"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

October 23, 2014

The Power of Skillful Restraint

The non-violence of Buddhism, the willingness to simply be with what is and what arises, without resistance, is one profound truth of Buddhism. But as Neils Bohr once famously commented, the opposite of one profound truth may be another profound truth -- for some profound truths are in fact complementary.
And another profound truth of the Buddha is that when thoughts, feelings, emotions, arise, it is not skillful to simply give free reign to them and act them out. We are to bring all our wisdom, courage, insight, and sila -- awakening moral virtue -- to that arising, and bring restraint to the unbridled mind. As the Dhammapada says:
The one who keeps anger in check as it arises,
As one would a careening chariot,
I call a charioteer.
Others are merely rein-holders.
Dhammapada v. 222
(as translated by Gil Fronsdal)
So, Buddhist practice involves skillful non-action *and* action, skillful non-resistance *and* resistance. As the Buddhas is recorded as saying elsewhere in the Dhammapada:
Guard against anger erupting in your body;
Be restrained with your body.
Letting go of bodily misconduct,
Practice good conduct with your body.
Guard against anger erupting in your speech;
Be restrained with your speech.
Letting go of verbal misconduct,
Practice good conduct with your speech.
Guard against anger erupting in your mind;
Be restrained with your mind.
Letting go of mental misconduct,
Practice good conduct with your mind.
The wise are restrained in body,
Restrained in speech.
The wise are restrained in mind.
They are fully restrained.
Dhammapada v 231-234
(as translated by Gil Fronsdal)
Is there restraint that is freedom? Is there restraint that is non-binding? Can we non-resist what arises, as simply "dhammas," as "the truth" of what is, and yet bring harm-reducing insight and loving-kindness to that arising? That's what the Buddha taught. We have to practice, and find out for ourselves. Restraint, in the Buddhist sense, can be a place of binding or of unbinding. Only through practice can we know which is which.
If we are riding a runaway chariot, maybe it's time for a little restraint, not as an act of self-repression but as an act of courageous self love grounded in wisdom and our desire to be free of suffering.

HIGHLY recommended!
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