedlessly go along with views just because they are popular.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 17th May 2015

The Power of Gentleness

Those who speak truth and give gentle encouragement, contending with no-one, these do I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 408

Holding a newborn child, naturally we would want to be gentle. To a degree at least, gentleness is something we already know about. But perhaps we need to build on this. For instance, might there be times when we equate gentleness with weakness. If so, bring to mind the image of a surgeon sewing severed nerves, or a mechanic calibrating the settings on a car’s braking system. Where precision is required, subtlety is essential. Similarly, when we admonish ourselves regarding progress in spiritual matters, sensitivity, gentleness, is essential. Yes, there are times when assertiveness is called for, but let’s take care we are not being contentious out of habit.

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FULL MOON – Saturday 2nd May 2015

Responsibility

Here and hereafter those who perform evil acts create their own suffering. Mental preoccupation with the thought, “I have done wrong” possesses their minds, and they fall into chaos.

Dhammapada v. 17

Living responsibly requires that we trust in the law of cause and effect; we need a sense of how our actions of body, speech and mind have consequences. The Buddha pointed to a more refined understanding of this principle, which is that it is not so much our actions that determine results, but the intention behind our actions. Our commitment to inner awareness generates the light which reveals intention. If commitment is lacking, light is lacking and we don’t see clearly; we might ask ourselves a straight question, but fail to get a straight answer. Much of the confusion of life is the direct and appropriate consequence of the causes we create. Cultivating impeccability is the way to avoid falling into chaos.

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NEW MOON – Friday 17th April 2015

Compassion

One who finds refuge in the Buddha in the Dhamma and in the Sangha sees with penetrating insight suffering, its cause, its release and the Way leading to true freedom.

Dhammapada 190-191

Sometimes it is a case of insight leading to compassion; at other times it could be compassion which leads on to insight. Either way, if our hearts truly trust that freedom is possible, then everyday life is the teaching. Sitting on a bus, for example, observing those around us, try opening to the universality of suffering. Seeing how we are all in this together can lead to an understanding of selflessness. There really is no ‘my’ suffering or ‘your’ suffering, there is just suffering. Or perhaps it happens the other way around: our commitment to the Refuges reveals a clear perspective on how clinging causes suffering, giving us a sense of the shared sadness of unawareness – compassion.

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FULL MOON – Friday 3rd April 2015

Dilemmas

Silence does not denote profundity if you are ignorant and untrained. Like one holding scales, a sage weighs things up, wholesome and unwholesome, and comes to know both the inner and outer worlds. Therefore the sage is called wise.

Dhammapada v. 268 – 269

How can we know whether we should act or not act? When faced with a dilemma, the challenge is how to stay tuned to what our heart says, at the same time as being fully open to life’s complexity. Reverting to quietude could be a form of avoidance, but it might also be exactly what is called for. Our outer world is fraught with injustice and inequality; naturally we want to help. Engaged action could be our response, or it might be silent contemplation. It is essential that our decision to act or not act arises out mindful consideration, not out of aversion, and as always, in accord with our precepts.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 19th March 2015

Simplify

Reciting a single verse of truth which calms the mind is better than reciting a hundred meaningless verses.

Dhammapada v. 102

I can still vividly recall on one particular occasion when, being tortured by doubt, I sought the support of my teacher, Ajahn Chah. His initial response was one of empathy: “I’ve been there,” he said quietly. Then he followed on with: “If something is inherently uncertain, and we struggle to make it certain, we are going to suffer.” So obvious! Often it is within simplicity that we find solutions to our problems, not with increased complexity. The Buddha is not suggesting we make simplicity a fixed position; when we encounter complexity we must meet it as it is. This verse brings awareness to any compulsive tendencies that we might have to overly-complicate.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 4th March 2015

Transforming

There are those who discover they can completely abandon confused reactions and become patient as the earth; unmoved by anger, unshaken as a pillar, unperturbed as a clear and quiet pool.

Dhammapada v. 95

When I catch a cold it can feel like it’s going to last forever. Those who suffer sleeplessness might feel like the night will never end. Falling in love and we’re convinced it will always be this way. There is nothing wrong with the way experience appears. It is simply how information received via the physical senses is perceived. Fortunately we also have the mind sense. When this faculty is rightly trained it tells us that we can choose to outshine sense impressions with patient endurance. We are allowed, and potentially we are able, to exercise the choice to bear with the way things appear to be and in so doing transform perception. When patient endurance is a kind, careful meeting of experience, without adding or taking anything away, we are no longer merely defined by conditioning.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 17th February 2015

Being loving

Naturally held dear are those who live with right action and have found the Way, and through insight become established in the truth.

Dhammapada v. 217

Our aspirations to live in ways that are true, on all levels, inspire and energize our practice. With time and commitment these wholesome aspirations mature, bearing the fruits of clarity and understanding. But such energy and insight doesn’t promise to protect us from painful feelings; like loneliness for instance. We are surely all familiar with the feeling of wanting to be held dear. However, instead of following the wanting, what happens if we turn attention inwards and engage the heart’s ability to ‘be’ loving? Longing to be loved is natural on one level, but to make it our sole focus is to assume we are essentially lacking. Even if something like that were true at an earlier stage in our life, at this time we need to gently question all such assumptions.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 3rd February 2015

Wisdom

Hasten to cultivate wisdom; make an island for yourself. Freed from stain and defilement, you are released from birth and death.

Dhammapada v. 238

When we feel faced with insurmountable confusion where do we turn? Probably the best we can do at that point is firmly resolve to work on patient endurance. Ideally though we won’t wait until obstructions feel insurmountable; we will prepare ourselves in advance. Once we’re in the furnace it is hard to know up from down; forward from backward. True wisdom sees clearly, independent of conditions. It is how our heart would function if greed, aversion and delusion were absent. This understanding shows the direction we need to be going. And we can urge ourselves along this path by seeing the consequence of the lack of wisdom, which is reactively taking sides ‘for’ and ‘against’. For example: if we encounter bullying, do we endeavour to understand the causes for that behaviour or do we default to judging the bully? It is always understanding which leads to right action, not taking birth as someone who is ‘for’ or ‘against’.

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NEW MOON – Monday 19th January 2015

Honouring

To honour, even for a single moment, one who has attained self-mastery, is of greater benefit than a hundred years spent habitually performing ceremonies based on a wrong understanding.

Dhammapada v. 107

Here, ‘habitually performing ceremonies’ referred to tending a ritual fire in anticipation of a better rebirth. It could equally well refer to compulsively checking social media accounts, consuming stimulants and shopping. Much of our energy is spent in activities that drain us. Since our energy resources are limited, wouldn’t it be wiser to do that which brings true benefit; to ourselves and to others. We’re fortunate to live at a time when we have ready access to teachings and teachers who have attained self-mastery. In honouring them, aspects of that within us which is honourable become stronger.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 4th January 2015

The Heart

All states of being are determined by the heart. It is the heart that leads the way. As surely as our shadow never leaves us, so happiness will follow when we act or speak with a pure heart.

