Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything

              When you really think about it, how much time do you actually spend caring and thinking about others and how much time do you spend on yourself? A real, honest look might reveal that we're probably spending about 90% of our time getting our own needs met.

              Take the example of a large bath tub. You want more warmth, so you begin to bring in with your hands all the warm water toward you. But what happens? It escapes pushing the warm water around and away from you. However, when you push the warm water away with your hands, the warmth circulates bringing more to you. (Try it the next time you have a bath. It actually works!) This example embodies the concept of Benefiting Others, Benefits the Self within Buddhism.

Original Art by Tim Green aka atoach, available on Flickr.com

               According to the Law of Cause and Effect, doing good deeds only brings more good effects for us. So we should give generously to others more than we did yesterday. This all sounds really logical and seems quite simple, but there's definitely more to the story!

            Long ago, there was once a famous meeting between Bird's Nest Monk, a Zen priest, and Bai Juyi, a scholar of Confucianism.

               Bai Juyi was taking a walk on a mountainside, deep in the forest. He was lost in thought when he saw something curious. Up in a large tree there was someone with their eyes closed doing meditation.

               "Excuse me!" Bai Juyi said, "Don't you think it's a little dangerous to be up there with your eyes closed?"

               Bird's Nest Monk replied, "The one who is in danger is you!"

               Bai Juyi got the sense that this priest was no ordinary man, so he decided to introduce himself. "You know, I'm just a nobody. It's nice to meet you. They call me Bai Juyi."

                "I'm Bird's Nest Monk. I'm also nameless. A pleasure."

                "You know, this is a rather rare opportunity. I always wanted to know what Buddhism is all about," Bai Juyi said."In a few words, could you sum it up for me please?"

                 "Refrain from doing bad deeds and practice various good deeds. In short, 'stop evil; do good.'"

                  Bai Juyi became bemused. "But even a little kid knows this. Is this all the Buddha teaches?"

                  Bird's Nest Monk replied, "Even though a three-year-old boy knows it, it's difficult to practice even for an 80-year-old man."

                   At this Bai Juyi began to think more seriously about Buddhism, and the two carried on a discussion.

Update: Previously, this post originally ran with the names Hakurakuten (Bai Juyi) and Torinosu (Bird's Nest Monk). These are the Japanese names, but I decided to switch them to the original Chinese and English translations for ease of reference. 

Giving Another Look at Giving

                Even though the core concepts of Buddhism seem easy for us to understand, we have to try hard to put them into practice. In a previous post, we went over the Six Good Deeds that Make You Happy (Six Paramitas).

                Sakyamuni Buddha narrowed down all the virtuous acts we could possibly perform into just six categories. He did this to make it easy for us to choose one and perform it to the very best of our ability and with all our hearts. By doing one with the strongest of intentions, you end up doing them all.

                  But for today let's focus on the first paramita of Generosity.

1.) Generosity -- Making Offerings to Others

        a.) Dharma -- Sharing Buddhism will bring happiness in this life and beyond into eternity.

           b.) Materials -- Giving money or things of value that make people happy in this life

               However, for those who have nothing to give as far as materials or compensation, there are still generosities that we can still offer even without a penny, yen, ruble, pound, or rupee!

Seven Good Deeds that Don't Cost Anything 

1.) Kind Eyes -- Send others good thoughts and intentions with your eyes

2.) Peaceful, Friendly Smile -- A friendly facial expression promotes harmony, smooths tensions, makes people feel comfortable in their environment

Original Photo by mknobil available on Flickr.com

3.) Kind Words -- A simple, warm "Hello!" can brighten someone's day and also make sure to say positive comments to people who have gone through difficult situations

4.) Physical Labor -- Doing chores, helping someone out for free and volunteering are great examples

5.) Heartfelt Gratitude -- Being grateful to others, apologizing for mistakes, and excusing ourselves when we inconvenience others makes us become more thankful in life

6.) Offer Your Seat (position/role/title) -- Giving up an advantage to someone in need like the coveted front seat in a car

7.) Share Food / Shelter -- Offer visitors to your home and those in need of help a place to spend the night and share a meal with them

                All seven of the above examples of generosity can be performed everyday, and they are all aimed to awaken the mind of a bodhisattva within us. 

                A bodhisattva is one who is seeking for true happiness. If you sincerely practice these good deeds with keeping these paramitas in mind, you will be happier and even come closer to knowing the meaning of life. Just give it a try and choose one today -- Generosity, Keeping Your Word, Patience, Making Effort, Self-Reflection, or Wisdom!

                 But we just can't perform good acts to anyone. Sakyamuni Buddha taught that we should plant seeds in the Three Fields of Fortune.

Original Photo by irokurcazbah available on Flickr.com

Field of Respect -- Someone with virtue that deserves respect

Field of Gratitude -- Someone who we owe a debt of gratitude

Field of Compassion -- Someone who is suffering and/or less fortunate 

               We are encouraged to practice as many of these good deeds as possible in these fields and to listen to the Law of Cause and Effect frequently. We think because we've heard about karma before that we already know it.

                But by not putting it into practice -- we don't really know it at all. 

Two Reasons Why People Are Not Practicing Good Deeds

1.) They don't understand the teachings.

2.) They think it doesn't matter if they do them or not.

                 Buddhism teaches us not just to know, but to practice as well. At a red traffic light, everyone stops. Knowing isn't good enough; you have to stop at the light to avoid disaster.

                 What goes around really does come around. Everything little thing we do influences our future karma. So we should reflect deeply and choose wisely to plant seeds of happiness with all our decisions in life.

The Inability to See Our Own Evils

                 Doing good brings us closer to seeing hidden evils concealed within our nature. To help us refrain from these wrongdoings, we are taught to learn and avoid the Ten Bad Deeds.

 Ten Evils

 Karma of the Mind
          1.) Greed
          2.) Anger
          3.) Foolishness -- Not Knowing the Law of Cause and Effect

Karma of the Mouth
          4.) Lying
          5.) Double-Tongue -- Telling one person one thing, and another something else
          6.) Flattery
          7.) Bad Mouth -- Using foul language and speaking ill of others

Karma of the Body
          8.) Killing
          9.) Stealing
          10.) Adultery -- Being unfaithful to one's partner

               The more of the Ten Bad Deeds we allow ourselves to perform, especially killing, stealing, or adultery, the more we also lose ourselves. And we're committing evils like these all the time with our words and thoughts... and most of that time we're not even noticing!

                 On the surface level as human beings we seem to be good-natured, but the Buddha's perspective reveals otherwise to us.

The mind is constantly thinking evil.
The mouth is constantly speaking evil.
The body is constantly doing evil.
Never has there been a single good deed.
--Great Sutra

               As we realize this definition of evil through listening to the teachings of Buddhism, the intention to refrain from doing evil then naturally arises within us. It is this mindset that drives us forward on the path.

              However, we can't see anything evil or wrong in our nature at all unless we first perform good deeds like the Six Paramitas with the utmost sincerity and dedication.

    Mirror       |                                        <---- Move Closer
        of          |<-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------X----------------
    Dharma    |                                        <---- Perform Good Deeds    You are Here

               Seeking for good is the barometer for how much one understands Buddhism. It is also the fear of committing evil.

               Along the way, conceit is the hardest obstruction and distraction while seeking for the truth.  It's our own inability to see clearly who we are and what we do.

                We must go forward by performing good deeds and listening closely to the teachings of Buddhism. By doing so, we get closer to realizing our true image in the Mirror of Dharma.

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