across the lines - wrong understanding

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across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:32 pm

In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby nathan » Tue Mar 03, 2009 12:58 pm

My theory is that when I can't see my faults before I see these reflected in the negative responses of another being that I should further examine myself more carefully.

It is always suffering to be separated from what is pleasant and that which we desire or to be presented with that which is unpleasant or which we do not desire. We can't force that to change by imposing our will on others but we can moderate or eliminate suffering by correctly imposing our will on ourselves.

That's what I find works. When I'm not doing it, I find out, could be from someone in any tradition. Could even be from someone of no tradition.
:smile:
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:20 pm

nathan wrote:My theory is that when I can't see my faults before I see these reflected in the negative responses of another being that I should further examine myself more carefully.

It is always suffering to be separated from what is pleasant and that which we desire or to be presented with that which is unpleasant or which we do not desire. We can't force that to change by imposing our will on others but we can moderate or eliminate suffering by correctly imposing our will on ourselves.

That's what I find works. When I'm not doing it, I find out, could be from someone in any tradition. Could even be from someone of no tradition.
:smile:
metta and upekkha


Nathan! :bow:
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Mar 03, 2009 2:53 pm

Hi Mudra,

mudra wrote:In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.


I don't think this necessarily follows. An arahant could hardly be charged with lacking in understanding of his tradition, yet the Buddha's arahant disciples included people who were not polite and whom not even all of the Buddha's disciples found inspiring. The arahant Pilindavaccha, for example, was in the habit of addressing junior monks as 'menials', much to their chagrin. If the man couldn't make himself universally appealing even to the Theravada community then there is no reason to think he would have been inspiring to Mahayanists (had any been around in the Buddha's time) who despise arahants.

To take another example, the members of those Nichirenist sects that stress aggressive proselytizing are not people whom I would describe as "polite and even somewhat inspiring." Rather, I would describe them as boorish and even somewhat appalling. But I wouldn't conclude from this that they haven't properly understood their tradition, for in fact they are behaving pretty much like Nichiren himself.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Last edited by Dhammanando on Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Changed Mahakassapa to Pilindavaccha.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:14 pm

That is food for thought Bhante. There are also examples of this in other traditions. Marpa for example.
However their audience was very targeted and very limited compared to an online forum, wouldn't you say?
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby clw_uk » Tue Mar 03, 2009 4:14 pm

In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.


If your refering to the threads on this site I dont think there has been spats, its just Theravada doesnt accept the mahayana texts or tantric practice as part of the Buddhadhamma and thats all that has been stated really, nothing offensive really since everyone knows this position (unless your a beginner)

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Dhammanando » Tue Mar 03, 2009 5:26 pm

Hi Mudra,

mudra wrote:That is food for thought Bhante. There are also examples of this in other traditions. Marpa for example.
However their audience was very targeted and very limited compared to an online forum, wouldn't you say?


In the case of Pilindavaccha, his offensiveness wasn't like that of Marpa (i.e., some kind of deliberate teaching device targeted at a particular audience). It was just the way he was. When monks complained to the Buddha about it they were told that Pilindavaccha's behaviour wasn't due to any inner fault; he just couldn't help appearing haughty because he'd been a brahmin for the previous five hundred lives. :lol:

And so what I was getting at in my post is that nothing can be reliably inferred about someone's understanding of the Dhamma on the basis of his good manners or lack of them, nor on the basis of how inspiring he is.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Last edited by Dhammanando on Tue Mar 03, 2009 7:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Changed Mahakassapa to Pilindavaccha.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Mar 03, 2009 6:16 pm

mudra wrote:if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

You make a broad criticism of others and then ask them to reply with compassion and loving kindness? :rolleye: I think maybe I would have stated your idea like this:

When I find myself unable or unwilling to relate in a polite or inspiring way with people from other Buddhist traditions, is that an indication that something is lacking in my understanding of my own tradition?"

And I can't think of a better answer to this question than Ven. Dhammanando's.

In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory...

I have found I have less trouble having religious discussions with followers of non-Buddhist religions than I do with followers of non-Theravadin-Buddhism. I suspect the reason for this is there is no assumption of common ground when I talk to a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, but there is an assumption of great common ground when I talk to a Buddhist. (I remember a friend of mine saying "Oh, you're a Buddhist? I have this other friend who is a Buddhist. You two will have lots to talk about." But he was Vajrayana and we literally had nothing to talk about. :lol:) I find when I treat non-Theravadin-Buddhists as practicing a completely different religion then there can be good, friendly conversation, just as when I talk to a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim.

