Read this, this morning, it’s my birthday to day and reflecting on my life.
The Buddha’s teaching, “Dharma” has been a life changing gift to me.
[ From ‘The Honest Truth’ ]
The Buddha saw that the ease and happiness of ordinary pleasures is nothing lasting. He wanted an ease and happiness that didn’t follow the way of the worldly pleasures that most people want. This was why he left his family and friends, and went off to live in seclusion. He said to himself, ‘I came alone when I was born and I’ll go alone when I die. No one hired me to be born and no one will hire me to die, so I’m beholden to no one. There’s no one I have to fear. In all of my actions, if there’s anything that is right from the standpoint of the world, but wrong from the standpoint of the truth—and wrong from the standpoint of my heart—there’s no way I’ll be willing to do it.’
So he posed himself a question: ‘Now that you’ve been born as a human being, what is the highest thing you want in this world?’ He then placed the following conditions on his answer: ‘In answering, you have to be really honest and truthful with yourself. And once you’ve answered, you have to hold to your answer as an unalterable law on which you’ve affixed your seal, without ever letting a second seal be affixed on top. So what do you want, and how do you want it? You have to give an honest answer, understand? I won’t accept anything false. And once you’ve answered, you have to keep to your answer. Don’t be a traitor to yourself.’
When he was sure of his answer, he said to himself, ‘I want only the highest and most certain happiness and ease: the happiness that won’t change into anything else. Other than that, I don’t want anything else in the world.’
Once he had given this answer, he kept to it firmly. He didn’t allow anything that would have caused the least bit of pain or distraction to his heart to get stuck there as a stain on it. He kept making a persistent effort with all his might to discover the truth, without retreat, until he finally awakened to that truth: the reality of Liberation.
If we search for the truth like the Buddha—if we’re true in our intent and true in what we do—there’s no way the truth can escape us. But if we aren’t true to ourselves, we won’t find the true happiness the Buddha found. We tell ourselves that we want to be happy but we go jumping into fires. We know what things are poison, yet we go ahead and drink them anyway. This is called being a traitor to yourself….
Every person alive wants happiness—even common animals struggle to find happiness—but our actions for the most part aren’t in line with our intentions. This is why we don’t get to realize the happiness we want, simply because there’s no truth to us. For example, when people come to the monastery: If they come to make offerings, observe the precepts, and sit in meditation for the sake of praise or a good reputation, there’s no real merit to what they’re doing. They don’t gain any real happiness from it, so they end up disappointed and dissatisfied. Then they start saying that offerings, precepts, and meditation don’t give any good results. Instead of reflecting on the fact that they weren’t right and honest in doing these things, they say that there’s no real good to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, that the Buddha’s teachings are a lot of nonsense and lies. But actually the Buddha’s teachings are an affair of the truth. If a person isn’t true to the Buddha’s teachings, the Buddha’s teachings won’t be true to that person—and that person won’t be able to know what the Buddha’s true teachings are….
When we practice virtue, concentration, and discernment, it’s as if we were taking the jewels and robes of royalty and the Noble Ones to dress up our heart and make it beautiful. But if we aren’t true in our practice, it’s like taking robes and jewels and giving them to a monkey. The monkey is bound to get them dirty and tear them to shreds because it has no sense of beauty at all. Whoever sees this kind of thing happening is sure to see right through it, that it’s a monkey show. Even though the costumes are genuine, the monkey inside isn’t genuine like the costumes. For instance, if you take a soldier’s cap and uniform to dress it up as a soldier, it’s a soldier only as far as the cap and uniform, but the monkey inside is still a monkey and not a soldier at all.
For this reason, the Buddha teaches us to be true in whatever we do—to be true in being generous, true in being virtuous, true in developing concentration and discernment. Don’t play around at these things. If you’re true, then these activities are sure to bear you the fruits of your own truthfulness without a doubt.
Food for Thought: Eighteen Talks on the Training of the Heart, by Phra Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo
Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu