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Episode 108: One Who Harms No Living Being

Buddhism for Everyone with JoAnn Fox

Release Date: 07/18/2021

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In this episode, we explore non-harmfulness. Non-harm is so central to Buddhism, the two can not be separated from each other. Our own inner peace is dependent upon lessening and eventually eliminating the harm we do to others. Inner peace is the great victory and prize for removing this harm from our actions of body, speech and mind. 

 

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While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (270) of this book, with reference to a fisherman named Ariya.

 

Once, there was a fisherman who lived near the north gate of Savatthi. One day through his supernormal power, the Buddha found that time was ripe for the fisherman to attain Sotapatti Fruition. So on his return from the alms-round, the Buddha, followed by the bhikkhus, stopped near the place where Ariya was fishing. When the fisherman saw the Buddha, he threw away his fishing gear and came and stood near the Buddha. The Buddha then proceeded to ask the names of his bhikkhus in the presence of the fisherman, and finally, he asked the name of the fisherman. When the fisher man replied that his name was Ariya, the Buddha said that the Noble Ones (ariyas) do not harm any living being, but since the fisherman was taking the lives of fish he was not worthy of his name.

 

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

 

Verse 270: He who harms living beings is, for that reason, not an ariya (a Noble One); he who does not harm any living being is called an ariya.

At the end of the discourse the fisherman attained Sotapatti Fruition.

--Buddha, The Dhammapada

 

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Mindfulness practice:

  1. Watch our mind for harm we do to others, even subtle harm. 
  2. What causes us to harm? Can you notice what precedes the wish to strike out?

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4 of Noble Eightfold Path include not harming through:

Right thought

Right speech 

Right action 

Right livelihood 

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"A monk decides to meditate alone.

 Away from his monastery, he takes a boat and goes to the middle of the lake, closes his eyes and begins to meditate.

 After a few hours of unperturbed silence,

 he suddenly feels the blow of another boat hitting his.  With his eyes still closed, he feels his anger rising and, when he opens his eyes, he is ready to shout at the boatman who dared to disturb his meditation.

 But when he opened his eyes,

 he saw that it was an empty boat, not tied up, floating in the middle of the lake ...

 

 At that moment, the monk achieves self-realization and understands that anger is within him;

it simply needs to hit an external object to provoke it.

 

 After that, whenever he meets someone who irritates or provokes his anger, he remembers;

 the other person is just an empty boat.

 Anger is inside me.  "

 

---Thich Nhat Hanh

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On most mornings I see all the little birds eating at my birdfeeder. A squirrel comes, a rabbit, and also a huge glossy Ibis all eat together peacefully. Now when a hawk is nearby all the birds scream and warn each other. Sometimes the mockingbirds or the Blue Jays band together and gang up on the hawk to drive him away. I always find it curious that even though the ibis is as big as the hawk or perhaps larger, the little birds all know that the Ibis won’t harm them. They gather together in harmony and without fear. Somehow they know that the ibis is not a danger to them. I can’t help but dream of a world where the animals know that humans are not a harm to them or a danger. Currently they know that we are a danger to them and that causes me great pain. I long to see a day when humans are the caretakers of the earth and all her species. When humans are the protectors of those more vulnerable and the environment, not a source of fear and destruction.

 

Links and References

Buddha. The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A. Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Association Rangoon, Burma, 1986. Courtesy of Nibbana.com. For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma. Link: https://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=270