Greater in combat
Than a person who conquers
A thousand times a thousand people
Is the person who conquers herself.
Dhammapada, v. 103, translated by Gil Fronsdal
…another of the inspiring gems from the Dhammapada. Imagine a warrior-king slaughtering thousands with his army, in any century of human life on earth. Then imagine a sole monk or nun, in the forest, having shed all craving, all resentment, all expectations. Who has done the harder job?
This is a serious question. When we conquer others – with an action, a word, a look – we are probably not tapping into our most noble characteristics. It could be greed or hatred; usually it’s some form of “striking out” or defensive energy. When we conquer ourselves, we are using the opposite sort of energy – releasing, letting go, unbinding. Paradoxically, relaxing and letting go is harder for most of us than pushing away or striking out.
This is the internal struggle that forms my days. How will I respond to my experience? Am I trying to manipulate it, to force it towards an outcome that I desire? Or am I seeking to understand it in the largest and most compassionate possible context?
This may be a case where the path is the goal. Day-to-day, what are we fighting with? What are we trying to conquer? If we are trying to subdue our own defilements, our greed, hatred and delusion, can that goal be accomplished by force?