Dhammapada v. 2

We all want to be happy. This is the Buddha’s advice on how to arrive at happiness. The emphasis, he says must be on creating the correct causes for happiness to arise. If, instead, we emphasize the happiness itself, or at least our fantasies of what that will be like when we get it, then we miss the point. The point is that happiness is the natural consequence of the right causes being in place. Intending in the right direction determines whether we’ll reach the right destination.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 20th December, 2014

Perfection

The Buddha’s perfection is complete; in him there is no craving that could drag him down. No measure is there for his wisdom; no limits are there to be found. In what way could he be distracted from truth?

Dhammapada v. 180

A clear vision of perfection leads to confidence. If the vision is in harmony with truth, our life will be oriented towards genuine wisdom and compassion. If the vision is a fabrication, perhaps containing partial truths, it could still give us confidence, but at the expense of well-being; our own and that of others. The vision of perfection recommended by the Buddha encourages inquiry into our here-and-now experience. It is not just pointing to another condition in which we should believe, but to an unshakeable reality which he himself realized and then invited us to realize. He called this perfection the unconditioned. It can’t be owned or interfered with. It’s what manifests when all clinging to conditions, the wonderful and the threatening, have been released. That is why it is a reliable goal.

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FULL MOON – Saturday 6th December, 2014

Overwhelm

If you perform an evil act, then do not repeat it. Avoid finding pleasure in its memory. The aftermath of evil-doing is painful.

Dhammapada v.117

Overwhelm is what happens when we lose touch with our refuge: we become absorbed in the activity of the mind and lose perspective. Our refuge is well developed mindfulness, embodied mindfulness, tried and tested through sitting, standing, walking and lying down. If a foundation of right mindfulness is not firmly established, habits tend to take hold; habits like the mind dwelling unskilfully in the past. If we make a mistake, practice means holding the memory in awareness just long enough to learn what we need to learn, then dropping it, letting go and beginning again. The momentum of negative emotions swamps us usually when mindfulness is not strong. Consciously, regularly, redetermining our commitment to our refuge is one way of protecting ourselves from overwhelm.

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NEW MOON – Friday 21st November, 2014

Loneliness

Having found no companion who has travelled at least as far as ourselves, it is better to go alone than to accompany those who remain irresolute.

Dhammapada v. 61

Until we have looked closely into the actual experience of loneliness, this painful feeling always appears as an enemy, showing us up as a failure. From the perspective of unawareness this life-denying sensation seems only to indicate how far we have gone wrong. From the perspective of wise reflection however, this very same experience lights up the direction we need to go if we want freedom. Suffering is a message; it is not an indictment against us. The feeling of loneliness is like a narrow doorway that we must go through to be free of the confines of the prison of self obsession. It is for paying attention to, not for running away from.

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FULL MOON – Thursday 6th November, 2014

Truly Beneficial

It is easy to do that which is of no real benefit to oneself, but it is difficult indeed to do that which is truly beneficial and good.

Dhammapada v. 163

There are times when it is right to cultivate ‘going with the flow’. At other times going against the flow is more beneficial. The momentum of our habits easily propels us into actions of body, speech and mind that undermine our efforts to deepen in practice. If we find we keep making the same mistake over and again, something needs to change, but how do we bring about that change? To see beyond the way things appear to be – to the way things actually are – takes energy. Mindful restraint, or going against the flow, is one way of generating that energy. Contrary to the values of popular culture it is O.K. to frustrate our preferences. Always doing what feels good might be ‘my’ way, but maybe not the Buddha’s.

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NEW MOON –  Wednesday 22nd October 2014

Empathy

Having empathy for others, one sees that all beings are afraid of harm and death. Knowing this, one does not kill or cause to be killed.

Dhammapada v. 129

Empathy is the essence of harmony. Throughout our lives we depend to varying degrees on others. If we forget that we all long for happiness and fear harm, we risk being dominated by self-centred concerns, but we can learn to recognize that which we all share. Empathy supports insight into selflessness. Through empathy we see that like us, others too hope not to be disappointed, and others too fear losing the things they hold dear. Even the wish to cause harm to another is a form of suffering we share with others. All those whose sense of identity comes from attaching to their body/mind are obliged to endure disharmony and the distorted thoughts and feelings which arise as a consequence. Letting go of attachment to this body/mind and recognizing our identity in understanding, means disharmony simply won’t arise.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 8th October, 2014

Frame of Reference

Passed down by the wise is the knowledge that, though what is externally impressive loses its splendour, and though our bodies will decay, the truth itself outlasts all degeneration.

Dhammapada v. 151

Not only our bodies, but all material objects are subject to the law of impermanence; as are social structures, institutions, relationships, and organisations. Everything around us and within us is in a state of perpetual flux. As children, for the sake of balanced development, it is necessary to be somewhat protected from this fact. We are not for instance repeatedly instructing children regarding Mum and Dad’s mortality. Yet as we grow up, sooner or later, we must admit that this really is how it is. Indeed, more than admit it we need to embrace this truth, if we wish to accord wisely with changing conditions. The Buddha identified the law of impermanence as something beyond degeneration; something stable and secure; a Truth we can turn to, to find a frame of reference.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 23rd September 2014

Pursuing Happiness

You will not succeed in your pursuit of happiness if it is at the expense of others’ well-being. The snare of ill-will can still entangle you.

Dhammapada v. 291

Happiness is like food; it nourishes us. For it to be wholesome and genuinely sustaining however, our efforts must come with empathy. Striving to be happy, but lacking awareness of how we affect others is short-sighted. We may think we are generating causes for well-being, but in our hearts be harbouring jealousy or enmity.

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FULL MOON – Monday 8th September 2014

Views

Distorted views,
 which give rise to seeing right as wrong
 and wrong as right,
 are the cause for beings to disintegrate.

Dhammapada v. 318

We sometimes need reminding that the causes of suffering – our own and that of the world – are complex. Often it is not what is happening in the outer world that leads to our struggles, but how we view things. Assuming the validity of views and opinions just because they are commonly held is not wise. Convenient perhaps, but that is not a good reason to invest in them. It is simplistic to collude with collective thinking without looking into the consequences. Having preferences is natural, but clinging to them and finding identity by holding to them, leads to prejudice and disintegration – inwardly and outwardly.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 24th August 2014

Gentle Strength

Those who speak truth
 and give gentle encouragement, 
contending with no-one,
 these do I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 408

There are times when we need to be assertive. As our body’s immune system is assertive when dealing with disease. But let’s not make assertiveness our only way of being. It can appear strong and impressive, it gets results, but it has limitations. There are times when gentleness is what is called for. Gentle speech which is true and encouraging, also produces results.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 10th August  2014

Heedlessness

As a trader with precious cargo avoids threat, and those who love life avoid poison, so you should avoid evil actions.

