Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Root of Pain and Joy

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him”
……………Dhammapada Ch 1 verse 1,2

Periodically I will be doing a commentary on the Dhammapada which captures the essence of Buddhist teachings.
The above verses position the basic ethics of living a human life. The predominance of mind over matter is now increasingly realized in understanding human conditions such as physical and mental illness. This is the reason that right mind set is addressed in the very first chapter of The Dhammapada.
While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement. Buddha distinguishes three types of right intentions: 1. the intention of renunciation, which means resistance to the pull of desire, 2. the intention of good will, meaning resistance to feelings of anger and aversion, and 3. the intention of harmlessness, meaning not to think or act cruelly, violently, or aggressively, and to develop compassion. All these three aspects of right intentions are addressed in the first chapter of The Dhammapada.

The great truth is that our mental state is responsible for our emotional response. The emotional response is the main trigger for our glandular activity. For example when our mind senses fear, we are afraid and this state of fright readies our physical system to fight or flee. To go into this mode, our muscles must be activated for increased response and require higher blood flow. The heart must pump more blood through the veins. To increase the heart rate the adrenal glands must release higher levels of adrenaline.
All our sensory inputs are modulated through our mind and thoughts to evoke a response in our endocrine glands. This results in various actions in our own physical system and the feedback to our mind completes and readies our mind to perceive a state of mind. This is vicious circle which can lead to a permanent state of being. A person who lives constantly in a state of hate, exploitation and manipulation of his fellow beings, experiences a reflexive state of the pain inflicted due to his own constant anxiety and perceived threat as to when he may be subjected to the same conditions. He gets trapped in the ambience he has created. This is the reason the wisdom of the Dhammapada says “pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage”. The state of existence has now gone beyond his control. The main manifestation of this state is energy blocks within the body leading to physical ailments. This is the reason that heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer are the major killers today.

If on the other hand, we follow the path of dharma and act and think with pure intension, a state of universal well being pervades our system. Beautifully this state is compared to the shadow that never leaves a person. A shadow will never a person and will always remain with him only when he carries the light that casts the shadow. When the inner light of realization that all creations are from the same source, is present in us, the shadow cast of the egoless self will always accompany the self in an unaltered state of purity.

Two basic facts emerge from the reflection on these verses. Pain and despondency, driven by our state of a mind immersed in evil, has an external source beyond our control but happiness derived from our state of universal love through right action and thought is derived from a source within.

Love to you all


  1. If only one can sync the thought and action in the positive way that might be the greatest gift of life. enjoyed reading

  2. SS, thank you for your appreciation.