Against The Stream ~ NO MARATHON

SOMETIMES, PEOPLE ASK: "How long have you been a monk?" or "How long have you been vegetarian?" or "How many precepts do you keep?" etc. These are not nice questions, as they are often meant to measure, compare, or judge.

On the Way, we are in competition with no-one, not running a race to see who can win, be the best, or the holiest, but striving to improve ourselves, and in so doing, to improve the world.

Vegetarians must be careful not to become proud of being vegetarian, otherwise they will lose any merit they might have gained from it. In reality, they have done nothing positive, but only stopped doing something negative— that is, eating meat— though this has a positive effect, for the animals! Abstain from eating meat because it is right to do so, and not from any low thought of ‘making merit’, or of being healthier. There is no reason to be proud of doing what is right.

It is funny how, even in religious organizations, people struggle and scheme for positions of power and prestige, and only become proud thereby, thus defeating the whole purpose of following the Dharma. Often, once they are in power and position, they neglect to do the work that the position entails, or even misuse their power. I saw it in the Refugee Camps, how people would wriggle their way into any position, whether they were qualified for it or not. Maybe, in their own countries before, they had high positions, and then, becoming refugees, found it intolerable to be reduced to a case-number, a faceless statistic on paper. I saw them on temple-committees in the Camps, knowing little about Buddhism, doing nothing for the propagation of the Dharma there, but most unwilling to give up their petty positions and make way for someone better qualified for the post and who could/would have done something. They were like chickens pretending to be eagles. An eagle can fly down to the ground and see things from the chicken’s point-of-view, but a chicken can fly only a few feet, and can never see things from the eagle’s point-of-view. It is like a fishmonger going to a big hospital claiming to be a heart-surgeon: he might well be able to cut up fish, but that would not qualify him to perform heart-surgery on humans. Perhaps this kind of thing— holding onto strategic offices by people not qualified for them— is one of the reasons for the collapse of many countries. When will we ever learn?

The branches of a fruit-laden tree bend beneath the weight, but the branches of a fruit-less tree are held high. Likewise, proud people hold their heads high, while those who are humble are not ashamed to bend their heads.

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