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We receive karmic merit by trying to do our best and by being consistent with our words and actions. All Six Paramitas are meant to help us do the most good so we can then be happy as a result of that effort.
In order to keep our promises, we first need to have at least some sense of discipline. This becomes the driving force behind what make us accountable for what we say and do. If we don’t first understand the value in doing this, we won’t make any effort toward being disciplined and people will lose faith in us.
The only way to keep our promises is to follow them through all the way until the end. Having discipline means whenever you agree to do something, you should actually take the time to do it, just as you said you would, exactly when you said you would. Even when it's difficult for us to accomplish, keeping promises is a wonderful way for us to earn good karmic merit.
And yet when it comes to getting little jobs done or completing small favors for someone, sometimes we may cut corners. Often because the promise is made with family or friends we think or feel that we can get away with it.
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“Well, since no one is really looking, I guess I’ll take the easy way out and make an excuse,” we think to ourselves. “I’m sure they won't notice if I skip it this time.” We think that all those minor promises are too unimportant for us to be troubled with our valuable time. “If it’s such a small promise, I bet they won’t care. Then why should I bother? Besides, I’ll just make it up to them later.”
But these things begin to pile up and store in our Alaya Mind. Broken promises become invisible karmic power that remains within us. The Law of Cause and Effect tells us that every little effort and little decision we make in life comes back to us, both big and small.
The following short story from the book Something You Forgot Along the Way demonstrates why we shouldn’t "let the small things go." Too often, our mind can fail to catch the different between good and bad.
"What were you doing?" asked the samurai.
"My straw sandal broke, so I was fixing them."
"Who gave you the straw?"
"No one. I took it from some rice plants laid out to dry by the side of the road."
"Did you ask permission first?"
"No," said the retainer. "Nobody would care about a stalk or two of rice. Everybody does it, anyway."
"You fool," said the samurai. "I won't put up with such an attitude. Everyone else may allow it, but I will not. Go back and ask the owner's pardon."
The samurai well knew that those two excuses - "Everybody does it" and "It's so small it doesn't matter" - are always on the devil's tongue.
|Original Photo by A.Davey available on Flickr.com|
Your integrity is a great factor in what determines whether you're respected or listened to. The backbone of that integrity is making the hard choices to do the right thing. That means whether you are watched or unwatched... on the clock or off the clock.
So we should always keep strict tabs of what we say and what we do in our lives. We can’t just let our mouth run and hope that everything we said will work out in the end. It needs to be written down, so we won’t forget. That kind of extra care becomes our own discipline.
If we say and do things that will later reflect poorly on us, eventually we will experience misfortune from those wrong actions.
Intentions and kind words are great, but coming through on what we've promised is always the best. This added effort and persistence also strengthens and matures our ethics.
To make a promise to someone but secretly have a mindset of not doing it or not being able to do it is extremely terrible. It's not only hypocritical, but it's also very mean to deceive others in that way. When people rely on your words and actions, remember that they are relying on YOU.
A buddha is different from a deity in that a buddha is not omnipotent. Buddhas are not capable of performing miracles or creating a reversal of someone’s karma out of thin air. They are however omniscient, which means they see all, hear all, and know all. So the wisdom of a buddha is able to see through any mind tricks we may play with ourselves to get out of what we promised.
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If we get home and open the container and find that it’s already spoiled, we lose trust in that product. If we take a bite of the apple we just bought and it's rotten, we get upset with store and demand a fresh one. Trust in business is worth billions of dollars worldwide. And yet our reliance upon each other is worth more. It is of inestimable value.
Say someone you know is always late when they make plans to meet with you. Over time, do you believe this person will arrive on time? Not really. You end up bringing a book or something with you to occupy the extra time you have to wait. You are inconvenienced by this person, and whether you realize it or not, you're confidence in that person plummets as the behavior becomes careless habit. When they promise other things to you, you begin to doubt them because they are already careless with your time as it is on a regular basis.
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(Don't worry, it's just multiplication.)
how much time have you stolen?
Many artisans and builders were selected to build the facility in a very remote location.
|Original Photo by Jari Juslin available on Flickr.com|
Upon the completion of the project, the king ordered all the workers to be executed. If anyone was left alive, they could reveal the secrecy of his project.
However, the last man in line waiting to be killed begged for his life with all his heart.
“I will never tell anyone,” he said on his knees with hands clasped. “Please spare my life!! I beseech thee, Your Majesty!!”
So this man’s deep mental anguish intensified ever since the moment he made the promise. Finally one day, he reached his breaking point. He couldn’t hold it anymore, so he found thought of a way he could let it out with no one knowing.
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|Original Photo by Adam Baker available on Flickr.com|
“I know… where the secret room… of the king is…”
The king became enraged, and he knew exactly who was responsible. He jumped out of bed and ordered the immediate arrest of the worker who had betrayed his promise. For breaking his word, he was sent to be executed.
