Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Pairs

Ever since I started my weight loss regime in early August, my sleep habits have been changing. Well, it may not be the weight loss regime; it may be the alcohol abstinence that's connected to the weight loss regime. At any rate, things have changed.

I seem to be back to my old ways of "early to bed, early to rise." While that was not unheard of before, it's much more common now. And, I have to say, I like it. There's something about getting up very early, being the sole current practitioner of "awakeness," that I find quite appealing. It's as if I own and control my little piece of the world. That's especially true on weekends. On weekdays I'm only up an hour or so before my wife gets up, whereas on weekends I might be up 2 or 3 hours earlier, perhaps even more.

The odd thing about this perspective is that being awake and alone early in the morning doesn't really have a uniqueness to it. When I'm here in my study in the evening and my wife is in our bedroom watching television or reading, there's not much difference in context than what I'm experiencing right now. In both cases, it's dark outside. At this hour of the morning (about 5:30), I don't hear much traffic, but then I don't hear a lot of traffic any time of day or night.. I suppose it is quieter now; there's no background television noise, I don't have my earbuds in, listening to music. I suppose I'm responding to my own inquiry; it's different, if only subtly so. It's those subtleties that I find highly appealing.

Now that I've wasted my time and your attention span on trivialities, I'll redirect my energy and your mind to other things.

Yesterday, while I was at the office (which was, unfortunately, a period of several hours), I took a break from work to get my mind clear and reduce the stress that had been building. (I should do that during the workweek; taking time to reduce the stress would make me happier, I think, and make the lives of those around me more pleasant.) Yesterday's stress-reliever involved finding and reading some wisdom from Buddhism. I've not read much of any religious text, at least not much that I have found particularly enlightening, until now, but reading from The Dhammapada (which, I gather, means 'aphorism') yesterday was different.

The Dhamapada is, according to Wikipedia, "a versified Buddhist scripture traditionally ascribed to the Buddha himself. It is one of the best-known texts from the Theravada canon." Wikipedia goes on to say "Theravada is literally, 'the Teaching of the Elders' or 'the Ancient Teaching', is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India. It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism, and for many centuries has been the predominant religion of Sri Lanka (about 70% of the population) and most of continental Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand)."

While I don't find what I've read of the text of The Dhammapada to be enlightening in the sense that I am filled with awe and wonder at reading it, I do find it quite thought-provoking and intellectually challenging in some ways.

I'm still reading and re-reading it, as something new comes to mind each time I spend time reviewing it. What appeals to me is not the reference to The Tempter or Nirvana or any relationship to implication about an afterlife, etc. What appeals to me is what seems to be its delivery of fundamental concepts of truth about the human condition. Unlike some of the few other "religious" texts I have read, it doesn't seem to depend on magic for its profundity. I'll leave this diatribe with this, some quotations from The Dhammapada:

1. The Pairs
Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made. To speak or act with a defiled mind is to draw pain after oneself, like a wheel behind the feet of the animal drawing it.

Mind precedes its objects. They are mind-governed and mind-made. To speak or act with a peaceful mind, is to draw happiness after oneself, like an inseparable shadow.

I have been insulted! I have been hurt! I have been beaten! I have been robbed! Anger does not cease in those who harbour this sort of thought.

I have been insulted! I have been hurt! I have been beaten! I have been robbed! Anger ceases in those who do not harbour this sort of thought.

Occasions of hatred are certainly never settled by hatred. They are settled by freedom from hatred. This is the eternal law.

Others may not understand that we must practice self-control, but quarrelling dies away in those who understand this fact.

The Tempter masters the lazy and irresolute man who dwells on the attractive side of things, ungoverned in his senses, and unrestrained in his food, like the wind overcomes a rotten tree.

But the Tempter cannot master a man who dwells on the distasteful side of things, self- controlled in his senses, moderate in eating, resolute and full of faith, like the wind cannot move a mountain crag.

The man who wears the yellow-dyed robe but is not free from stains himself, without self- restraint and integrity, is unworthy of the robe.

But the man who has freed himself of stains and has found peace of mind in an upright life, possessing self-restraint and integrity, he is indeed worthy of the dyed robe.

To see the essence in the unessential and to see the essence as unessential means one can never get to the essence, wandering as one is in the road of wrong intentions.

But to see the essence in the essential and the unessential as the unessential it is means one does get to the essence, being on the road of right intentions.

In the same way that rain breaks into a house with a bad roof, desire breaks into the mind that has not been practising meditation.

While in the same way that rain cannot break into a well-roofed house, desire cannot break into a mind that has been practising meditation well.

Here and beyond he suffers. The wrong-doer suffers both ways. He suffers and is tormented to see his own depraved behaviour.

Here and beyond he is glad. The doer of good is glad both ways. He is glad and rejoices to see his own good deeds.

Here and beyond he is punished. The wrong-doer is punished both ways. He is punished by the thought, "I have done evil", and is even more punished when he comes to a bad state.

Here and beyond he rejoices. The doer of good rejoices both way. He rejoices at the thought, "I have done good", and rejoices even more when he comes to a happy state.

Even if he is fond of quoting appropriate texts, the thoughtless man who does not put them into practice himself is like cowherd counting other people's cows, not a partner in the Holy Life.

Even if he does not quote appropriate texts much, if he follows the principles of the Teaching by getting rid of greed, hatred and delusion, deep of insight and with a mind free from attachment, not clinging to anything in this world or the next - that man is a partner in the Holy Life.


YourFireAnt said...

Morning is definitely the best time of day, and the most creative (for me). Which is why I resent having to give ANY of those hours to my paid work.

Springer Kneeblood said...

I resent giving any of my WAKING hours to work, but then I resent the dreams, as well, so perhaps I just need to stop working.