Thursday, June 29, 2006

Two Guardians of the World

The Four Noble Truths mark the basis of Buddhism: 1. Life contains suffering; 2. Suffering has a cause; 3. Therefore, suffering can be ended; 4. The path that leads one to remove the causes of suffering is the Eightfold Path.

In Buddhist psychological thought, the grounds of suffering are the three unwholesome roots: Greed, Aversion, and Delusion. The thing I love about Buddhism is its completely optimistic, inspirational viewpoint: Noble Truth #3 says that suffering can be ended! Now it is solely up to us to devote ourselves to that task. We can end our suffering, but it takes great vigilance and practice. To help us in this task are the Two Guardians of the World: Moral Shame and Moral Dread.

Moral Shame and Moral Dread give us the means, and the strength, by which we can overcome the three poisons of greed, aversion, and delusion. To bring to an end the seeds of greed and hatred in our minds, we have to commit, to vow, to never engage in an action based in greed or hatred again. How do you know if you're thoroughly committed to this vow? When you fail in your vow, when you yell at your child or pet out of anger instead of compassion, when you become irritated at your co-worker, do you feel utter shame at your transgression? Do you completely dread the repercussions of such a failure? If the answer to either of these two questions is no, then you are not yet truly committed to your vow.

Moral Shame and Moral Dread are the thorough shame and fear that permeate your being at the thought of acting out of greed, anger, or delusion, and that renew your strength to continue fighting to keep your vow after you've violated it. We must work to develop these two guardians so that they keep vigilant watch over our thoughts, speech, and actions. They teach us the true peril to our very lives of delusion, greed, and anger.