Against The Stream ~ NO MARATHON
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.