Monday, July 17, 2006

Self Protection


Those who engage in bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct leave themselves unprotected. Even though a squadron of elephant troops might protect them, a squadron of cavalry troops, a squadron of chariot troops, a squadron of infantry troops might protect them, still they leave themselves unprotected. Why is that? Because that's an external protection, not an internal one. Therefore they leave themselves unprotected. But those who engage in good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct have themselves protected. Even though neither a squadron of elephant troops, a squadron of cavalry troops, a squadron of chariot troops, nor a squadron of infantry troops might protect them, still they have themselves protected. Why is that? Because that's an internal protection, not an external one. Therefore they have themselves protected. (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "Atta-rakkhita Sutta", 18 June 2006).

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, and I always come back to it for the structure it provides: The Buddha taught that our practice consists of Three Trainings,
  • Ethics
  • Concentration
  • Wisdom
The Three Trainings intertwine and are practiced concurrently. But in this sutra, the Buddha is emphasizing the karmic aspects of ethical conduct. Practicing good bodily, verbal, and mental conduct provides the ultimate, complete protection because all thoughts, actions, and speech have an effect on both you and on the world—without fail. And you have no choice but to experience its effect. It's like billiards. If you strike the 9-ball with the cue ball straight in the center, having applied no english (spin) to the cue ball, the 9-ball will roll straight away from you. If you strike the 9-ball at a 45o angle, the 9-ball will move away at a perfectly determined angle. Now, because of the interaction of all your acts, thoughts, and speech, both current and past, the effect of any one action is not as deterministic as in billiards. But the analogy still holds. Without "foul play," there is no possible way to hit the 9-ball with sufficient force to cause it to move, and have it stand still. In the same way, all of your actions—note that this includes your thoughts!—will have an effect. So the only true way to protect yourself from negative effects is to engage in good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, and good mental conduct.


1 comments:

Don Iannone said...

Ahhhh...good one Mike. Thanks.