“As one instructs others,
So should one do oneself:
Only the self-controlled should restrain others.
Truly, it’s hard to restrain oneself.” ~ Gautama Buddha, The Dhammapada
I’ve never known a more relatable “religion” than Buddhism.
I say “religion” because it’s really more of a philosophy in my opinion, and one that changed my life immensely. That said, I am well aware that many people look upon Buddhism as a religion, and that’s perfectly fine also, because it’s all really just semantics.
I’d like to pause here to explain that the common definition of the word religion is “a system of faith and worship owing any allegiance to a supernatural being.” This is where people get mixed up about Buddhism because the Buddha is not a supernatural deity or being; he was a man who lived and achieved enlightenment. The Buddha is not worshipped, but rather sought after for refuge as we walk our own trying paths in life. I assume this was how Jesus started out before the truth of Christianity was swallowed up by corruption and desire for power.
“According to this doctrine, however, the Buddha was never merely an individual human being but, like St. John’s Word or Logos, an eternal principle temporarily made flesh.” ~ Anonymous, The Dhammapada
I do, however, seek to shift the perspective of others in the hopes that perhaps they may open to the teachings of this beautiful philosophy in a way that they might not with a “religion.” I do this because there are simple yet profound teachings in Buddhism that offer us something that much of the modern world is lacking—happiness and serenity. And, it offers this free of charge. There’s no conversion or church to join, only the one within you.
The Dhammapada is a book of Buddhist scripture, a collection of sayings in verse form, compiled in the third century that allows us all access to the teachings and path of wisdom that the Buddha traveled to enlightenment. Dhammapada is Sanskrit and it can be broken down to dhamma, meaning eternal truth, the Buddha’s doctrine, or righteousness; and pada, meaning path or verse.
The teachings of Buddhism have made various appearances in my life, attempting to make known to me the secrets and answers that weighed heavily on my mind through the early decades of my existence. However, it wasn’t until my early 30s that I finally started paying attention enough to listen and hear what was being offered to me through the wise teachings of this ancient philosophy.
As I studied Buddhism, I would come across words that seemed as though they were written just for me. I started to discover that I wasn’t unique, and that from the sound of it, these Buddhist monks completely understood the calamity of my inner struggles in daily life.
They wrote about their life experiences and their inner workings with such acceptance, insight, clarity and humor that I was immediately hooked. I thought to myself, “Wow. They’re monks and they know exactly how I feel and think. There is hope for me after all.” I was elated to finally feel as though I wasn’t the only bat sh*t crazy, miserable person in the world! And thus my love affair with Buddhism was born.
This love affair turned into a marriage as the years passed, and I’ve completely adopted many Buddhist principles and practices into my daily life. I practice, study and apply the dharma and the Four Noble Truths to the best of my ability. Sometimes I fall extremely short, and other times I’m a Zen ninja.
The point is that I no longer take myself so seriously. I love myself, and I treat myself with maitri, or loving-kindness, which means that I am able to share these qualities with others. Through understanding myself, I understand you, because as humans, we all share the same sh*t. It may manifest in different ways and different behaviors, but when we get below the surface, we find we are one and the same. And this is where we find our bodhichitta.
Bodhichitta means awakened mind/heart (in Buddhism these words are not separated). It is through opening our hearts that we connect with others, and where we see that we are never alone. We are no longer afraid of our pain when we tap into this place, and through it, we can pause, connect, forgive, love, and stay right where we are—instead of running away. And this is possible for any of us, that’s the beauty of it. There are no chosen ones or initiations. Buddhism can enhance your life no matter what path you walk.
I’d like to share a taste of the vast collection of wisdom found in the Dhammapada. These simple yet profound words continue to remain free from corruption and manipulation the way that the words of so many other holy books have not. This is another reason why Buddhism speaks so sweetly to my heart—its leaders are true embodiments of its principles and teachings, uncorrupted by the greed and need for power we see fueling many other religions since Jesus’s time on Earth. When’s the last time someone tried manipulating the Dhammapada to control the masses? It just wouldn’t work, because it’s truly a book of peace.
No matter which way you interpret the words of the Dhammapada, you’ll find love, compassion, peace and tolerance. These are mostly the words of Gautama Buddha himself, as well as some anonymous sources of old:
“Conquer the angry one by not getting angry; conquer the wicked by goodness; conquer the stingy by generosity, and the liar by speaking the truth.”
“Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.”
“You are what you think. All that you are arises from your thoughts. With your thoughts you make your world.”
“The fool who knows his folly
Becomes wise by that fact.
But the fool who thinks he’s wise—
He’s called ‘a fool’ indeed!”
“If there is no wound in your hand
You can carry poison in your hand.
Poison does not attack one who is unwounded.
There is no evil for one who does not do evil.”
“Though you might conquer in battle
A thousand times a thousand men,
You’re the greatest battle-winner
If you conquer just one—yourself.”
“A person of little knowledge
Grows old as a plough-ox grows old.
His fleshes increases;
His wisdom does not increase.”
“O let us live in joy, in love among those who hate! Among men who hate, let us live in love.”
“He whose wickedness is very great brings himself down to that state where his enemy wishes him to be, as a creeper does with the tree which it surrounds.”
“A seed does not contribute much materially to the plant it grows into; the material comes from the soil, sunlight, water, and air. What the seed contributes is information. It has the same DNA as every other living entity, but when its genes begin to be expressed, it pulls from the environment what is needed to make a plant of just a particular kind.”
“Driven by fear, people run for security to mountains and forests, to sacred spots and shrines. But none of these can be a safe refuge, because they cannot free the mind from fear. ”
I would love to hear from you on what stood out for you in the comments below.
May it be of benefit, and may you take refuge in the words of the Dhammapada.~
Author: Lindsay Carricarte
Editor: Travis May