No One Can Purify Another

No One Can Purify Another

Discussion date: Thu, May 17, 2007 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water Friends,

After several visits to the Long Son temple complex in Nha Trang,Vietnam, to hear Thich Nhat Hanh give Dharma talks, I had a few free hours to explore the temple grounds. I was getting used to the layout, looking at statues, exploring nooks and crannies. I turned a corner behind the Dharma hall and was stopped short by a large brass plaque in Vietnamese and English.

I was stopped first by the fact that I could read it. Nothing else I had seen in the temple had been in English.

Then I was stopped by the message:

By oneself, evil deed is done,
By oneself, one is defiled.

By oneself, evil deed is not done,
By oneself, one becomes purified.

Purity and impurity are done by oneself.
No one can purify another.

It was a strong reminder to focus on my practice, on my thoughts, words and behaviors. “Purity and impurity are done by oneself.” I saw it also as an invitation to spend less time thinking about, being annoyed by, or being judgmental about what others were doing. “No one can purify another.”

The next day I noticed for the first time a bilingual paper placardnext to the side entrance to the Buddha Hall. Thisone added some encouragement:

He who by good deeds
covers the evil he has done,
illuminates this world
like the moon freed from clouds.

“OK,” I said to myself, “Message received. Thanks.”

I later confirmed that both of the sayings come from the Dhammapada,an ancient collection of 423 aphorisms attributed to theBuddha. Many of the aphorism explore the consequences of ourintentions. Among the most famous is the first one:

Mind is the forerunner of all actions.
All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.
If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, suffering follows,
as the wheel follows the hoof of an ox pulling a cart.

Mind is the forerunner of all actions.
All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.
If one speaks or acts with a serene mind, happiness follows,
As surely as one’s shadow.
(From the Parallax Press translation by Ananda Maitreya)

You are invited to join us this Thursday evening for our meditationperiod and a program focused on our capacity to change ourselves andothers. You are invited to consider four questions:

Have I tried to purify or make better another person?
Have I tried to purify or make better my own thoughts, words or actions?
When have I been most successful?
When have I been least successful?

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, May 17, 2007


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