Taking The Long View

From “Food for Thought” By Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (Phra Suddhidhammaransi Gambhiramedhacariya) translated from the Thai byThanissaro Bhikkhu

August 4, 1957

Most of us tend to concern ourselves only with short, small, and narrow things. For instance, we think that there isn’t much to human life — we’re born and then we die — so we pay attention only to our stomachs and appetites. There’s hardly anyone who thinks further than that, who thinks out past death. This is why we’re short-sighted and don’t think of developing any goodness or virtues within ourselves, because we don’t see the truth and the extremely important benefits we’ll gain from these things in the future.

 

Actually, the affairs of each person are really long and drawn out, and not at all short. If they were short, we’d all know where we came from and how we got where we are. The same would hold true for the future: If our affairs were really a short story, we’d know where we’re going and what we’ll be after death.

You can read the rest of Taking the Long View at accesstoinsight.org.

We can decide how we live our lives

In my workshops discussing making life dreams come true, I show a gravestone and refer to the dash that comes between the date of birth and date of death.

Whether it is the grave stone of a child that lived a mere few months or of a person who lived a full life and passed of old age, there is only just a dash there to mark their time on earth.

How we fill that dash while we are alive gives meaning to our life.

Here’s a poem describing the same idea. I am not sure of the source, but I know the writer’s name.

The Dash Poem

by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end

He noted that first came her date of her birth 
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all 

Was the dash between those years

For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on earth. 

And now only those who loved her

Know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own; 

The cars, the house, the cash,

What matters is how we live and love

And how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left, 

That can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough 
To consider what’s true and real 
And always try to understand 
The way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger, 

And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives 
Like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect, 

And more often wear a smile 

Remembering that this special dash 

Might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
With your life’s actions to rehash 

Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?

Think about it. But, don’t stop with thinking.

What is there that you can do today to fill that dash with more meaning?

Be happy!

Karma – Story 02 About the iguana in the anthill

A group of bhikkus who came to visit Buddha from far was resting in a rock cave, taking a break on their journey. There was a rock slide and the entrance to the cave was blocked. They were trapped inside without food and water for a week. They resolved to ask the Buddha what karma they had commited that caused this event.
The Buddha looked back (with his ability to see into the past events) at their past births and replied. When the seven bhukkus were shepherd boys in a past life, they had seen a huge iguana going into an anthill. They had covered all the holes in the anthill and trapped the lizard in there and released it only after seven days. This was the karma that caused them to starve for a week in this life.
Big or small, our thoughts, words and deeds have consequences. You cannot escape them hiding in caves.

Thoughts and Deeds Have Consequences…

 

Indian Ocean at Sunset - Galle Fort Ramparts, Sri Lanka

Indian Ocean at Sunset - Galle Fort Ramparts, Sri Lanka

Continuing from the last post, here’s another thing that the priest spoke of:

Not in the air, nor in the middle of ocean,
nor in the caves of hills,
nowhere in the whole world could a man find a spot
where he would be safe from his evil deeds.

Not in the air, nor in the middle of ocean,
nor in the caves of hills,
nowhere in the whole world could a man find a spot
where he might not be overcome by death.

–Dhammapada

I have known the meaning of these stanzas for years. But I got to know the stories behind them only on this day. Let me share those stories with you another day.

And here’s a short example of the power of thoughts and deeds.

According to the priest, Lord Buddha too suffered from severe headaches throughout his life. And as Buddha has once revealed, this was because, in a previous birth, he had derived enjoyment from watching the fishes jumping around when caught in the fishermans’ nets.

I could not help wondering what I am getting my occassional headaches for. Seriously. Of course, all this makes sense only if you believe in karma and rebirth. I don’t care particularly to focus on results after death. However, I do get a kick out of being good just for the sake of it.

More the reason to watch out for what your mind gets you to think of and look at and enjoy. You never know what will lead to what.

It also reminded me that there are books listing what results you get when you do good deeds. Example, what results you get for giving food to people or for sweeping a temple garden.

I knew a girl who believed that sweeping the temple garden and cleaning the old flowers would make her look prettier. We found this out when she suddenly developed a passion for this activity. 🙂

Watch out for your mind.