On the flip side, I find the most tension, the spats as you say, seem to have at their root an assumption of unity. "We all claim to follow the Buddha so that means at heart our practices must be the same, right?" Then we get arguments whether the Buddha taught this or that scripture, or whether one can violate precepts as skillful means, or whether arahant is a path to be respected, etc. I have a teacher who often uses the phrase "In this tradition we believe X" or "In this tradition we teach Y" as if to say "We believe this, you believe that, OK. We teach this, you teach that, OK. We practice this way, you practice that way, OK." There is no attempt to reconcile, to find who is right. You want to do it that way? I want to do it this way. OK.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.

With the Buddha as my inspiration... I remember that not everyone who met the Buddha became his follower. Yet the Buddha didn't stress about it. He taught those who wanted to be taught and left alone those who wanted to be left alone. Likewise, I don't feel the need for everyone I meet to agree that the Buddha's path is the best path, I don't feel the need for everyone to practice as I practice. If someone wants to know what I practice then I will tell them. And if they end up disagreeing that the Buddha's path is the best path I won't argue with them. And if they insist on arguing with me that their path is the best path then I can walk away. I don't need to listen to a Buddhist tell me my practice is hinayana any more than I need to listen to a Christian tell me Jesus is the only way. :shrug:
- Peter

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby nathan » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:21 pm

Ven. Dhammanando makes an important point.

The same dynamics and conditions pertain to most human beings. I encounter compassionate and wise and ignorant and foolish all mixed together everywhere within and without. Our insight into mundane human behavior in most any company can't serve as a reliable basis for hypothesizing individual insights or capacities which are also internal and privately comprehended. Perfect understanding is one thing and perfect conditions, perfect faculties, facilities and perfect conduct under fragile temporal conditions are all another. Mundane similarities can be relied upon as consistent observations about the mind and body of human beings but fruitful insight into the path and understanding of transcendent awakening are elusive for worldly bound and inclined beings. We all start in ignorance and we all have really only one right path before us at all times, me and all the next beings. We have no choice but to take the next step after the last one wherever this will lead us. I am keen to be led by the Buddha as directly as possible simply because I have not found other better presentations of Dharma anywhere else for my real needs. The Dhamma is everywhere, ever available to be investigated and better known. In clear language the Buddha has clearly spoken and made known what must be known and understood. A monumental task for me simply to then perform in any effort to accomplish it. I don't say this about the Theravada TIpitika teachings because I am inspired to say it. I say this because it is so in my own apprehensions, shallow or deep. This is the source of understanding I need. I trust those who feel and think similarly to teach me. Those who think otherwise will think otherwise.

I remain open to beneficial correction by shooting my mouth off the way I do online sometimes so that where my thinking is over the top or inadequate someone will point it out. If they are wrong, no harm done to me. I am not much interested in contesting a view, even with right view. I'm keen to ascertain as much as possible what is right view and then let go of a subject and act on the understanding I have and walk my path from here to there. It can look to others like the same kinds of harmful contests of views if one is agitated about specific limited truth predominating in various open discussions without sufficient verifiable support from the teachings that it is a truth of greater importance to understanding the subject at hand. We are confident when we can trust in the learned and accomplished to whatever measure possible. What else can we do to learn better?

Careful and accurate wording is hard to achieve sometimes in discussions so if we are all working at clarifying something together as clearly discernible and important it goes really well and when we are contrasting different limited perceptions or interpretations it can easily lead to the self identifications of all kinds. A rule for discussions of some kind which made a priority of maintaining clear distinctions between presenting views and pointed self identifications might be very helpful if it were wisely crafted and easy to understand and apply by most everyone. Keep everyone on the same page maybe.
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But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:18 pm

Peter wrote:You make a broad criticism of others and then ask them to reply with compassion and loving kindness? :rolleye: I think maybe I would have stated your idea like this:

When I find myself unable or unwilling to relate in a polite or inspiring way with people from other Buddhist traditions, is that an indication that something is lacking in my understanding of my own tradition?"

And I can't think of a better answer to this question than Ven. Dhammanando's.



Peter,
This is well put, and point taken! I should start with myself. Where else?

Nathan:

I remain open to beneficial correction by shooting my mouth off the way I do online sometimes so that where my thinking is over the top or inadequate someone will point it out. If they are wrong, no harm done to me. I am not much interested in contesting a view, even with right view. I'm keen to ascertain as much as possible what is right view and then let go of a subject and act on the understanding I have and walk my path from here to there. It can look to others like the same kinds of harmful contests of views if one is agitated about specific limited truth predominating in various open discussions without sufficient verifiable support from the teachings that it is a truth of greater importance to understanding the subject at hand. We are confident when we can trust in the learned and accomplished to whatever measure possible. What else can we do to learn better?


