For those who are unsteady of mind,
Who do not know true Dharma,
And whose serenity wavers,
Wisdom does not mature.
For one who is awake,
Whose mind isn’t overflowing,
Whose heart isn’t afflicted
And who has abandoned both merit and demerit,
Fear does not exist.
Dhammapada v. 38 & 39, translated by Gil Fronsdal
It’s probably fair to say that all of us are in the category of the first verse above, as the second one describes a fully awakened being! For me, these verses contrast the two states: being stuck vs. being free. It is hard for us to imagine having a mind that isn’t overflowing, a heart that isn’t afflicted, and the idea of fear not existing. But it’s interesting to try to imagine such things, and we may have experienced flashes of it. It would be more than peace; a state of having transcended our petty concerns entirely.
The line about abandoning merit and demerit deserves attention. This is speculation and not from knowledge, but I believe it reflects a state that is disengaged from any sort of struggle. If we have seen that there is no “I” to defend, our defences fall away, we are no longer at war with ourselves or the world. This is just a guess.
These verses give a larger context to our everyday activities, but they are not unrelated. Full awakening is a potential present state of being for all of us. Why does it sometimes feel so distant? Could it be because we like things the way they are?
The more fully we can inhabit our everyday activities, our words, actions and thoughts, the better we can consciously direct them towards wisdom and ultimately freedom. That’s the experiment: knowing what we’re doing as fully and continuously as possible.