Bodhicharyāvatāra – Shanti Deva

I wanted to write something about language. Good language. These days, it seems vulgarities are thrown in all directions, and no one even flinches. These days, public shaming seems a favorite pastime, and many have forgotten to simply stay quiet and wait to take a person aside and speak with a kind tone. These days, the notion of humility is no longer spoken about, nor taught, most equating it with weakness; while notions like strength, pride and winning are taking the forefront -even when it comes to children.

Yet, I found myself lacking words or to be more precise, I found myself not wanting to preach or admonish anyone. So I turned to a text that has been with me for some 20 years and that I read regularly when I feel I am straying away from kindness. This text dating from the 8th c. AD is known as “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva. It is a text that has been read and studied for centuries and, according to the Dalai Lama, the only text one should read to understand compassion.

So I have copied here a few paragraphes that I hope you shall read with joy and an open heart.

Thank you.

Kenza.

When you feel the wish to walk about,
Or even to express yourself in speech,
First examine what is in your mind.
For they will act correctly who have stable minds.

When the urge rises in the mind
To feelings of desire or wrathful hate,
Do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log of wood be sure to stay.

When the mind is wild with mockery
And filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
And when you want to show the hidden faults of others,
To bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,

And when you want to fish for praise,
Or criticize and spoil another’s name,
Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

And when you want to do another down
And cultivate advantage for yourself,
And when the wish to gossip comes to you,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Impatience, indolence, faint heartedness,
And likewise haughty speech and insolence,
Attachment to your side—when these arise,
It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Examine thus yourself from every side.
Note harmful thoughts and every futile striving.
Thus it is that heroes in the Bodhisattva path
Apply remedies to keep a steady mind.”

Text: “The way of the Bodhisattva – Bodhicharyāvatāra” by Shanti Deva (ca. 700 AD), Chapter 5 “Vigilance,” Paragraphs 47-54 – translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group. Text originally in Sanskrit. First Tibetan translation dates from the 8th c. (Shambala Classics Publishers, 1997)

Lotus

In the large temple,
the gilded Buddha and Bodhisattva statues towered over me.
Their bodies stiff,
their eyes sharing nothing.

It is the lotus that spoke to me.
In silence,
it taught me humility
and simple beauty.

Kenza.

Inspired by a visit to the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai, China in June 2018. The same thing happened to me when I visited the giant Buddha in Kamakura, Japan, a few years ago. It was in a rose tilting under the weight of rain drops that I found serenity, not the giant metal statue.

I have no roots

I have no roots.

I am just a discarded branch on the soil.

I don’t mind you see.

With the years, I have grown small branches upon which leaves often grow. Small green leaves that gently gather my tears in the early morning, and let the sun shines through all the way to my heart.

Right now, the branches are blooming with fragile white petals almost as transparent as my dreams. Soon the wind will blow and they will scatter in a torrent of laughter.

I hope you can hear them.

Kenza.

“Maybe” – a Taoist tale

In a small village in rural China, there was a wise and simple man who had a horse, a beautiful horse. One day, the horse ran away. Some villagers paid the man a visit, telling him how sorry they were and how sad it was that he had lost his horse. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the horse came back with seven beautiful wild horses accompanying him. The villagers went to see the man again and told him how wonderful that was. The man answered: “maybe.”

A few days later, the man’s son who tried to tame one of the wild horses, was thrown on the ground and broke his leg. The villagers who came to visit the injured young man told his father that it was indeed an unfortunate event. The man answered: “maybe.”

The following week, administrative officials came by the house to sign-up the young man into the Imperial Army. Being injured, he avoided conscription. The villagers rejoiced and told the father how lucky he was. The wise and simple man answered once again: “maybe.”


Notes:

On the story: This is an old Taoist story that I just put into my own words. The central idea is the one of not seeing advantages and/or disadvantages in things, in not weighting actions and things, in not qualifying them as good or bad. It is fundamental to Taoism. The great Taoist Master Lieh-Tzu (China 4th c. BCE) who lived a few centuries after Lao Tse (China, 6th c. BCE), the author of the “Tao Te Ching,” use to meditate on the “neutrality” of things as a way to go beyond them. The practicality of it as illustrated in the story, is to avoid anxiety by imposing or bending things with our mind.

As the “Tao Te Ching” says:

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.
Being and non-being create each other.”
(Ref: No. 2 of the “Tao Te Ching,” trans. by S. Mitchell, 1988)