“The moth unwitting rushes on the fire,
Through ignorance the fish devours the bait,
We men know well the foes that lie in wait,
Yet cannot shun the meshes of desire.”
— Bhartrhari – “Against the Love of Beauty”
“For beings long to free themselves from misery,
But misery itself they follow and pursue.
They long for joy, but in their ignorance
Destroy it, as they would their foe.”
— Shantideva – Verse 28 / Chapter 1 of the Bodhicharyavatara
By and large, all beings remain steeped in ignorance and delusion. As a result, they rush headlong into abysses of suffering and misery even though wishing to be rid of all suffering. They do so by performing unwholesome acts. The pursuit of unhealthy deeds is the result of ignorance. The delusion that camouflages reality prevents them from seeing through the veil. They are unable to discriminate between what is pleasant and what is good. This leads them astray. The Kathopinisada says:
“The beneficient is different from the pleasing: both lead to different ends.”
Who does not want happiness? Event the tiniest of creatures does. However, all beings have a tendency to drive straight to hell by doing what is pleasing as distinct from what is good – like foolish moths rushing towards a tempting flame of light, to sure death. Desiring happiness, they themselves destroy it, thus becoming their own enemies. Such are people who are suicidal. But, why do they behave in such a suicidal manner? Because of attachment, infatuation. It is this blind infatuation, preventing the seed of enlightenment from generating.
— excerpt from the Parmananda Sharma Commentary of the Bodhicharyavatara
(image from inner traditions and the title is a quote from Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice))
“Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is,
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows
how to dwell in mindfulness night and day
‘one who knows the better way to live alone.'”
— Bhaddekaratta Sutta translated by Thich Nhat Hanh
The present moment is the only reality. Past and Future are but mere recollections and mirages. What a wonderful wishful thinking to imagine, one day, all sentient beings experience ‘now’ at the same moment and abide on it. Being mindfully present all together here and now at the same time and share the same moment totally aware. If you go deeper in it you will see the beauty of it.
I’d like to quote Einstein at Michele Besso’s funeral: “Now Besso has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”
— Personal comment
Remember always that you are just a visitor here
A traveler passing through
Your stay is but short
The moment of your departure unknown
None can live without toil
And a craft that provides your needs is a blessing indeed
But if you toil without rest
Fatigue and weariness will overtake you
And you will be denied the joy
That comes from labour’s end
Speak quietly and kindly
And be not forward with either opinions or advice
If you talk much
This will make you deaf to what others say
And you should know that there are few so wise
That they cannot learn from others
Be near when help is needed
But far when praise and thanks are being offered
Take small account of might, wealth and fame
For they soon pass and are forgotten
Instead, nurture love within you
And strive to be a friend to all
Truly, compassion is a balm for many wounds
Treasure silence when you find it
And while being mindful of your duties
Set time aside, to be alone with yourself
Cast off pretense and self-deception
And see yourself as you really are
Despite all appearances, no one is really evil
They are led astray by ignorance
If you ponder this truth always you will offer more light
Rather then blame and condemnation
You, no less than all beings
Have Buddha Nature within
Your essential Mind is pure
Therefore, when defilements cause you to stumble and fall
Let not remorse nor dark foreboding cast you down
Be of good cheer and with this understanding
Summon strength and walk on
Faith is like a lamp
And wisdom makes the flame burn bright
Carry this lamp always
And in good time the darkness will yield
And you will abide in the Light
— Dhammavadaka Sutra
Only when your hearts are
empty of the things of the
mind, is there love.
Then you will know what
it is to love without
distance, without time
Love knows no hierarchy,
there is only love.
There are the many and
the one, an exclusiveness,
only when you do not love.
When you love, there is
neither the “you” nor the
“me”, in that state
there is only a flame
— Jiddu Krishnamurti
As we observe nature, we become aware of a cyclic order of existence in the whole universe. One season follows upon the previous season, and night follows day in rhythmic sequence. Could you imagine a night that does not return to day, or a winter that does not become another spring? That would be a horrible thought. The phases of the moon, the cycles of growing plants and trees, the wheeling dance of the stars, all these are clear indications of a universal pattern of cyclic existence in the evolutionary progress of life.
We can observe similar cyclic pattern in our own lives, in the twenty-four hours of each day, periods of rest alternate with periods of activity. The science of medicine tells us that the body has its cycles — the beating of the heart, the growth and renewal of cell life. The brain also functions in rhythms. Psychology tells about cycles of depression followed by periods of exhilaration, cycles of mental activity followed by times of quiet contemplation. Historians and sociologists trace cyclic patterns in world events.
We can reduce this to the question of life and death. Death is always a beginning. The death of the present moment is the birth of the next moment. Isn’t it like this that we perceive time? But in reality the present is the whole of time; in the seed of the present are the past and the future. The present is the eternal, the timeless. So, if we meditate about cyclic existence, rebirth, reincarnation and samsara, the wheel of existences, shouldn’t we first reflect on what is that incarnates, or what is reborn? Shouldn’t we try to understand the essence of what IS, here and now, before trying to understand mere concepts of reincarnation or rebirth and what is being reborn, although always keeping in mind that the moment of death is uncertain and we do not have time to lose? Once we have deeply understood that the present is not a passage to a past that is merely memory or a mirage like future, the present isn’t anymore a becoming, there will be no life and death anymore and we will have a deep understanding of what is that incarnates and of cyclic existence.
"The visual impact of the stupa on the observer brings a direct experience of inherent wakefulness and dignity. Stupas continue to be built because of their ability to liberate one simply upon seeing their structure" - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
“Just as a lightning flash produces sudden but instant illumination during a dark cloudy night, so also is peoples’ mind suddenly and for an instant drawn towards whole-some, beneficial tendencies through the grace of the Buddhas.”
— Shantideva – Verse 5 / Chapter 1 of the Bodhicharyavatara
My personal comment:
“Just as a flash of lightning at night,
When the sun is absent,
During pitch black darkness,
When there is no moon,
When there are no stars,
For just an instant reveals brightly illuminated shapes;
In the same way,
At night when the wisdom sun is not shining,
During the pitch black darkness
In which one does not know what to do and what to avoid,
And amidst cloudbanks of obscurations
That cover the mind with ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride and jealousy,
Occasionally, the wish or the thought of accomplishing what is meritorious or virtuous arises in the minds of ordinary worldly people.”
— Inspired by Andreas Kretschmar’s translation of Khenpo Kunpal’s Commentary
I have just realized that I have a huge amount of versions of the translation of the Bodhicaryavatara and I will most probably post a list of all possible translations and commentaries in one of the future posts.