Agreed. Essentially the thread started not so much with the desire to have a saccharine sweet etiquette dominate, but more a comment on some of the virulent shouting matches which were fairly obviously not in the spirit ascertaining right view. However, despite the fact that the line between the spirit of investigation and supremacist posturing is not very thin at all, it seems we (sorry Peter - I) still need some kind of inner guideline. Ruefully I must admit that the klesha of pride is a slippery one...
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby nathan » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:23 pm

mudra wrote:
Peter wrote: ...not so much with the desire to have a saccharine sweet etiquette dominate...

I welcome any such accusations. It is a new development for me! I will try to suck it up and swallow such responses silently from now on!
:rofl:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:42 pm

nathan wrote:
mudra wrote:
Peter wrote: ...not so much with the desire to have a saccharine sweet etiquette dominate...

I welcome any such accusations. It is a new development for me! I will try to suck it up and swallow such responses silently from now on!
:rofl:


Oh dear. Now I have to go all saccharine and explain that I wasn't pointing the finger at you..... :o
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:52 pm

Hi all

I just wanted to follow up Ajahn's post by another example of perceived rudeness not being indicative of spiritual attainment.
In the suttas (SN16:11) we have the example of Ananda being reproached by Mahakassapa:,

What are the reasons friend Ananda, for the sake of which the Blessed One had said that no more than three monks should take their alms meal among families?"
"There are three reasons, venerable sir: it is for restraining ill-behaved persons, for the well-being of good monks, and out of consideration for the lay families."
"Then, friend Ananda, why do you go on tour with those young new monks whose senses are unrestrained, who are not moderate in eating, not devoted to wakefulness? It seems you behave like one trampling the corn; it seems you destroy the faith of the families. Your following is breaking up, your new starters are falling away. This youngster truly does not know his own measure!"
"Grey hairs are now on my head, venerable sir, and still we cannot escape being called 'youngster' by the Venerable Mahakassapa."


Having related that instance, I would like to point out that it was my intention after the inception of Dhamma Wheel that the values of friendliness and respect were to be at the heart of interpersonal interactions here. And I am pleased to say that the vast majority of our members do get on and make great contributions and have robust discussions while being respectful and in a spirit of friendliness to all. I could have rose-coloured glasses but my impression is that we don't have a saccharine-coated culture. And I am sure you will tell me if I am wrong.
Metta

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Mar 04, 2009 1:25 am

Greetings,

Further to Peter's excellent point...

I have found I have less trouble having religious discussions with followers of non-Buddhist religions than I do with followers of non-Theravadin-Buddhism. I suspect the reason for this is there is no assumption of common ground when I talk to a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, but there is an assumption of great common ground when I talk to a Buddhist. (I remember a friend of mine saying "Oh, you're a Buddhist? I have this other friend who is a Buddhist. You two will have lots to talk about." But he was Vajrayana and we literally had nothing to talk about. ) I find when I treat non-Theravadin-Buddhists as practicing a completely different religion then there can be good, friendly conversation, just as when I talk to a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim.

On the flip side, I find the most tension, the spats as you say, seem to have at their root an assumption of unity. "We all claim to follow the Buddha so that means at heart our practices must be the same, right?" Then we get arguments whether the Buddha taught this or that scripture, or whether one can violate precepts as skillful means, or whether arahant is a path to be respected, etc. I have a teacher who often uses the phrase "In this tradition we believe X" or "In this tradition we teach Y" as if to say "We believe this, you believe that, OK. We teach this, you teach that, OK. We practice this way, you practice that way, OK." There is no attempt to reconcile, to find who is right. You want to do it that way? I want to do it this way. OK.


... I see no reason to think that Buddhist traditions are any more "the same religion" than Abrahamic traditions are "the same religion". Whilst there may be certain common historical themes there are also radical differences in their beliefs. If you compare the Theravada and Mahayana belief structures they're radically different. No less so than that which separates Abrahamic religions.

Of course we can have meaningful cross-tradition dialogue, but to try to force each Buddhist religion into a particular mould based on one tradition's viewpoint is a harmful source of friction and consternation. Best, I think, just to treat them as different religions with some shared heritage... just as how Abrahamic religions refer to each other.

Let's not try to impose some sort of artificial unity simply because it seems like "the Buddhist thing to do". My experience at single tradition sites like Dhamma Wheel versus multi-tradition sites has suggested a greater reduction in "online spats" occur on account of not mistakingly assuming some kind of unified Buddhist position on certain issues. Any "online spats" here tend to point towards differences within Theravada itself and the discussion of such discussions is actually very relevant and potentially very beneficial to Theravadin practitioners, which can learn things and correct their views without having to forego their religion's belief structure.