Dhammapada v. 123

We do have precious cargo; human consciousness. And we do love life; hence the effort we make to protect it. The Buddha is saying we should watch over this good fortune that we have inherited by avoiding all evil actions. Great benefit can be discovered in this life if we are careful and cultivate wisdom. Similarly great suffering can arise if we are heedless. Evil is a strong word and we might prefer to not use it. But we are naive to not contemplate it. When the heart is possessed by greed or hatred, evil actions can follow. Once performed, there will be painful consequences. Nobody else can save us from heedlessness, not even the Buddha. With kindness and wise reflection we contribute to the protection of all beings.

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NEW MOON – Sat 26 July 2014

Harmlessness

To harm living beings who, like us, seek contentment, is to bring harm to ourselves.

Dhammapada 131

Self interest can be used in our pursuit of right action. When faced with danger we readily feel threatened, our hearts become inflamed and wise discernment obscured. However, instead of losing ourselves in defensive reaction, right training can help us remember that we are all in this together. We all share the wish to be free from suffering. Probably the aggressor has forgotten this fact, hence their intent on harming us; but so long as we are intent on harming them, only increased mutual suffering ensues. Regular recollection on the universality of suffering can protect us from falling into this vortex. Spending a short period of time each day considering how we are all looking for contentment, can give rise to feelings of empathy and compassion. This is not an argument of which we will be convinced by speculation alone, but if we immerse ourselves in this contemplation we could find the benefit for ourselves.

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FULL MOON – Friday 11 July 2014

Asalha Puja

As solid rock 
is unshaken by the wind, 
so are those with wisdom undisturbed 
whether by praise or blame.

Dhammapada v. 81

Sometimes we feel liked and appreciated, at other times we feel disliked and dismissed. Is there a way of staying steady while being praised and blamed, accepted and rejected? It was on a full-moon in the month of July that the Buddha first delivered his teachings encouraging the cultivation of wisdom. A wise perspective on life, he said, is what offers inner security and steadiness. He had been looking a long time for a solution to the frustrations of life. Once he found the freedom from all frustration and suffering he formulated his teachings into what we now know as the Four Noble Truths: there is suffering; there is a cause; there is freedom; and there is a practice we can do in pursuit of that freedom. The image of a rock unshaken by the wind is to inspire us to cultivate this wisdom.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 26th June 2014

Remorse

When we see clearly our own lack of virtue we are filled with grief; 
here and hereafter we grieve.

Dhammapada v. 15

If we were to stub our toe and not feel pain we would be in trouble. Pain is a message saying, ‘pay attention here’. If we were to act or speak cruelly without our heart feeling remorse, we would similarly be in trouble. How else could we learn? Despite appearances remorse is not something going wrong. It is there to protect us; a sort of immune system. We can listen to it, accept it, invite the pain in our hearts to teach us not to follow heedlessness in future. Becoming lost in remorse will lead to guilt; we missed the point. We don’t learn by taking delight in hating ourselves or others for making a mistake.

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FULL MOON – Thursday 12th June 2014

Ease

More than a thief, 
more than an enemy,
 a misdirected heart 
brings one to harm.

Dhammapada v.42

A misdirected heart leads us to harm when it obstructs access to the natural state of contentment. When awareness fails and we attach, the act of clinging feeds into confused thinking and divisive action. True, self-existing well-being arises effortlessly for those who are at one with what is; with Dhamma. A liberated being doesn’t have to try to be contented or try to not be discontented. Having seen the suffering caused by clinging, all inclination to attach to fixed positions has gone. The unobstructed heart leads only to understanding and ease.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 28th May 2014

Harmony

Like the bamboo which destroys itself as it bears fruit, 
so fools harm themselves by holding to wrong views 
and deriding those worthy ones
 who live in harmony with the Way.

Dhammapada v. 164

It is easy to criticise weakness in others. It is hard to recognise and remedy faults within ourselves. On some level it can even feel good to elevate ourselves as we put others down, but such feelings cannot be trusted. ’One-upmanship’ is unlikely to contribute to harmony. Of course there are times when criticism is called for, but for it to be constructive we must have wholesome intention. To accurately know our intention means we probably should slow down a little, wait and listen inwardly before we speak.

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FULL MOON  –  Vesakha Puja – Tuesday 13th May 2014

The Right Amount

As a stormy wind can uproot a frail tree, 
so one who holds heedlessly to pleasure, 
who indulges in food and is indolent, 
can be uprooted by Mara

Dhammapada v. 7

How can we know the right amount of things? Our senses and society often tell us that we need more. The global economy is based on conditioning us to believe we are lacking. If our refuge is in an expanded awareness, freed from the compulsive habit of taking sides, we are in a position to contemplate the conditioning process. It is essential we recognize that we don’t have to be enslaved by our environment. The work of inner reflection can lead to a confidence independent of popular belief or cultural bias. We are allowed to experiment with not eating so much or having an opinion on everything. It’s fine to be quiet and cultivate contentment. Contentment doesn’t have to mean abdication. What matters is when a storm strikes, are we blown over by it. From where do we get our strength?

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NEW MOON –  Monday 28th April 2014

Appearances

As a beautiful flower 
with a delightful fragrance is pleasing, 
so is wise and lovely speech 
when matched with right action.

Dhammapada v. 52

The physical eye sees beauty on the level of form. The inner eye sees beauty on the level of spirit. The two don’t always coincide. A beautiful looking person might speak words that are devious and dishonest leading to harm. A challenging and frustrating experience might soften our hearts resulting in our renouncing hubris. Appreciating outer forms without becoming intoxicated takes skill.

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FULL MOON – Monday 14th April 2014

Quality Being

One who refrains from causing harm 
by way of body, speech or mind,
 can be called a great being.

Dhammapada v. 391


Greatness could be defined in terms of the power we have or the possessions we own, but in the mind of the Buddha it is better determined by how people conduct themselves. This is a very practical way of assessing how trustworthy a person may be. Are they restrained in how they act and in what they say? Are they kind? We can’t tell what is happening inwardly, but we can observe the influence they have on the world around them.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 30th March  2014

Equanimity

While in the midst 
of those who hate,
 to dwell free from hating 
is happiness indeed.

Dhammapada v. 197

Usually we equate happiness with getting what we want. Might there be other forms of happiness? For all of us there are times when we don’t get what we want, or we get what we definitely do not want. In this verse the Buddha is pointing to a quality of happiness which arises independent of whether or not we get what we want; a happiness which arises with wisdom. Wisdom knows that some conditions can be changed and some cannot. We can’t for instance stop someone else feeling hatred. But we can make the effort to not be pulled into their anger. And despite what some may say this is not quietism. This is taking responsibility for what is ours and maintaining equanimity towards that which is not

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FULL MOON – Saturday 15th March 2014

Nourishment

Tasting the flavour of solitude 
and the nectar of peace,
 those who drink the joy 
that is the essence of reality, 
abide free from fear of evil.

