The picture is of a section of the Dhammapada that I read today. The text reads:
One should not pry into the faults of others, into things done and left undone by others. One should rather consider what by oneself is done and left undone.
As so often happens when I read the Dhammapada after meditating, this struck a chord with me.
It is easy – really easy – for us to see the faults of other people and ignore our own faults. As a teacher of children with emotional, behavioural and educational difficulties I see this a lot in school. Child A will hit or push child B, and blame it on the actions of child B. Despite the basic logic that child B was only responsible for his or her own actions, and that the actions child A chose to do in retaliation are his own fault, child A will almost never accept it.
The thing is, we could all look at a story like that and immediately understand that child A shares the blame for what happened. It’s far harder to realise that we do the same thing time after time as adults. For some reason it’s harder to see faults when they manifest in ourselves rather than others. Maybe we are all conditioned to seek to blame others for our problems when we are young, but to mature to the point where we are able to see our own selves in a realistic light is a priceless thing.
I can’t do anything about the choices and actions of others. I can’t control them; nor would I want to. However, I can do something about my own choices and actions. Even more, the fact that I am aware of this means that (to my mind, at least) I am obligated to do so.
If another person acts selfishly or unhelpfully, I can do nothing about it. If I act selfishly or unhelpfully and then realise that I have done so, I can do something to put things right.
I have learned that there is no point in worrying about things we cannot control. It is far more fruitful simply to accept them and focus instead on the things that I can control, affect or change.
I see Buddhism as a path towards making myself a better person. As I become more aware of my own virtues and faults, I can work to enhance the virtues and lessen the faults. I realise that this will be the work of a lifetime (some Buddhists would say, of many lifetimes) rather than something achievable in the short term, but surely it is a process that is absolutely worth pursuing. To do otherwise would be to settle for second best, and I’m not willing to do that.