It’s easy to see the faults of others
But hard to see one’s own.
One sifts out the faults of others like chaff
But conceals one’s own,
As a cheat conceals a bad throw of the dice.

Dhammapada v. 252, translated by Gil Fronsdal

In this verse a fundamental truth about human nature is encapsulated: it is much easier to see the faults of others than it is to see our own.

Partly this is because we are usually looking through the lens of “who is bothering me?” rather than “who am I bothering?” It can feel gratifying to dissect the many ways that others behave badly, but it misses the essential point – how is our own behavior? Commenting on the faults of others does nothing but deflect attention from the unwholesome in our own conduct.

Our attention does tend to skim over our own shortcomings, because we find it unpleasant to dwell on them, but the unpleasantness should be a sign for us. Ajahn Chah often said that where there is suffering, wisdom can be born. If we continuously avoid examining our own suffering, the growth of our wisdom is being stifled.

One example: until I really acknowledged my tendency to interrupt and talk over others, I couldn’t even try to control it. The more I noticed it, the more easily I could hold back and let others lead the conversation.

What the Buddha means by faults here are not genetic shortcomings like a lack of intelligence or beauty. He is talking about behaviors – generosity, kindness, truthfulness, etc. These are actions that everyone has some degree of control over, and can develop.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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