Dhammapada v. 205

Physicians advise us to nourish the body by eating healthily and taking regular exercise. The Buddha advises us to nourish the heart with Truth. If we allow ourelves to become too busy, we forget how rejuvenating it can be to spend time alone; to take time for ourselves. A sense of discontent gradually increases until we believe we are inherently lacking. This perception might please the consumer culture but it doesn’t give us inner strength. Spiritual practice sometimes involves daring to take less and trusting in our heart’s natural, undefiled state.

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NEW MOON – Friday 28th February 2014

The World

I call them the peaceful ones, who are calm in body,
 in speech and in mind,
 and who are thoroughly purged 
of all worldly obsessions.



Dhammapada v. 378

When religions teach us to dismiss the material world they are not being helpful. The Buddha taught us to understand the material world, not dismiss it. To the degree we understand the world we need not be obsessed by it. If we see the world clearly, we can recognise both its potential for increasing the happiness of living beings as well as the risk of increasing suffering. Without this clear seeing, the pleasure that arises with gratification of desire, for example, looks like the path to peace and contentment. But it is not. Such gratification is merely a momentary relief from the irritation of wanting. The peace and contentment that we seek are the companions of clear seeing. All things of the world, the agreeable and the disagreeable, are changing. Truly seeing this is seeing changelessness.

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FULL MOON  – Friday 14th February 2014 – Magha Puja

The Way

Refrain from doing evil,
 cultivate that which is good; 
purify the heart.
 This is the Way of the Awakened Ones.

Dhammapada v. 183

The first stage of cultivating the way is refraining from following all that is evil. It is about learning to say ‘no’ to ourselves when we need to. As a result, we discover later we can say, ‘yes’ without losing ourselves. If we don’t recognize our unwholesome impulses for what they are, we might think the bad stuff is only in other people. The second stage of cultivating the way is developing that which is good. Even if it is only a small moment of goodness, don’t dismiss it. The third stage is purifying our effort of the taint of ‘me’. Even when we have completely finished redecorating a room, the smell of paint fumes remains. Though our practice might be getting stronger, the sense of self-importance could be getting stronger too.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 30th January 2014

Slowing down the Momentum

Anyone who lives freed 
from habits of clinging 
to past, present or future,
 possessing nothing,
 is a great being.

Dhammapada v. 421

The momentum or our inner story-telling can be intimidating. Or perhaps it’s movies that we have to endure: over and over again, rearranging fragments of memories, making movies with ‘me’ in the prominent role. Probably it is not that our personal history really warrants such attention, and surely we would stop the inner noise if we could. So what feeds this momentum? Judging, taking sides, accepting and rejecting. Once again we are reminded of the need for here-and-now, whole body-mind, judgement-free awareness, with particular emphasis on the latter. How do we free awareness from the compulsion of taking sides, of judging? We watch it. With a frame of reference established in the body, we gain a perspective on the habitual mental activity that we experience as judging, and we learn to not judge it. No judging the judging mind. If we stop judging the inner activity, the momentum could cease.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 15th January 2014

Contentment

Do not show false humility.
 Stand firmly in relation to your goal.
 Practice, well-observed, 
leads to contentment both now and in the future.

Dhammapada v. 168

Contentment might arise because we don’t actually want anything. But it is also possible for our hearts to remain contented even when we do want things. For that to be true however we must want with wisdom. Wanting is a movement in mind that, if we are honest, we experience as a sort of discontentment. As long as we feel like it is ‘me’ that is wanting, then it is ‘me’ that feels discontented. And usually this same ‘me’ is driven to do something to dispel the uncomfortable feeling. When there is wisdom we cease seeking identity in the activity of mind and sense the stillness behind movement. This is the wisdom that can free us from feeling driven.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 31st December 2013

One Word

A single word of truth, 
which calms the mind,
 is better to hear than a thousand 
irrelevant words.

Dhammapada v. 100

Listening to many hours of Dhamma talks might be helpful, but the Buddha says even one word can be enough. What matters is whether that word truly touches our hearts. Does it ring true? Truth is what heals us, not words. Living in a world that is distracted by materialism, we often assume, the more the merrier. Yet one little cheque that happens to be written out for a million pounds is worth more than a large truck load of old newspapers. They are both paper. What is the difference? We already know we need to attend to quality, not just quantity. This Dhammapada verse encourages us to take our understanding deeper.

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FULL MOON –  Tuesday 17th December 2013

Beyond Control

Those who cease 
setting up like against dislike,
 who are cooled,
 who are not swayed 
by worldly conditions – 
these I call great beings.

Dhammapada v. 418

Liking and disliking can happen so quickly, we feel we have no control over them. Somebody says something pleasant and we find we like them. Another person says something hurtful and we dislike them. It might be true that we can’t stop liking and disliking arising, but if we slow down a little, we might notice we do have a choice; whether or not to follow them – whether or not to make a ‘me’ out of them. When awareness is well established, liking and disliking can be seen as movement taking place in a larger reality. What is that reality?

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NEW MOON – Monday 2nd December 2013

The Teacher

Disciples of the Buddha are fully awake, dwelling both day and night in contemplation of the Awakened One.

Dhammapada v. 296

We can admire our Teacher, the Buddha, without abandoning who and what we are right now. There are those who, when invited to dwell in contemplation of the spiritual master, betray themselves in their attempts to imitate another. The Buddha didn’t want us to ignore who we feel ourselves to be and pretend to be somebody else; rather he encouraged an open-hearted, clear-minded receptivity of ‘this’ person, here and now, including all of our limitations and obsessions. Taking on a new set of conditioned habits in an attempt to be free from suffering is not liberation, it is abdication. In practice we include all of ourselves in a vast field of awareness, free of discrimination and bias, and in so doing offer all of ourselves in service to Dhamma.

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FULL MOON –  Sunday 17th November 2013

Endearment

From endearment springs grief. From endearment springs fear of loss. Yet, if one is free from endearment, there is no grief so how could there be fear?

Dhammapada v. 212

One way of reading this text says we are wrong for holding things dear: family, friends, memories. Such an initial interpretation blames the feelings themselves for our suffering. But the Buddha is not just talking about the feelings, he is pointing to how we might be free. Is it possible to feel endearment and be free at the same time? When he heard that his two chief disciples, Venerables Sariputta and Moggallana, had died, the Buddha commented it was like the sun and the moon had gone out from the sky. That doesn’t sound like someone who doesn’t feel anything. Knowing the truth of feelings means we no longer find identity in feelings. Letting go of feelings does not mean they disappear. In what are all these feelings arising and ceasing? That was the Buddha’s abiding, hence he could feel fully and freely, without suffering.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 2nd November 2013

Delight

It is always a pleasure not to have to encounter fools. It is always good to see noble beings and a delight to live with them.