:buddha1:

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Retro. :)
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 2:05 am

Retro,

Not really a question of artificial unity amongst Buddhists, more like finding common threads. If we were looking for artificial unity then why not make a whole new thing. Accepting differences in traditions doesn't have to lead to denial of another's 'authenticity'.

On the issue of politeness, it is true that there are important figures in the history of Buddhism who weren't necessarily polite, but they inspired very positive reactions. Not a storm of kilesas leading to further confusion.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Ravana » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:I see no reason to think that Buddhist traditions are any more "the same religion" than Abrahamic traditions are "the same religion". Whilst there may be certain common historical themes there are also radical differences in their beliefs. If you compare the Theravada and Mahayana belief structures they're radically different. No less so than that which separates Abrahamic religions.

Of course we can have meaningful cross-tradition dialogue, but to try to force each Buddhist religion into a particular mould based on one tradition's viewpoint is a harmful source of friction and consternation. Best, I think, just to treat them as different religions with some shared heritage... just as how Abrahamic religions refer to each other.

Let's not try to impose some sort of artificial unity simply because it seems like "the Buddhist thing to do". My experience at single tradition sites like Dhamma Wheel versus multi-tradition sites has suggested a greater reduction in "online spats" occur on account of not mistakingly assuming some kind of unified Buddhist position on certain issues. Any "online spats" here tend to point towards differences within Theravada itself and the discussion of such discussions is actually very relevant and potentially very beneficial to Theravadin practitioners, which can learn things and correct their views without having to forego their religion's belief structure.

I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness. May be all traditions do lead to the same result; may be they don't. We simply don't know. But in Buddhism we don't assert something simply because it's the politically correct thing to do.

mudra wrote:Not really a question of artificial unity amongst Buddhists, more like finding common threads.

I think one can find common threads when it comes to the basic teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, etc. (Discussing the three characteristics don't usually work because discussing Anatta ushers in a discussion about Suññata, which brings about an argument about Mahayana-Emptiness vs. Theravada-Emptiness.) But as you delve further and into practice, the traditions begin to diverge radically.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Snowmelt » Mon Mar 09, 2009 9:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:... I see no reason to think that Buddhist traditions are any more "the same religion" than Abrahamic traditions are "the same religion". Whilst there may be certain common historical themes there are also radical differences in their beliefs. If you compare the Theravada and Mahayana belief structures they're radically different. No less so than that which separates Abrahamic religions.

Of course we can have meaningful cross-tradition dialogue, but to try to force each Buddhist religion into a particular mould based on one tradition's viewpoint is a harmful source of friction and consternation. Best, I think, just to treat them as different religions with some shared heritage... just as how Abrahamic religions refer to each other.

Let's not try to impose some sort of artificial unity simply because it seems like "the Buddhist thing to do". My experience at single tradition sites like Dhamma Wheel versus multi-tradition sites has suggested a greater reduction in "online spats" occur on account of not mistakingly assuming some kind of unified Buddhist position on certain issues. Any "online spats" here tend to point towards differences within Theravada itself and the discussion of such discussions is actually very relevant and potentially very beneficial to Theravadin practitioners, which can learn things and correct their views without having to forego their religion's belief structure.


A very pertinent and insightful post, Retro. :) I have started to think this way of late, too. I am also of the opinion that it is very unlikely a person of one tradition will alter their point of view as a result of debating with a person of another tradition. Such things seem to be more matters of the heart than of the intellect. Of course, this may be a cause for rue, in that through accepting as a fact the splintering and transmogrification of the original teachings, we admit that Buddhism is not unified and never will be. Inevitably, I recall once again the prediction that human awareness of the Dhamma must eventually become extinct ...
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 10:34 am

Ravana:
I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness.


Of course the problem with this is who gets to define the results. The sibling of this is: “All religions are one.” To which one might respond: “Well, that is nice, but which one?”

So, what is this “same result,” and who gets to define it? This certainly can be driven by political correctness, warm, fuzzy feel, good new-ageyness, or it could be driven by a subsumptive need of redefining everything in terms of one’s particular vision of things.

In reference to the OP:
if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.


That wipes out a great deal of the Mahayana, a tradition that developed as an aggressive oppositional religion in response to what it cast as a lesser vision of things, giving us a highly subsumptive and supersessionist, we-are-the-true-and-great-fulfilment-of-your-lesser-understanding-of-the-Buddha’s-teachings-for-those-of-lesser-capacity, approach to the Mainstream Buddhist schools of India that gets carried over to this day and applied to the Theravada.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:25 pm

It takes two to tango, and sometimes we just have different dance styles.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 09, 2009 3:57 pm

Jechbi wrote:It takes two to tango, and sometimes we just have different dance styles.


What the heck does that mean?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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