As a bee gathers nectar
And moves on without harming
The flower, its color, or its fragrance,
Just so should a sage walk through a village.
Dhammapada v. 49, translated by Gil Fronsdal
This verse presents a truly useful image of non-harming as a way of life. How we move through our environment provides clues to what we need to let go of. If we are constantly tearing things down, pushing them out of the way, making a lot of noise or creating an energetic stink – we might think of slowing down, quieting down and reflecting a bit more. If we notice that we leave places tidier and happier than we found them, we’ll know we’re on the right track. Just as agitation and anger are contagious, so is radiant inner peace.
There is a gentleness about the image of a bee, landing lightly on flowers, brushing up against the pollen and moving on. The flower’s beauty, its fragrance, its color, are all unaffected by the presence of the bee; yet the bee is helping by spreading the pollen to other flowers. Do you know any people who fit this model? Who move through the world without disturbing people, but subtly helping them?
I come again to my mother-in-law as a model for this kind of life. She was Catholic, but had the (Buddhist?) gift of calm, steady acceptance and love. No matter what was going on around her, her response was to suffuse the situation with a quiet but firm love. She checked in on the lonely or disturbed, and with each of her eight children weekly. What a privilege it was to know her. There are a couple of senior Buddhist monks from whom I have witnessed the same power. I draw inspiration from these beings.