Dhammapada v. 206

The Buddha gave this short teaching referring to conditions in the outer world, and it is not difficult to agree. We can also contemplate the spirit of this teaching in reference to our inner world; our mind states. How does it feel when we encounter foolish thoughts? What happens when we cease indulging in them? What is the effect of witnessing our heart’s wholesome aspirations? Is it possible to dwell for extended periods in noble intentions?

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FULL MOON – Saturday 19 October 2013

Fooled Again

One should not be considered worthy of respect because of birth or background or any outer sign; it is purity and the realisation of truth that determine one’s worth.

Dhammapada v. 393

A liberated being is never fooled by the way things appear to be. They know the difference between outer ‘form’, which the eye sees, and ‘actuality’ which the heart knows. They naturally feel respect for and take delight in the inherent beauty of the ‘real’. Our awareness, however, is limited because of fixed views and we must take care to not casually follow our mind’s conditioning. So long as we are unaware of Truth, we are susceptible to being impressed by outer forms. Transient beauty, intense emotions, wealth; all these and more, intimidate us into unhelpful desires i.e. we want that which brings no lasting benefit. Whenever we offer respect towards the Truth which is beyond intimidation, our affinity with that Truth increases.

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NEW MOON – Friday 4th October 2013

Not Special

Here and hereafter, those who live their lives well, abide in happiness. They are filled with a natural appreciation of virtue, and they dwell in delight.

Dhammapada v. 18

There is nothing special about Dhamma. Dhamma is what is natural. That we live such unnatural lives means we can miss what is in front of us. When we are balanced and at ease our faculties function to serve well-being. When we are wound-up and confused we lose perspective. It is then that we tend to forget we are in charge of our destiny. If we do good, goodness comes back to us. If we do bad, suffering comes back to us. This is not being naive, this is being natural. But being truly natural is not easy. Ultimately we aim to go beyond good and bad and dwell in unshakable peace.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 19th September 2013

Precepts

Whoever is intent on goodness should know this: a lack of self-restraint is disastrous. Do not allow greed and misconduct to prolong your misery.

Dhammapada v. 248

The Buddha knows life is not always easy. He knows that even the practice of observing precepts can be difficult. The story associated with this verse involves a group of five lay disciples who are each observing one or two of the five Buddhist precepts. They each insist that theirs is the most difficult to cultivate and therefore, by implication, the most worthy. Arguing amongst themselves they approach the Buddha. Each disciple wants the Buddha to praise their own practice and support the fact that the precepts they are keeping are most important. Instead, the Teacher admonishes them, saying none of the five is easy to keep, nor are any of them unimportant and that everyone should train themselves in all five.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 4th September 2013

Forgiveness

The protected and guarded mind 
leads to ease of being. 
Though subtle, elusive and hard to see, 
one who is alert should tend and watch over this mind.

Dhammapada v. 36

When we watch over this heart/mind we cultivate inner light. When light in our outer world is dim, we are inclined to trip over things. Perhaps we mistake a piece of rope for a snake and run away in a completely unnecessary panic. A lack of inner illumination similarly causes us to react in crazy ways, destroying our heart’s natural sense of ease. It is because we don’t see states of mind clearly that we react and make things worse. For example, perhaps we feel hurt by something which happened years ago and have dwelt on bitterness ever since because we didn’t see the truth of our reaction. Forgiveness is not a synthetic virtue with which to paste over our bruises. Although the memory of what happened might remain, we always have the choice of whether or not to invest that memory with resentment. This practice is subtle and hard to see but it is worth the effort.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 21st August 2013

Verifying Faith

In one whose mind is unsteady, whose heart is not prepared with true teachings, whose faith is not matured, the fullness of wisdom is not yet manifest.

Dhammapada v. 38

This Dhammapada verse may describe how many of us are: mind locked in thinking mode, brought up with minimal spiritual education, and incapable of giving ourselves, whole-heartedly, into anything. Yet we do trust real wisdom exists and that we have a chance of realizing it. It is this ‘initial’ type of faith that got us started and brought us thus far. Now we must build on it. Once we have tasted the benefit of practice, faith is ‘verified’ and manifests quite differently. It becomes a reliable source of energy. In the beginning we were motivated by an idea or intuition. Now we are invited to trust in an awareness informed by experience. It feels like spending money earned by our own efforts; rather than that which came from Mum and Dad.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 6th August 2013

Appreciation

The wise, being fully alive, rejoice in appreciative awareness, and abide delighting in this capacity.

Dhammapada v. 22

How capable are we of truly appreciating that which is in front of us? And further, can we appreciate that which appreciates? We have the capacity to know, but do we know accurately? For the Buddha and the great disciples, awareness was unobstructed. Awareness, in and of itself, was a source of joy. They knew the range of human experiences, yet were never lost in experience. They simply knew, and their actions of body, speech and mind were an expression of this clear seeing. Our discriminating faculties mean we are able to manipulate conditions and create material comfort and safety. Are we able to stop manipulating conditions and appreciate them in their true light?

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FULL MOON – Asalha Puja – Monday 22nd July 2013

Virtuous Aloneness

But if you cannot find a good companion of integrity and wisdom, then, like a king departing a conquered land, or a lone elephant wandering the forest, walk alone.

Dhammapada v. 329

Integrity is the foundation of our practice. Without it nothing develops. We might have eloquent speech and perhaps our articles have been published in popular journals, but if integrity is lacking, practice hasn’t begun. Travelling the spiritual path alone is not a sign of failure; it may mean quite the opposite. If those around us are willing to compromise on impeccability, it is better that we are alone.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 7th July 2013

The Right Amount

Not insulting, not harming, cultivating restraint with respect for the training, modesty in eating and contentment with one’s dwelling place, devotion to mindful intent: this is the Teaching of the Buddha.

Dhammapada v.185

Modesty and contentment are not part of consumer culture. They are however part of Buddhist culture. It is true that we need enthusiasm and energy, commitment and concentration, if we wish to reach the goal of liberation. But too much of these ‘hard virtues’ and we create unnecessary obstructions for ourselves. When we are mindful there is a chance we will know if we are out of balance and adjust accordingly. The ‘soft virtues’ of contentment, modesty, humility, are less attractive to our spiritual egos, but they might just be what are needed to drop the burden.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 23rd June 2013

Inherently Secure

When those who are wise dwell in contemplation on the transient nature of the body-mind, and of all conditioned existence, they experience joy and delight seeing through to the inherently secure.

