Living in Harmony

· Articles & Essays · ,

by The Buddha

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mahayana Buddhism teaches various perspectives and ways of manifesting the precepts. The precept Actualize harmony: Do not be angry can be understood as an instruction to practice not giving rise to angry thoughts, words and actions when anger hasn’t yet arisen, and to practice facing and letting go of anger once it has arisen. Another perspective is that anger, when used selflessly and out of reverence for others, can be a compassionate act. Examples of both perspectives are found in the following three selections.

Proper Speech

Dispraise When Dispraise is Due

Then the wanderer Potaliya approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. The Blessed One said to him: “Potaliya, there are these four kinds of persons found existing in the world. What four? (1) Here, some person speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; but he does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (2) Some other person speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely; but he does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (3) Still another person does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely; and he does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. (4) And still another person speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; and he also speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely. These are the four kinds of persons found existing in the world. Now, Potaliya, which among these four kinds of persons seems to you the most excellent and sublime?”

“Of those four, Master Gotama, the one that seems to me the most excellent and sub- lime is the one who does not speak dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, though the dispraise would be accurate, truthful, and timely; and who does not speak praise of someone who deserves praise, though the praise would be accurate, truthful, and timely. For what reason? Because what excels, Master Gotama, is equanimity.”

“Of those four, Potaliya, the one that I consider the most excellent and sublime is the one who speaks dispraise of someone who deserves dispraise, and the dispraise is accurate, truthful, and timely; and who also speaks praise of someone who deserves praise, and the praise is accurate, truthful, and timely. For what reason? Because what excels, Potaliya, is knowledge of the proper time to speak in any particular case.”

Photo by Miguel Tejada Flores

Photo by Miguel Tejada Flores

Practice Under Provocation

Sakka and the Anger Eating Demon

The Blessed One said this: “Monks, once in the past a certain ugly deformed demon sat down on the seat of Sakka, ruler of the devas. Thereupon the devas found fault with this, grumbled, and complained about it, saying: ‘It is wonderful indeed, sir! It is amazing indeed, sir! This ugly deformed demon has sat down on the seat of Sakka, ruler of the devas!’ But to whatever extent the devas found fault with this, grumbled, and complained about it, to the same extent that demon became more and more handsome, more and more comely, more and more graceful.

“Then, monks, the devas approached Sakka and said to him: ‘Here, dear sir, an ugly deformed demon has sat down on your seat…But to whatever extent the devas found fault with this…that demon became more and more handsome, more and more comely, more and more graceful.’—‘That must be the anger-eating demon.’

“Then, monks, Sakka, ruler of the devas, approached that anger-eating demon, arranged his upper robe over one shoulder, and knelt down with his right knee on the ground. Then, raising his joined hands in reverential salutation toward that demon, he announced his name three times: ‘I, dear sir, am Sakka, ruler of the devas! I, dear sir, am Sakka, ruler of the devas!’ To whatever extent Sakka announced his name, to the same extent that demon became uglier and uglier and more and more deformed until he disappeared right there.

“Then, monks, having sat down on his own seat, instructing the devas, Sakka recited these verses:

I am not one afflicted in mind, nor easily drawn by anger’s whirl.
I never become angry for long, nor does anger persist in me.
When I’m angry I don’t speak harshly and I don’t praise my virtues.
I keep myself well restrained out of regard for my own good.

 

Loving-Kindness and Compassion

The Four Divine Abodes

The Buddha told the young brahmin Subha: “Here a monk dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere and in every way, he dwells pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill will. When the liberation of mind by loving-kindness is developed in this way, no limiting kamma remains there, none persists there. Just as a vigorous trumpeter could make himself heard without difficulty in the four quarters, so too, when the liberation of mind by loving-kindness is developed in this way, no limiting kamma remains there, none persists there. This is the path to the company of Brahma.

“Again, a monk dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with compassion…with a mind imbued with altruistic joy…with a mind imbued with equanimity, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere and in every
way, he dwells pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with equanimity, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill will. When the liberation of mind by equanimity is developed in this way, no limiting action remains there, none persists there. Just as a vigorous trumpeter could make himself heard without difficulty in the four quarters, so too, when the liberation of mind by equanimity is developed in this way, no limiting action remains there, none persists there.

Photo by Ted Van Pelt

Photo by Ted Van Pelt


Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi was born in New York City and, after finishing a BA and a PhD in philosophy, received full ordination in Sri Lanka in 1973. In 1988, he was appointed editor of the Buddhist Publication Society in Sri Lanka and has written, edited, and translated a number of Buddhist texts.

From The Buddha’s Teachings on Social and Communal Harmony, edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Copyright © 2016 by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Used by permission of Wisdom Publications, Somerville, MA.

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