If one is friendly by habit
And skillful in conduct,
One will have much delight
And bring an end to suffering.
Dhammapada v 376, translated by Gil Fronsdal
Where does delight come from? If you believe this verse, our delight comes from our own habits and conduct. My experience confirms this. Feedback from others may be positive or negative, but we know when we are doing the right thing and when we are not. The world changes colour when we understand that our actions and words are creative tools. We create the causes and conditions for our own and others’ happiness and freedom, or for sorrow and suffering. What choices could be more important than these?
Being friendly by habit did not come naturally to me. When we’re mired in the confusion of thinking everyone should be nice to us and not focusing on how nice (or not) we are to others, the world does’t make much sense. We’re buffeted by things we have no control over. The turning point is when we accept that the only things we control are our own actions, words, and attitudes. Then we start to notice that we are the agents of change in our environment, whether we realise it at the time or not.
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? “Friendly by habit” – the phrase encapsulates an attitude towards others that encompasses compassion and gentleness. As scratchy as we sometimes feel – others feel the same! As sad or pained as we sometimes feel – others feel the same! Everyone we encounter deserves to be approached with compassion and gentleness, and these attitudes and habits become our own protection and delight.