Insight Meditation Houston

Living in Harmony – 12/17/2018

The Kosambiya Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 48 reads as follows:

On one occasion the bhikkhus at Kosambi
had taken to quarreling and brawling
and were deep in disputes,
stabbing each other with verbal daggers.

They could neither convince each other
nor be convinced by others;
They could neither persuade each other
nor be persuaded by others.

Then the Buddha
addressed a certain bhikkhu thus:
“Come: bhikkhu, tell those bhikkhus in my name
that the Teacher calls them.”

“Yes, venerable sir,” he replied,
And they went to the Blessed One,
and after paying homage to him,
they sat down at one side.

The Buddha then asked them:
“Bhikkhus, what do you think?
When you take to quarreling and brawling
and are deep in disputes,
stabbing each other with verbal daggers,
do you on that occasion
maintain acts of loving-kindness
by body, speech, and mind,
in public and in private
towards your companions in the holy life?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“What can you possibly know, what can you see,
that you take to quarreling and brawling
and are deep in disputes,
stabbing each other with verbal daggers?
that you can neither convince each other
nor be convinced by others,
that you can neither persuade each other
nor be persuaded by others?
That will lead to your harm and suffering for a long time.”

Then the Buddha addressed the bhikkhus thus:
“Bhikkhus, there are these six principles of cordiality
that create love and respect
and conduce to cohesion, to non-dispute,
to concord, and to unity.
What are the six?

1. Here a bhikkhu maintains
bodily acts of loving-kindness
both in public and in private
towards companions in the holy life.

2. Again, a bhikkhu maintains
verbal acts of loving-kindness
both in public and in private
towards companions in the holy life.

3. Again, a bhikkhu maintains
mental acts of loving-kindness
both in public and in private
towards companions in the holy life.

4. Again, a bhikkhu uses things in common
with virtuous companions in the holy life;
without making reservations,
he shares with them any gain of a kind
that accords with the Dhamma
and has been obtained in a way
that accords with the Dhamma,
including even the mere contents of his bowl.

5. Again, a bhikkhu dwells
both in public and private
possessing in common
with companions in the holy life
those virtues that are unbroken, untorn,
unblotched, unmottled, liberating,
commended by the wise,
not misapprehended,
and conducive to concentration.

6. Again, a bhikkhu dwells
both in public and in private
possessing in common with companions in the holy life
that view that is noble and emancipating,
and leads one who practices in accordance with it
to the complete destruction of suffering.

These are the six principles of cordiality
That create love and respect,
And conduce to cohesion, to non-dispute,
To concord, and to unity.”

The three authors of Older and Wiser: Classical Buddhist Teachings on Aging, Sickeness, and Death reflect upon the Buddha’s words about harmony. Andrew Olendszki is trained in Buddhist studies at England’s Lancaster University, Harvard and the University of Sri Lanka. Formerly executive director of Insight Meditation Society and the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, he has written Unlimiting Mind and Untangling Self. Andrew comments that although the Buddha’s lesson focuses on harmonious relationships among monastics, it can be applied readily to personal relationships with families, intimate partners, and work colleagues, and to international relations among nations. In conflicts, we can easily lost perspective and hold tightly to set views and opinions, preferences and beliefs.

Among the Buddha’s general principles for promoting harmony, the first three pertain to mindfulness about right thought, speech and action. The fourth principle, sharing, involves generosity and caring more about others than oneself. Generosity includes conceding points in arguments. The last two principles have to do with cultivating wholesome mental states that unify people, rather than unwholesome mental states rooted in greed, hatred and delusion, that separate and divide them.

The second author, Mu Soeng, who trained in the Korean Zen tradition as a monk for 11 years, is program director and resident scholar at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies. Among his publications are The Diamond Sutra and The Heart of the Universe: Exploring the Heart Sutra. He reflects that the Buddha’s suggestions for cultivating loving-kindness as a way of ending quarrels with others are equally applicable to internal dialogues. Instead of dwelling on harsh self-judgments, we can address ourselves kindly. Mu Soeng recommends that we have compassion for our conditioned existence. When we argue, we often feel that our knowledge is superior to what others know. Upon close examination, though, we realize that our ideas are merely conjectures—not universally valid principles that we can assume them to be.

The third author, Gloria Taraniya Ambrosia, is a Lay Buddhist Minister associated with the Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in California. She teaches at the IMS Forest Refuge in the Thai Forest Tradition transmitted by Ajahn Chah. In her reflections on the Buddha’s instructions about harmony she says that the unawakened mind is strongly habituated to quarreling. As she ages and contemplates death, she feels an urgency to stop arguing. According to the Buddha’s sixth principle of right view, we can learn to recognize the pain of clinging to harmful and contentious thoughts, and to see the sense of self that underlies grasping. With wise attention, we can practice letting go of rigid views.

Now let’s take a moment for our own period of reflection.
Close your eyes and turn inward.
Consider how often you find fault with self and others.
How could the Buddha’s teachings about practicing loving kindness internally and externally soften your judgments and ease tendencies to argue?

The sutra asks us to consider whether it is more important to win arguments or to live together in harmony. Most wounds we inflict with our words are not warranted. With conscious practice, we grow increasingly inclined to remain open-minded in conflicts, to simply note moments when we disagree, and to let imperfect moments arise and pass away without quarrels or even comments.
Envision applying the practice of harmony to a situation in your life….

Opening your eyes, turn to a partner and discuss your reflections.

12/17/2017

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