Dhammapada v. 374

All the Buddha’s teachings are pointing to that which is unchanging, undying, inherently satisfactory. We dwell in contemplation on the changing, dying, unsatisfactory nature of conditioned existence to wake us up from the dream we live in. In our dream world we believe that attaching to things as if they were ultimate will make us happy. The Buddha with his ready access to the unconditioned reality knew that clinging to any aspect of conditioned reality was a direct route to disappointment. And he didn’t teach this so we would create a philosophy about how unreliable and regrettable everything is. He lived in this world as we do but didn’t suffer and go on about how sad it all is. Life can seem sad and regrettable so long as we are identified as the body-mind. The Buddha’s identity was indefinable because he didn’t cling to anything and his happiness was unshakeable because it didn’t depend on anything.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 8th June 2013

Call to Attention

The Awakened Ones can but point the way; we must make the effort ourselves. Those who reflect wisely and enter the path are freed from the fetters of Mara.

Dhammapada v. 276

Force of habit defines our actions when we are not firmly established in mindfulness. These habit patterns are the fetters of mara. To enter the path leading to freedom from such disappointing limitations requires wise reflection. We are already free to chose to turn the light of attention inwards and enquire about Truth if we wish. We could also allow our attention to wander without direction. The discipline and skill required for insight and letting go to happen is not easy to cultivate. But this is not an imposition put upon us; it is a choice we willingly make when we see the consequences of heedlessness. What good fortune to have a chance  to work on wisdom.

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FULL MOON – Vesakha Puja – Friday 24th May 2013

Wise Restraint

Ably self-restrained are the wise, in action, in thought and in speech.

Dhammapada v. 234

Restraint with awareness brings increased energy. Restraint motivated by fear depletes energy. Deluded ego’s way of meeting life is to try and control everything. It believes that without control things will fall apart; a totally enervating way of living. However, so long as ego still believes it is the main player in this drama, we will struggle painfully. Even though we feel we have faith in the Triple Gem, we regularly default to our old ways of manipulating body, speech and mind. We fail to trust that true principles can guide us. This is because the momentum of ‘my way’ is untamed. But if our insight in practice has produced enough wholesome doubt to start to undermine this false conviction, it is a good thing. Now the work is to carefully question the apparent validity of ‘my way’. We can trust in this kind of doubt. It can help free us from the hallucination of self-importance.

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NEW MOON –  Thursday 9th May 2013

A repertoire of skills

If birds are trapped in a net, only a few will ever escape. In this world of illusion, only a few see their way to liberation.

Dhammapada v. 174

It’s an advantage to have a variety of ‘skilful means’ at hand as we go forward in practice. Remember, the deluded personality will employ powerfully persuasive arguments in its attempts to maintain self-importance. We need an extensive repertoire of skills to meet these arguments. If it is tranquillity that is called for, then we could put effort into honing down our ability to focus more precisely. Or it might be that further study of the traditional teachings is what quells the doubt that disturbs us. At another time it is a trusted, respected friend that we need, to talk things over with before we learn the lesson of letting go. Or perhaps we should find someone who shows us how to adjust our posture so we don’t get a headache every time we sit. Or someone who shows us what transformative patience looks like. Then again, it could be a good long walk in the country, followed by a nice cup of tea, which helps us to drop whatever is bothering us. Agility!

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FULL MOON – Thursday 25th April 2013

To act or to watch

The Awakened Ones can but point the way; we must make the effort ourselves. Those who reflect wisely and enter the path are freed from the fetters of Mara.

Dhammapada v. 276

What effort should I make? Should I do something about this situation or simply watch my mind?’ Such moments of not-knowing are precious. Uncertainty does not have to be seen as failing. In fact we might lose something important if we are in a hurry to push past it. The actuality is I don’t know what to do and there is not necessarily any fault in that. If, however, I’m completely caught in the momentum of wanting to escape suffering, I may miss the truth of the situation, as it is, and learn from it. With the confidence that comes from our commitment to precepts we can afford to trust in being patient and aware of ‘not-knowing’, and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it. Feel the force of the momentum of wanting to get away from it, to ‘solve it’; stubbornly refuse to be drawn along. We can experiment with waiting until the feeling of being driven subsides and quietly listen to what intuition suggests we could do.

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NEW MOON –  Wednesday 10th April 2013

Appreciative awareness leads to life; heedless avoidance is the path to death. Those who are truly aware are fully alive, while those who are heedless are as if already dead.

Dhammapada. v. 21

We all know the Buddha praised the cultivation of awareness. But how do we know the right thing to be aware of in any given moment?  The objects are so varied: sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations and mental impressions. One exercise in awareness could be simply attending to the changing, unstable nature of all things; until we start to see them as unreliable, not really worth clinging to. This is to be aware of the characteristic of the ‘contents’ of experience. What happens if we direct awareness towards the ‘context’ of experience? Is the characteristic of the context in which all objects of attention manifest the same?

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 26th March 2013

No more need is there to re-form for those who have reached the goal; they are free from fear and longing. The thorns of existence have been removed.

Dhammapada. v. 351

If we were thoroughly free from fear it would mean we could handle whatever intensity life might present to us. As it is, when love or hate enter our hearts we tend to lose ourselves. Instead of our abiding as vast awareness, capable of accommodating strong feelings, fear manifests as a collapse into obstructed awareness. By clinging to and identifying with desire, we create fear. And we cling to that. To let go of fear we must also let go of desire. This does not however mean that desire and fear disappear.

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NEW MOON – Monday 11th March 2013

Neither mother, father nor any member of a family can give you the blessings generated by your own well-directed heart.

Dhammapada v. 43

If the heart is well-directed, we feel there is something we can fall back on when things get difficult. If we experience despair, disappointment, disillusionment, the heart doesn’t have to sink into hopelessness. Neither does it have to seek security in hope. The refuge we can fall back on is not any thing or any state at all; it is a way. Having looked into the consequences of grasping for long enough, we now seek confidence in letting go of  fixed positions. We still have opinions and preferences, but we are not so committed to finding security in them. Learning to let go is the way to generate blessings.

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FULL MOON – Monday 25th February 2013

It is not easy to be born as a human being and to live this mortal life. It is not easy to have the opportunity to hear Dhamma and rare for a Buddha to arise.

Dhammapada v. 182

In terms of here and now, we are born as human beings whenever we have mindfulness and integrity. Because of our tendencies to compromise Dhamma principles, this task does become difficult. Following preferences is much easier. However, to merely follow liking and disliking is not to live as we could be living. We could be reflecting on cause and effect: what happened last time I allowed myself to become lost in experience. The reason it is hard to hear Dhamma is because having followed liking and disliking for so long, we have created obstructions. We are fortunate these days to have ready access to Dhamma. In the Buddha’s time, when his disciples heard him speak, some were enlightened there and then, by listening to Dhamma. Why can’t we listen in the same way, get the message and drop the burden? If we did that, the ‘Buddha’ would appear here and now.

