Oneself

Oneself, indeed, is one’s own protector.
One does, indeed [make] one’s own destiny.
Therefore, control yourself
As a merchant does a fine horse.

Dhammapada v. 380, translated by Gil Fronsdal

Make our own destiny? Don’t our parents and siblings and neighbors and teachers form our destinies? Isn’t it all luck – good luck and bad luck? The Buddha says no.

Who is in the best position to protect us from doing harm to ourselves and others? Who can make the choices about where we put our effort, whom we hang out with and what we study? While parents, other relatives and mentors can provide support (or not) for our beneficial efforts, in the end, each of us is responsible for our choices and time.

In short, blaming anyone else for our troubles is misplacing the blame; and blaming anyone (even ourselves) is a losing proposition. Each of us comes into the world with some mix of good and bad fortune. Whatever the situation is, we can choose a direction. We can choose the people we want to be influenced by, we can leave behind (once we’re out of childhood) people who harm us. We wake up in the morning and can choose the best attitude and actions available to us.

But life is a messy business. At one time I tried to give away responsibility for my choices. I surrendered to a guru, hoping that she would take over all the hard decisions and make me happy. Wow, did that not work out. But it was very instructive. One of the many lessons I took away is that no one but we can make all the balancing adjustments that are needed to move towards wisdom.

We have energy, and that energy pushes and pulls us in all directions. We can develop the wisdom to direct those energies the way a horse trainer corrals and trains a good horse to cooperate with a rider and perform appropriate duties.

It’s up to us.

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