“He abused me, attacked me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those carrying on like this,
Hatred does not end.
“She abused me, attacked me,
Defeated me, robbed me!”
For those not carrying on like this,
– Dhammapada verses 3,4, translated by Gil Fronsdal
These verses follow from the opening two about how our peaceful or corrupted minds create our world. We can spend our lives claiming that others are responsible for our misery, or we can accept that the world is not always a nice place and we are not always entitled to comfort, pleasant words and the help of others. It really is our choice, and it’s one we make over and over again.
A local Brisbane columnist, Kathleen Noon, had this to say (22 Oct. 2011):
“Knowing what you don’t know is important.
At least it leaves the door open.
I don’t know the key to happiness. But I know moaning is contagious, moaning is habit-forming, moaning is easy.
We live in Australia. If I hear one more middle-class Australian whinging [complaining] about their tough life, I’ll do ’em an injury.
Could we have picked a better place to be born?
This isn’t Greece. This isn’t Detroit. Or Syria or Burma. Most of us didn’t have to risk everything and jump in a leaky boat to get here.
We just got lucky.”
This friend speaks my mind. When we feel like complaining, we’re usually forgetting the context. We complain about our boss and forget that generally we like our job. We complain about our relatives and forget how much love has passed between and among us, and still does. We complain about our hair, the weather, the local noise, too little time. Huh? Let’s keep some perspective.
The Dhammapada verses above suggest that it is possible to endure personal misfortune without making a federal case of it, without asking for special consideration. If someone is rude to us, we can ignore it. If someone else wins a position or lottery or anything that we had wanted, we can graciously let go. If we were unlucky enough to be robbed, then the robber is even more deeply unlucky. He or she is most likely unhappy or miserable. Will we choose to be the same, or take another path?
These verses from the Dhammapada suggest that we notice how we speak, which reflects our attitude toward the world. Do we approach each day with a sense of entitlement and irritation? Or with humility, generosity, and gratitude? These are simplifications, but they point in two opposite directions, both open to us.