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NEW MOON – Sunday 10th February 2013

Mistaking the false for the real and the real for the false, one suffers a life of falsity. But seeing the false as the false and the real as the real, one lives in the perfectly real.

Dhammapada v. 11-12

In our heart of hearts we long for completion, for the ‘perfectly real’. Walking the Buddha’s path towards such perfection means we stop ignoring the consequences of our imperfections. As long as we live in an image of ourselves we are unreal. As long as we resist reality we are unreal. At an early stage of practice ideas about how we should be, do have a function. But quite quickly we need to let go of these ideas and feel what it feels like to be ‘me’. Maybe it feels imperfect, unreal. That’s good to see. It is! Try asking, what or who is it that is aware of such feelings?

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FULL MOON – Saturday 26th January 2013

Just as a fletcher shapes an arrow, so the wise develop the mind; so excitable, uncertain and difficult to control.

Dhammapada v. 33

Bringing body and mind in line with that which is true, calls for a special kind of skill. Just when we thought we had our spiritual practice in order, we trip and fall again. It doesn’t matter if we stumble from time to time, learning to walk is like that, falling over is part of it. The skill worth developing is the agility which finds us readily picking ourselves up and beginning again; without looking back.

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NEW MOON – Friday 11th January 2013

Those who arrive at the state of perfect freedom through right understanding are unperturbed in body, speech or mind. They remain unshaken by life’s vicissitudes.

Dhammapada v. 96

The very best way to accommodate uncertainty is through right understanding, or right view. It would be naive to expect to always be at ease with uncertainty. But we shouldn’t assume we must be defined by it. Life and change and all the rest of it might appear to be ‘too much’, but life itself is never too much; it is always ‘just so’. If life was really too much, the Buddha could never have realized freedom while still alive. The view we hold is what makes the difference. Taking ourselves too seriously and the situation can seem intolerable; we become tense, limiting possibilities for insight and sensitivity. Relaxing our view, we could try imagining an unconditioned reality in which all the changing conditions appear to arise and cease. Wise letting go leads to an expanded awareness and a fresh perspective on what it was we were doing that made it look like we had a problem.

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FULL MOON – Friday 28th December 2012

As an elephant resolutely drags itself from a swamp, uplift yourself with the inspiration of cultivated attention.

Dhammapada v. 327

The energy of inspiration can be generated by wise reflection. With the right kind of effort, insurmountable situations can be managed; the unendurable can be endured. Inspiration has the power to transform our lives and our world. When wise reflection shows us that heedfulness helps and heedlessness hinders, our hearts respond by inclining towards the wholesome. Balanced awareness rightly reveals the extent of the task we have ahead of us; with our inner world obstructed by ignorance and our outer world fraught with injustice. But the important question is how do we meet these tasks? It is not more force that is needed, but careful consideration of cause and effect. If clear seeing and kindness were to motivate us, the swamp of heedless habits would appear less daunting. Cultivated attention shows us what works and confidence naturally follows.

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NEW MOON – Thursday 13th December 2012

A master is one who has let go of all craving and clinging to the world; who has seen the truth beyond forms, yet is possessed of a profound knowledge of words. Such a great being can be said to have finished the task.

Dhammapada v. 352

Letting go is not something we do, it is something which happens when we see how what we do causes suffering. So long as we are caught in trying to let go, the me which is trying creates imbalance. But to not-try isn’t correct either. What can we do to fulfil the great task of finding freedom? What does it mean to make right effort? One aspect of right effort is examining the kind of effort we are already making. We enquire: is what we do a form of self-seeking, or does it come from a deeper, quieter place; a simple interest in what is true? We know we want to be free from suffering, but does the way in which we want actually help? Even wanting to be free can create obstructions if we cling to it. Our aspiration to see ‘the truth beyond forms’ can support right effort, if we slow down, remember kindness, and look into how we are receiving our present experience.

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FULL MOON – Wednesday 28th November 2012

On hearing true teachings, the hearts of those who are receptive become serene, like a lake, deep, clear and still.

Dhammapada v. 82

It is said that immediately following his Enlightenment the Buddha was disinclined to teach. Perhaps he thought there was no point, seeing the extent to which we insist on creating suffering for ourselves and each other. And how we further compound that suffering by blaming others for it. However, despite the evidence of our foolishness, thankfully, on noticing our suffering the Buddha eventually responded by teaching Dhamma. When selfless wisdom sees suffering, selfless compassion is the response. When the Buddha observed beings lost in habits of liking and disliking, he did all he could to help them let go. Awakened Ones, being free from liking and disliking, have an unobstructed view of all experience. It is not that they don’t feel as we feel, they just don’t get lost in experience.

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NEW MOON – Tuesday 13th November 2012

One who has realized the freedom of having laid aside the burden of identification with the body-mind, I call a ‘great being’.

Dhammapada v. 402

It is good fortune to have reliable friends, to be healthy and to have received a good education. It is certainly good fortune to have found spiritual Teachings that show a way across the swamps of delusion. It would be great fortune if we could fully surrender ourselves to these Teachings and experience the falling away of all burdens. In the meantime, we don’t have to consider these so-called burdens as something going wrong. They might appear to obstruct our progress on the path; however, they can also help us. In reality they are the natural consequence of unawareness, and manifest each moment we cling to the body/mind. The Buddha lived with limitless awareness, free from all clinging. When we surrender to his Teachings it means we don’t turn away from apparent obstructions; we study them, with interest, with willingness, until we can see them for the fantasy that they truly are.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 30th October 2012

There is no fear if the heart is uncontaminated by the passions and the mind is free from ill-will. Seeing beyond good and evil, one is awake.

Dhammapada v. 39

The idea of fearlessness is deeply appealing. However, rather than seeing it as a remote goal somewhere out there, could we consider it as the most natural state within? From such a perspective, the states of fear we regularly endure can be considered as unnatural; not who and what we are. Surely it is unawareness that allows greed and resentment to contaminate our hearts, giving rise to fear. If we further add fuel to these fires thinking, ‘It shouldn’t be this way’, this doesn’t help. What does help is to make the right kind of effort to develop awareness and trust in the Buddha’s Awakening.

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NEW MOON – Monday 15th October 2012

Do not rest contented because you keep all the rules and regulations, nor because you achieve great learning. Do not feel satisfied because you attain meditative absorption, nor because you can dwell in the bliss of solitude. Only when you arrive at the complete eradication of all ignorance and conceit should you be content.

