Friday, May 4, 2007

The work

You should do the work yourself, for buddhas only teach the way.

I received this today in my inbox and I though it was fitting given the recent discussion about the substance of spiritual practice. So do you get anything from that other than an apparent exhortation for self-reliance? What is the work, and what is the way? Are they distinct? Who are "you" and who are the buddhas? Are they distinct?


  1. I'd like to talk a little bit about the translation of that particular quote.

    I've seen it numerous times, told in different ways. It comes from the Buddha's final lesson on his deathbed.

    It is from Dhammapada 276, I believe.I'll share the entire passage so that we can look more deeply into the message of it,

    “You yourself must strive, the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.”

    I think it is telling us that yes self reliance is key, but more than that we need to adhere to perseverance and diligence in our practice. Especially so in our meditation practice.

    I recently had a discussion with Master Gudo Nishijima on his blog (Dogen Sangha Blog). He relayed to me a very important lesson; That as humans is is so difficult to control ourselves or force ourselves to achieve anything. Instead we must be diligent in meditation practice in order to achieve the proper balance.

    So to answer your questions about the work of practice - - perhaps it is meditation and mindfulness training. Also perhaps we and the Buddhas are one in the same we simply need to tap into our Buddha nature through following the way of meditation.

    Or perhaps not, but this is my take on this particular passage when looking at the complete verse.

    gassho - may you be happy,

    -Dhammapada 276

  2. Yeah, I've seen it a lot too - I thought I would put it out to get different points of view. Thanks for your insight and perspective :o)

  3. I'm sure you are quite familiar with it.

    It is nice to be able to share the entire verse. Especially for readers who may not be familiar with it.

  4. Hehe, I've only seen it a lot because it gets quoted a lot, not because of any scholarly familiarity or study. I think Beliefnet eventually recycles some of those Daily Wisdom selections. Thanks for the rest of the quote. Good thinking :o)

    I generally see the sentiment in that passage expressed as an abundantly cited admonition by the Buddha at the end of his life to "Be a lamp unto yourselves." I also enjoyed the lesson you relayed from Master Gudo Nishijima. I will need to look up his blog.

    I hope my lurking silent reader(s) are benefiting as much from your shared thoughts as I am.

    BTW, I love the poem/prayer and accompanying image you put up at your own blog written/inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh. It's amazing to see someone express such realization so simply yet so powerfully.


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