Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Will Always

Recent circumstances have given me much opportunity to learn about anger, my own and that of others:

Sitting on top of smoldering ashes,
I felt the heat in my chair.
Offender nearby, 
and the thumps of steps
kept on reigniting the fire.
Patiently, I watched
steady cloud, burning,
and wise heart,  almost pleased
with the opportunity.

Sitting, I kept thinking of Vedehika's story in The Simile of the Saw. Here it is, as told by the Buddha:

"Once, monks, in this same Savatthi, there was a lady of a household named Vedehika. This good report about Lady Vedehika had circulated: 'Lady Vedehika is gentle. Lady Vedehika is even-tempered. Lady Vedehika is calm.' Now, Lady Vedehika had a slave named Kali who was diligent, deft, and neat in her work. The thought occurred to Kali the slave: 'This good report about my Lady Vedehika has circulated: "Lady Vedehika is even-tempered. Lady Vedehika is gentle. Lady Vedehika is calm." Now, is anger present in my lady without showing, or is it absent? Or is it just because I'm diligent, deft, and  neat in my work that the anger present in my lady doesn't show? Why don't I test her?'
"So Kali the slave got up after daybreak. Then Lady Vedehika said to her: 'Hey, Kali!'
"'Yes, madam?'
"'Why did you get up after daybreak?'
"'No reason, madam.'
"'No reason, you wicked slave, and yet you get up after daybreak?' Angered and displeased, she scowled.
"Then the thought occurred to Kali the slave: 'Anger is present in my lady without showing, and not absent. And it's just because I'm diligent, deft, and neat in my work that the anger present in my lady doesn't show. Why don't I test her some more?'
"So Kali the slave got up later in the day. Then Lady Vedehika said to her: 'Hey, Kali!'
"'Yes, madam?'
"'Why did you get up later in the day?'
"'No reason, madam.'
"'No reason, you wicked slave, and yet you get up later in the day?' Angered and displeased, she grumbled.
"Then the thought occurred to Kali the slave: 'Anger is present in my lady without showing, and not absent. And it's just because I'm diligent, deft, and neat in my work that the anger present in my lady doesn't show. Why don't I test her some more?'
"So Kali the slave got up even later in the day. Then Lady Vedehika said to her: 'Hey, Kali!'
"'Yes, madam?'
"'Why did you get up even later in the day?'
"'No reason, madam.'
"'No reason, you wicked slave, and yet you get up even later in the day?' Angered and displeased, she grabbed hold of a rolling pin and gave her a whack over the head, cutting it open.
"Then Kali the slave, with blood streaming from her cut-open head, went and denounced her mistress to the neighbors: 'See, ladies, the gentle one's handiwork? See the even-tempered one's handiwork? See the calm one's handiwork? How could she, angered and displeased with her only slave for getting up after daybreak, grab hold of a rolling pin and give her a whack over the head, cutting it open?'
"After that this evil report about Lady Vedehika circulated: 'Lady Vedehika is vicious. Lady Vedehika is foul-tempered. Lady Vedehika is violent.'

The fire burning inside is mine for me to claim. I have quoted this other passage from the same sutta before, and I am sharing it again, as I seem to keep on forgetting:

"Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: 'Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.' That's how you should train yourselves.

Of course, this does not mean denying anger when it arises. Nor does it imply condoning wrongful acts towards ourselves or others. Rather, we are to feel our anger fully, for as long as needed, and transform it with wisdom and compassion. 

2 comments:

  1. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil. But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have [thy] cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (Matthew 5:38-42)

    I love it when there's this kind of overlap... :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh! I did think of that passage too, and how the two wisdoms conspire for the same truth.

    Thank you, Ian, and you and I both, may we have good will always . . . :)

    ReplyDelete

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