As I put this blog post together it is July 6th, the Birthday of the Dalai Lama. I can’t think of the Dalai Lama without thinking of kindness.
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” Dalai Lama
An old Jewish folktale illustrates the power of words to cause harm.
It goes like this:
“The words we use can hurt as well as heal…yet there is more to kind speech than saying nice things.
There was once a man who loved to gossip. He loved the attention it brought him, and could not stop himself from speaking about others, sometimes sharing the good they did, but most often sharing the mistakes they had made.
In time, however, he realized the harm his speech was causing, and he sought to make amends. He went to his rabbi and explained the situation and asked how he could make amends.
The rabbi thought for a moment and instructed the man to go to the marketplace and purchase two of the finest feather pillows he could find. He should then take his pillows to the top of the mountain overlooking the village, tear them open, and spill the feathers into the wind.
The man was surprised and pleased at the rabbi’s advice. He thought repentance would be much harder than this. So, he ran to the marketplace, purchased his pillows, and within an hour had scattered their feathers to the wind.
He returned to the rabbi all aglow. He was ready to be forgiven for his gossiping. Not just yet, the rabbi told him. There was one more thing to do. He had to return to the mountain and repack the pillows with the feathers he had scattered.
“But that’s impossible,” the man said. “Those feathers have gone everywhere, there is no way I can take them back now.”
The rabbi nodded solemnly and said, “What is true of feathers is true of words. Once spoken they can never be retrieved. The harm caused by gossip cannot be undone.”
Taken from Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness – preparing to practice.”
The old nursery rhyme about how words can never hurt you is debunked every day, word by word. As we hurl words at each other, in the public and private sectors, we duck, not because they break our bones but because they can break our hearts, and our spirits. We have never been more capable of hurting each other with words, than we are now.
I recently re-read an excellent article in Tricycle The Truth About Gossip: If you don’t have anything nice to say . . .By Ven. Thubten Chodron Summer 2006
Here is a short excerpt taken from the end:
“I’ve found that the best antidote to gossip is deliberately and consistently meditating on the kindness of others and cultivating loving kindness toward them. Sit down sometime and reflect on everything others have done for you since you were born. Start with your parents or another kind adult who fed you as an infant. Think about all the people who contributed to your education, all those who encouraged you to exercise your talents, and all those who supported you through ups and downs. It’s truly amazing how much others have done for us. When our minds become convinced that we’ve been the recipients of a tremendous amount of kindness in our lives, the wish to speak ill of others vanishes. Instead, we become happy to talk about others’ good qualities, virtuous activities, accomplishments, and good fortune. Then not only is our own mind happy, but everyone who speaks with us becomes happy as well. The goodness in our hearts overcomes any wish to gossip.
Imagine having conversations in which we talked about people’s good qualities and accomplishments behind their back. Think about it: wouldn’t it be fulfilling in a completely positive way? Speaking about how others helped us, praising their talents, rejoicing in their dharma practice, admiring, and aspiring to cultivate their good qualities—speaking about all of these uplifts our mind, creates the positive karma of right speech, and helps spread happiness in the world.”
It seems to me that we can all benefit from this advice right now.
I so hope that you find many wonderful moments this July to be playful, eat gelato, swim, have picnics and bike rides, listen and play music, forest walks, and great camaraderie with friends and family. There is always sorrow and difficulties and we may need to work harder to laugh and be in wonder at all the goodness of life that still abounds.
Warmest wishes, Trudy