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Episode 105: Using Mindfulness To Build Character

Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Release Date: 06/28/2021

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I’m this episode we look at what the Buddha said about character. The English word for character comes from the Greek word chisel. A sculptor uses a chisel to mold a piece of stone into a work of art, or to cut away what is unnecessary. We chisel our character like a sculptor transforms stone into beauty. How? By our choices and intentions. Strengthening character can be a conscious, active process. We can also create our character through the intentions we have. We can choose to be generous. We can set the intention to rejoice in others happiness and good fortune rather than being envious. We can choose to be trustworthy. Our character is developed by repeated actions that allign with our values, until we can rely on these good qualities like kindness, generosity, integrity, and tolerance. 

 

One might say that when you have ‘good character’ people can trust you to do the right thing. Why do they trust you? Because you usually do the right thing. By your own actions. Not by how we could profit or how it makes us look, but because it comes from our core values. How then do we build character... By doing the right thing.

 

It does take discipline to build character. It also requires mindfulness. We can decide, ‘I want to be a more generous person.’ We set the intention: I will watch for opportunities to be generous, and I will seize upon those opportunities joyfully to strengthen this character trait of generosity. We practice mindfulness by watching for those opportunities. After we have acted skillfully, we reflect on how it made us feel. What consequence did it have? How did it help another person? 

 

Not through talk alone or by good looks

    Does someone envious, stingy, and treacherous

Become a person of good character.

    But with these cut off, uprooted, and destroyed,

A person wise and purged of faults

    Is called “of good character.” (verse 262-263)

--Buddha, The Dhammapada

 

Possessing good character here would be:

  • the opposite of envy- rejoicing in others happiness and good fortune and encouraging others 
  • the opposite of being stingy - generous
  • the opposite of treacherous - trustworthy

 

Links and References

Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp.63-64.