Better than one hundred years lived
With an unsettled mind,
Devoid of virtue,
Is one day lived
Virtuous and absorbed in meditation.
Dhammapada v. 110, translated by Gil Fronsdal
This is the first verse in a set of six that describe the path to awakening. I thought I’d just post the first one and anyone who is interested in the others will either buy the book (published by Shambala) or let me know through a comment.
Verses 110-115 point out that just being alive for a long time without paying attention to wholesome behavior is not worth as much as spending even a short time in a sincere effort to behave virtuously and clarify one’s mind.
We are so easily distracted from a long-range goal. It is in our animal nature to be sensitive to our surroundings and to respond continuously to perceived threats or rewards. But I believe in evolution; I believe that we can avoid getting run down by trucks or burned by the stove and at the same time remember that we have a greater purpose than getting through the day with a minimum of unpleasantness.
A wonderful meditation teacher and friend, Shinzen Young, once said that the best meditation is the one you just did. There’s an element of “just do it” to this verse. We can think about doing something for a long time, or we can just do it, even for a short time. As with so many other things, the hard part is getting started.
How to start? Your answer will suit you. It could be with a daily prayer or mantra (repeated phrase or word) meditation, it could be going on a meditation retreat, or it could be just daily committing to the five precepts: harmlessness (including sexual), generosity, truthfulness and sobriety. Or, just about anything that keeps nudging your mind in the direction of the wholesome.
In the space where I meditate, there are a few photos of people from whom I draw inspiration, people whose qualities I have experienced and aspire to. There are so many ways to support our wholesome instincts. What are yours?