“To cover all the earth with sheets of leather.
Where could such amounts of leather be found?
But simply wrap some leather around your feet
and it is as if the whole earth had been covered!
Likewise we can never take
and turn aside the outer course of things,
but only seize and discipline the mind itself
and what is there remaining to be curbed? “
Today, we reflect on old Buddhist wisdom: remain like a log.
Yes, perhaps the man is behaving like an idiot, and what he said is exaggeration, if not an all-out lie. Perhaps he is behaving like a weak-willed and cowardly, disloyal cheat. So will I publicly point out the obvious evidence to conclude the man is behaving like an idiot? Or will I decide to remain like a log?
She asks: “does this make me look fat?”. She asks you to listen, when you want to offer advice. What to do? Remain like a log.
What is the greater wisdom? What is the greater act of strength?
Often, we know how to act because we know when and how to refrain from acting, not because we are afraid to act – because we somehow repress what we are unable to say or to do – but rather because we are wise and strong enough not to act.
Do you have the steady strength of mind to remain like a log?
The advice is that of the eighth century Indian Buddhist monk Shantideva. He is credited as author of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara, “The Way of the Bodhisattva”.
Shantideva was born a prince in a kingdom of present day Gujarat in India. Moved by the Buddha's teachings, and inspired by the bodhisattva of wisdom Manjushri, he renounced his royal life and become a monk at the famous Nalanda Buddhist university, located in the state of Bihar near sites where the Buddha taught.
Shantideva was believed to be lazy. His fellow monks thought he was good for nothing but eating and sleeping. So, they decided to try to shame him into leaving the university. Every week at Nalanda, a public teaching was given, usually by a senior monk. The monks decided to ask Shantideva to give the teaching. He denied several requests, but one day – to their surprise – he agreed, and, at the appointed time, he sat in the teaching seat and asked those who were gathered: would they like to hear a well-known teaching or to hear something new? They asked to hear something new, and so Shantideva began to teach what has become among the most influential texts in Mahayana Buddhist tradition.
I was asked to answer the questions: how to work with guilt, anger and aggression? One way is to have sufficient self-awareness and mental strength to prevent the next thing we will feel badly about from happening: know when and how to remain like a log.
Yes, perhaps the man is behaving like an idiot, both rude and ridiculous.
What to do?
As offered in the translation by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shantideva says:
“When the urge arises in the mind
to feelings of desire or wrathful hate,
do not act! Be silent, do not speak!
And like a log you should remain.
When the mind is wild with mockery
and filled with pride and haughty arrogance,
and when you want to show the hidden faults of others,
to bring up old dissensions or to act deceitfully,
And when you want to fish for praise,
or criticize and spoil another's name,
or use harsh language, sparring for a fight,
it's then that like a log you should remain.
And when you want to do another down,
and cultivate advantage for yourself,
and when the wish to gossip comes to you
it’s then like a log you should remain.
Impatience, indolence, faint-heartedness
and likewise prideful speech and insolence,
attachment to your side - when these arise,
it is then that like a log you should remain.
Examine thus yourself from every side.
Note harmful thoughts and every futile striving.
Thus it is that heroes in the spiritual path
Apply the remedies to keep a steady mind.
With perfect and unyielding faith,
with steadfastness, respect, and courtesy,
with modesty and conscientiousness,
work calmly for the happiness of others.
Thus with a free and untrammeled mind,
put on an ever-smiling countenance.
Rid yourself of scowling, wrathful frowns.
And be a true and honest friend to all.”
The man is behaving like an idiot. Will I tell him this? Will I remain like a log…which, strictly speaking, is probably the best way to show him he is behaving like an idiot…because he will see it in the contrast.
He is rude. Will I also be rude? He is aggressive. Will I also be aggressive? She is disrespectful. Will I also be disrespectful? She is demeaning. Will I also be demeaning? Do I know how to remain like a log?
Can I choose when to act, and when not to act, what to say and how to say it? Not repressing, nor keeping silent, because I have been silenced, but do I have the strength and steadiness of mind to choose?
Action and reaction are two ends of a same stick. If he jabs me, must I jab him back with that stick?
Do we have the steadiness of mind to let go and relax. Can we be still and silent, not because we are weak, but because we are strong?
If I were to cover the whole world in leather, where could that much leather be found? But wrap leather around my feet, and it is as if the whole earth is covered.
Try to manage all of the outside things - the hurts and the shamings, the pride, and the pettiness, the bitterness - it is as if we were to try to cover the whole earth in leather.
Learn how to be calm and steady of mind – practice the mental discipline of training the mind to be able to be still - it will be as if we covered the whole earth in leather, because we will have wrapped leather around our own feet.
“To keep a guard again and yet again
upon the state of actions of our thoughts and deeds -.
This and only this defines
the nature and the sense of mental awareness.
But all this must be acted on in truth,
for what is to be gained by mouthing syllables?
What invalid was ever helped,
by merely reading in the doctor's treatises?”
Yes, demonstrably the man is behaving like an idiot. Do I need to do the same?
Do I have the patience, mental strength, kindness and disciplined awareness of my actions and thoughts to make choices that I can live with, without regret?
Know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away and when to run. Know when and how to remain like a log.
Copyright © 2019, Adela Sandness