Happy Birthday, Leo.

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Happy Birthday, Leo.

Postby Jason » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:11 pm

I thought I'd share this passage from Leo Tolstoy's letter, "To the Working People," with all of you today — his birthday according to the Julian calendar — because I think that it also sums up the Buddha's philosophy perfectly:

    People fare badly only because they themselves live badly. And there is no more injurious thought for people than that the causes of the wretchedness of their position is not in themselves, but in external conditions. A man or a society of men need but imagine that the evil experienced by them is due to external conditions and to direct their attention and efforts to the change of these external conditions, and the evil will be increased. But a man or a society of men need but sincerely direct their attention to themselves, and in themselves and their lives look for the causes of that evil from which they suffer, in order that these causes may be at once found and destroyed.

I don't know what it is about Russian writers like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, but I find their works a never-ending source of insight.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Happy Birthday, Leo.

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:21 pm

Greetings Jason,

I think that's very insightful, as you say, but a few counterpoints come to mind...

"The household life is oppressive and a sphere of defilement. The life of a recluse is in the open air. It is not easy for those yet living the family life to lead the holy life in its entire fulness and in its entire purity, like unto a polished conch-shell." (In many suttas, one example being http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... go-e2.html)

"Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path. (SN 45.2 - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html)

and the Vinaya speaks of Bamboo Grove as being "not to near or too far (from the city), suitable for coming and going, accessible to people whenever they want, not crowded by day or noisy at night, quiet, secluded from people, good for sitting without being disturbed and conducive to spiritual practice' (Vin.I,39)

Thus, whilst it's true that one must take responsibility for the disturbances in one's mind, external factors which still have the power to affect us prior to Arahantship (either the lack of positive factors, or the presence of unfavourable factors) are worth recognising too.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Happy Birthday, Leo.

Postby Jason » Mon Aug 31, 2009 4:25 am

I understand what you're saying, Retro, and I agree that external conditions can affect us just as much as internal ones, but what I think Tolstoy is saying here is that, subjectively speaking, it all comes down to what we do with those experiences and how we relate to them. That is why this passage if often paraphrased as: Everyone thinks to change the world, but nobody thinks to change themselves.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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