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“I will never cause trouble to others as best I can.”
Time Keepers \ Promise Keepers Time Wasters \ Promise Breakers
However, everyone else in the room managed to be there at the meeting on time. How did they do it? One person even lived in that very same neighborhood as the late person. However, the time keepers in the room left an hour earlier so that they could make it. Was the difference really the traffic, or does it come down to a personal issue with time management?
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If this was the real reason, why do they still continue to be late in this way in the future? They become late again, but this time it is another excuse that becomes more far-fetched and elaborate. Bottom line, time wasters and promise breakers don’t feel responsibility for the inconvenienced they’ve caused. If they did, it wouldn’t be a recurring issue.
The key to being a promise keeper is understanding the fundamental Buddhist concept of Benefiting Others Benefits the Self.
|Original Photo by Amanda Westmont available on Flickr.com|
We come through for each other because it's too hard to go it all alone! We can use any help we can get from our friends. Now, let’s take a look at a story that demonstrates that why this mindset is so critical.
|Original Photo by Chris Pelliccione available on Flickr.com|
Gently he asked her what the trouble was. It seemed that she was an only child whose only parent was seriously ill. She had borrowed a one-liter jar from the landlord and was one her way to buy milk when she dropped the jar and smashed it. She was crying in fear of a scolding.
Feeling sorry for her, the youth pulled out his wallet and checked it, but he was a poor scholar, and the wallet was empty. “Come back here tomorrow at the same time,” he told her. “I’ll give you the money for another jar of milk.” He shook hands with her and went on his way.
The following day he received an urgent message from a friend: “A wealthy man is here, someone interested in sponsoring your work. He’s leaving in the afternoon, so come right away.” Yet going to meet the rich man would have meant breaking his promise to the little girl. The young man quickly sent his reply: “I have important business today. I apologize for the inconvenience, but I must ask him to return another day.” And he kept his promise to the child.
The would-be benefactor at first took offense, but on hearing what had kept the scholar, he was thoroughly impressed and became his most ardent supporter.
Rich people can be touchy and difficult to deal with. They tend to think that their money entitles them to have their way with everything. Even those who are not rich will all too often break any promise and bend any principle for the sake of money, becoming its slaves.
The Chinese character for “making money” is composed of elements that can be read “trusted person.” In other words, money comes to those who are worthy of trust. The basis of trust lies in keeping a promise regardless of its cost to oneself. Promises that cannot be kept should not be made. He who breaks a promise not only inconveniences others but inflicts damage on himself.
There was no price that could be put on the guilt he would feel inside. First the benefactor was angry, but he soon discovered that this scholar was the kind of person who put others before himself. It made the benefactor realize that actually this was someone he could trust and and do business with in the future. The benefactor’s mind changed because he discovered the intangible value of trust within that scholar.
A common feature among millionaires is their ability to follow through with their promises. Droves of people depend more and more on the services that they provide in their businesses, and these millionaires endeavor to come through every delivery, every time. As a result, they earn a vast fortune from their efforts that accumulate and gain interest over the years.
People who don’t keep promises won’t get anything truly special out of life. People who keep promises will have many blessings from many, many people. They develop reliable networks and friendly contacts who are also dependable and willing to lend support. It's also a recipe for a lasting relationship.
|Original Photo by Christian Ditaputratama available on Flickr.com|
After we start to keep our promises, we will see the positive effect it has on our lives. We will experience first-hand the direct relationship that exists between causes and effects taught in Buddhism. It's also the moment when we learn the true meaning of a promise in our heart and aim to carry each one out diligently until it is 100% accomplished. Even if it causes you inconvenience here and there, keeping promises is worth it in the long run because it is the very basis of human trust.
Yet sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we may not be able to keep a promise. In this unfortunate case, we should give a wholehearted apology. We never want to break promises because we don’t want to cause any trouble whatsoever to others. Life is bothersome enough as it is. Let’s not try to be the kind of people who cause people discomfort and anxiety from our words and actions.
|Original Photo by Generation Bass available on Flickr.com|
The Law of Cause and Effect reminds us that we'll always receive exactly what we put out. The more we push through to keep our promises, the more greatly we're rewarded when it comes back around to us.
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Every single cent was accounted for and written in this book. Many employees ridiculed how meticulous Rockefeller was with his expenses. But from those modest beginnings of managing small amounts of spare change, he began investing dollar by dollar. Rockefeller rose in status, ultimately becoming one of the savviest businessmen in United States history. The name Rockefeller became a household word synonymous with wealth, and yet people fail to remember that it all began with care for a single penny.
|Original Photo by 401(K) 2012 available on Flickr.com|
However, to actually do all of this is of course… easier said than done. ;-)
|Original Photo by Celestine Chua available on Flickr.com|