Dhammapada v. 271-72

Reading or hearing such profound teaching might give rise to a sense of urgency in practice – or it might cause us to give up because we feel we can’t do it. How we engage ideals determines whether we are strengthened or weakened by them. The ideals themselves are not responsible. It matters that our ideals accord with Truth, but it also matters that we don’t mistake an image of the goal for the goal itself. The Buddha wanted us to aim high; as high as can be and then further, but he didn’t want us to grasp the ideal and ignore our lowliness. The image of the goal offers direction, like a compass – and of course, we don’t spend all our time looking at the compass. So long as we are heading in the right direction, we practise with ‘this’, which is directly in front of us.

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FULL MOON – Sunday 30th September 2012

Remove the bonds of affection as one might pluck an autumn flower. Walk the Way that leads to liberation explained by the Awakened One.

Dhammapada v. 285

We will not free ourselves from attachments by holding to opinions about how life should be. And ‘life’ here refers to everything: self, others, material possessions. Even religious opinions lead to suffering if we pick them up in the wrong way. Rather it is by recognising, at the time we are doing it, how we hold on to things. Why do we resist the reality of change? Change is constant yet we don’t see it. Walking the Awakened One’s Way to liberation means examining our relationship to all experience – the agreeable and the disagreeable. Every single moment of our life is an opportunity to learn how to let go, let be and understand.

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NEW MOON – Saturday 14th September 2012

Bemoaning your own lot or envying the gains of others obstructs peace of mind. But, being contented even with modest gains pure in livelihood and energetic, you will be held in high esteem.

Dhammapada v. 365-6

This simple truth easily evades us. Sadly we are too quick to admire and emulate those who are not particularly wise. Here a very wise Teacher is holding up a mirror and asking, ‘Do you see what you are doing? Can you understand why you are unhappy?’ He is not criticising us, not condemning us, but neither is he letting us get away with our habits. Out of compassion, he urges us to see the consequences of our unawareness. At times it can appear there is always something more we need to do, more to gain, more to get rid of. Even the spiritual life can seem like a tedious treadmill. Always believing however in the way things seem, is not the way to peace. In place of self-pity, contentment could also appear if we were to stop heedlessly comparing ourselves with others.

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FULL MOON – Saturday 01 September 2012

The gift of Dhamma excels all gifts. The flavour of Dhamma surpasses all flavours. The delight of Dhamma transcends all delights. Freedom from craving is the end of all suffering.

Dhammapada 354

This verse is always true, wherever we may be in our practice of Dhamma. For those near the beginning of the path to liberation, it is wonderful to have confidence in the map you hold in your hands. Others further along the way will know the uplift and joy which even small moments of truth may bring. And realized beings who have reached the goal are nourished by the delight of freedom from this burden of suffering. When our habits of getting lost in craving pull us down, the beauty of the undefiled heart is hidden from view; life tastes bland and we forget the many gifts we have received. At those moments, imagine the teacher’s smile and gentle reminder, ‘Begin again, one moment at a time.’

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NEW MOON – Friday 17 August 2012

The clear seeing which knows that which is flawed as flawed and that which is pure as pure can lead beings to transcend misery.

Dhammapada 319

The Buddha’s realization gives us a vision of life lived free from misery. Even if surrounded by those caught in the vortices of greed, aversion and delusion, the Awakened Ones remain in a state of vitality and awareness. The path of practice leading towards this state however, might require we find our way through swamps of doubt and over oceans of craving and fear. What is asked of us as we travel through this inner terrain is to simply see clearly that which is right in front of us. If we feel like we’re drowning in desire or consumed by anger, practice asks us not to create stories about how life could be, but simply to know it for what it is: grasping at desire is like this; it does not lead to freedom. Grasping at anger is like this; it does not accord with well-being. And then too, to see how letting go of grasping leads to contentment.

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FULL MOON – Asalha Puja – Thursday 2nd August 2012

“All realities are devoid of an abiding self”; when we see this with insight we will tire of this life of suffering. This is the Way to purification.

Dhammapada 279

When we feel down we might look for some ‘thing’ to pick ourselves up with: an ice-cream, a movie, a memory, a book. Dhamma teaches us to go in the opposite direction: to be truly happy we need less, not more. What we need is to let go of ‘me’ and ‘mine’. Contrary to the popular belief in the supremacy of ‘self’, Dhamma says nothing can give this ‘I’ contentment. The assumption that this ‘I’ and its desires will ever be satisfied, is a false assumption. Which of my ‘selves’ has turned out to be reliable and lasting: the happy me, the hopeless me, the serious me, the sloppy me, the wise me, the foolish me? Insight into the nature of ‘self’ can relieve us of the burden of this false belief, and dispel the myth of self-importance, leading to purification.

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NEW MOON – Wednesday 18th July 2012

We are our own protection; we are indeed our own secure abiding; how could it be otherwise? So with due care we attend to ourselves.

Dhammapada 380

How do we exercise ‘due care’ towards ourselves without becoming selfish? Another expression for due care is right mindfulness. We train ourselves to watch, carefully. When caring turns into clinging, the heart grows cold; ‘me’ and ‘mine’ take over as kindness and balanced discernment fade away. We can trust in the power of mindfulness to reveal this process, as and when it is happening. And so gradually we learn to read our hearts: what does it feel like, in the whole body/mind, when the heart is open, receptive and interested? What does it feel like when the heart is closed with resentment, bitterness and fear? Carefully feeling our way into, around, over and under, the many moments of obstruction, life teaches us how to let go. If we could let go fully, we would feel secure totally.

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FULL MOON – Tuesday 3rd July 2012

It is hard to live the life of renunciation; its challenges are difficult to find pleasant. Yet it is also hard to live the householder’s life; there is pain when associating with those among whom one feels no companionship. To wander uncommitted is always going to be difficult; why not renounce the deluded pursuit of pain?

Dhammapada 302

The Buddha uttered this verse to a monk who had been indulging in deluded feelings of self-pity: Surely nobody is having as hard a time as I am. Fortunately for him, this monk received a wise reflection in just the right way at just the right time so he could see what he was doing, and let go. When we are not attentive in the present moment we tend to blame our misfortune outwardly. Or we blame ourselves, inwardly. Either way we increase the pain by forgetting to expand awareness and fully accommodate the suffering. Suffering is the right response to our resisting reality. If we don’t cling, we don’t suffer. Suffering is the message. It is not something going wrong. We don’t have to get rid of suffering; we need to understand it.

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7 thoughts on “Dhammapada

    • Yes, it looks nice over where you are – there’s always a sense of discovery in finding another Buddhist blogger. Thanks for dropping in here, the Dhammapada series is updated every 2 weeks, the Home page is twice a week and I write something new in the About page every few days. Come again…

  1. “As an elephant resolutely drags itself from a swamp, uplift yourself with the inspiration of cultivated attention.” Dhammapada v 327

    Dear Tiramit,
    This page became a sanctuary of meditation for me this morning. With abundant gratitude for the carefully selected verses. I will be back again. Sharon

  2. Pingback: magha puja day 2014 | dhamma footsteps

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