“They say that once a famous Chinese poet decided to study Buddha’s wisdom. To do so he traveled a long way to find a great Zen teacher and when had the opportunity, he asked:
– What is the most important teaching of the Buddha?
– Do not hurt anyone and do just the good – replied the master.
– What nonsense! the poet exclaimed. – I’ve traveled thousands of miles to find you because you’re considered a very wise master, and that’s the answer you give me? – Even a three year old child would be able to say that!
– It may be that a three-year-old child is capable of saying it, but it is difficult to put it into practice, even for an old and wise man as I am, – said the master smiling.”
One of the most interesting things in Oriental philosophy, such as Buddhism and Taoism, is their simplicity. These ways of understanding and being in the world are not trying to tie us to an infinite list of moral standards, many of which only serve to make us transgress them and feel guilty, but offer us a much easier way to find the mental equilibrium. However, some of the ideas they promote are very difficult to accept, especially for Western minds. Here are some Buddha sayings to be inspired of.
1. You’re not what you say, you’re what you do
We think our beliefs and values define us as people. In a sense it is so, but this statement is not entirely true. We are no better people simply because we believe in something or have accepted certain values as our standards of behavior. What transforms us into good people are our actions. Words and thoughts without action remain only good intentions.
In fact, the world is full of people with good intentions that in decisive moments do not act according to the values and beliefs they are proclaiming to the four winds. This parable encourages us not to fall into the mistake of thinking that we are better simply because we have more “pure” ideals or good intentions. We must ensure that these values and ideas have a practical outlet. We must make sure there is a congruency between what we think, feel and do. We are not only good people for what we think or feel, we are so for what we do.
2. Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you
In Taoism there are no ten commandments or complicated laws that determine what is good and what is not. There is only one rule: do not hurt the others, abstain from causing harm, suffering, and pain.
We should behave with the others in the same way that we would like them to behave with us. It is a very simple rule because before any moral dilemma we should just ask ourselves: would we like someone to behave this way with us or with the people we love?
The problem with this rule is that implies that the responsibility of our actions is entirely ours, and terrorizes those who prefer that it is a religion, state or society that decides what is right or wrong because in this way they have an excuse to escape their conscience. It’s always easier to blame the others instead of assuming the responsibility for the mistakes we made.
Of course, this seemingly simple rule also has another important implication since it is imperative that we are first able to love ourselves. If we fall into self-destructive habits, we will end up doing only harm to the others. To accept and practice this truth you will need to do a great work inside yourself, something that many people are not willing to do.
3. Maturity is not adding, but learning to subtract.
The society has been concerned about creating fake needs. So it keeps us busy and stressed while we’re trying to get everything that gives us the security or the well-being that we desire. In fact life is much simpler, and once our basic needs are met, we do not need much more to be happy.
We mistakenly think that life consists in adding more and more. Add people even if they do not bring anything to us. Add other things even if we do not need them. Add other warranties even if they are nothing but mirages. Add more social roles even if we are unable to interpret them well and feel comfortable in them. We think that adding is synonymous with success and happiness, when in reality it’s just an expression of fear, dissatisfaction and chaos. Accepting that we do not need to add, but learning how to subtract, it is difficult because it implies a radical change in how we understand life. But the result is extremely liberating.
The Zen master of the tale invites us, in a way, to free ourselves from this need to add and complicate everything to embrace simplicity. He teaches us that sometimes the great truths are the simplest and that to find the balance sometimes it is necessary to return to the origins and remove from the things all the superfluous layers that we have built around it.