An Excerpt from Eknath Easwaran's Intro to The Dhammpada

I was reading about Suicidal Depression today, and thinking about the increasing rates of mental health; and I took a break outside, sitting in the sunshine, reading the introduction to The Dhammapada. I read the life story of the Buddha, meaning one who is awake, again, and thought that this passage might be useful for someone dealing with depression.

In essence, one can step back and look directly at life (both inner and outer), and see the duality that exists in each moment. Recognizing that nothing is certain, what does one truly desire out of life? In reality, the only actions that can bring about true peace and happiness are those that also benefit others. If one can learn what it means to love unconditionally, first with oneself, and then with those around, and finally with all of the world, one can find peace, and that inner peace will translate into the world without.

What we choose to do, what we say, what we buy, what we eat, how we travel...it all affects so many more creatures in life than we could possibly imagine. Many businesses today, especially the food industry, feed on desires that ultimately do our bodies and minds harm, and disregard the environment that so generously provides nourishment. When we opt for short-term, immediate pleasures (and short-term can also mean one's own lifetime), we forget that we share our world with others. We can either do our best to help, or we can do our best to harm.

If we choose to be part of the natural cycle of life, we could be such a positive force, a nurturing force, in all aspects.

 

The Eight Noble Truths

 

    “The First Truth, brothers, is the fact of suffering. All desire happiness, sukha: what is good, pleasant, right, permanent, joyful, harmonious, satisfying, at ease. Yet all find that life brings duhkha, just the opposite: frustration, dissatisfaction, incompleteness, suffering, sorrow. Life is change, and change can never satisfy desire. Therefore everything that changes brings suffering.

    “ The Second Truth is the cause of suffering. It is not that life brings sorrow, but the demands we make on life. The cause of duhkha is selfish desire: trishna, the thirst to have what one wants and to get one’s own way. Thinking life can make them happy by bringing what they want, people run after the satisfaction of their desires. But they get only unhappiness because selfishness can only bring sorrow.

    “There is no fire like selfish desire, brothers. Not a hundred years of experience can extinguish it, for the more you feed it, the more it burns. It demands what experience cannot give: permanent pleasure unmixed with anything unpleasant. Suffering because life cannot satisfy selfish desire is like suffering because a banana tree will not bear mangoes.

    “There is a Third Truth, brothers. Any ailment that can be understood can be cured, and suffering that has a cause has also an end. When the fires of selfishness have been extinguished, when the mind is free of selfish desire, what remains is the state of wakefulness, of peace, of joy, of perfect health, called nirvana.

    “The Fourth Truth, brothers, is that selfishness can be extinguished by following the eightfold path: right understanding, right purpose, right speech, right conduct, right occupation, right effort, right attention, and right meditation. If dharma is a wheel, these eight are its spokes.

    “Right understanding is seeing life as it is. In the midst of change, where is there a place to stand firm? Where is there anything to have an hold? To know that happiness cannot come from anything outside, and that all things that come into being have to pass away: this is right understanding, the beginning of wisdom.

    “Right purpose follows from right understanding. It means willing, desiring, and thinking that is in line with life as it is. As a flood sweeps away a slumbering village, death sweeps away those who are unprepared. Remembering this, order your life around learning to live: that is right purpose.

    “Right speech, right action, and right occupation follow from right purpose. They mean living in harmony with the unity of life: speaking kindly, acting kindly, living not just for oneself but for the welfare of all. Do not earn your livelihood at the expense of life or connive at or support those who do harm to other creatures, such as butchers, soldiers, and makers of poison and weapons. All creatures love life; all creatures fear pain. Therefore treat all creatures as yourself, for the dharma of a human being is not to harm but to help.

    “The last three steps, brothers, deal with the mind. Everything depends on mind. Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that raw it. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

    “Right effort is the constant endeavour to train oneself in thought, word, and action. As a gymnast trains the body, those who desire nirvana must train the mind. Hard it is to attain nirvana, beyond the reach even of the gods. Only through ceaseless effort can you reach the goal. Earnest among the indolent, vigilant among those who slumber, advance like a race horse, breaking free from those who follow the way of the world.  

    “Right attention follows from right effort. It means keeping the mind where it should be. The wise train the mind to give complete attention to one thing at a time, here and now. Those who follow me must be always mindful, their thoughts focused on the dharma day and night. Whatever is positive, what benefits others, what conduces kindness or peace of mind, those states of mind lead to progress; give them full attention. Whatever is negative, whatever is self-centered, what feeds malicious thoughts or stirs up the mind, those states of mind draw one downward; turn your attention away.

    “Hard it is to train the mind, which goes where it likes and does what it wants. An unruly mind suffers and causes suffering whatever it does. But a well-trained mind brings health and happiness.

    “Right meditation is the means of training the mind. As rain seeps through an ill-thatched hut, selfish passion will seep through and untrained mind. Train your mind through meditation. Selfish passions will not enter, and your mind will grow calm and kind.

    “This, brothers, is the path that I myself have followed. No other path so purifies the mind. Follow this path and conquer Mara; its end is the end of sorrow. But all effort must be made by you. Buddhas only show the way.”

 

            --Eknath Easwaran, Intro to The Dhammapada