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Pali Canon - Udana 1975

by Sangharakshita

... you have, or are in
part, a physical organism that needs nourishment; also you can have a quite neurotic craving
for food, which has nothing to do with actual hunger.
"Thus have I heard: On a certain occasion the Exalted One was staying near Savatthi, at Jeta
Grove in Anathapindika's Park. Now on that occasion a great number of youths were
ill-treating a snake with a stick between Savatthi and Jeta Grove. Now the Exalted One,
robing himself in the forenoon and taking robe and bowl, was entering Savatthi and there saw
those youths ill-treating a snake with a stick. Then the Exalted One, seeing the meaning of it,
at that time gave utterance to these verses of uplift:
Whoso wreaks injury with rod On creatures fain for happiness, When for the self hereafter he
seeks happiness, Not his, it may be, happiness to win. Who wreaks no injury with rod On
creatures fain for happiness, When for the self hereafter he seeks happiness, That very man
may happiness attain."
[67]
This is the sort of sight you can see quite easily in India - boys ill-treating a snake, or a dog,
or a cat or something like that. The Buddha himself also saw that, and he makes this
comment:
'Whoso wreaks injury with rod On creatures fain for happiness, When for the self hereafter he
seeks happiness, Not his, it may be, happiness to win.
Who wreaks no injury with rod On creatures fain for happiness, When for the self hereafter
he seeks happiness, That very man may happiness attain.'
What do you think the Buddha means here?
ABC: Treat others as you treat yourself.
_ : Karma.
S: Karma, yes.
Sona: What does 'fain' mean?
S: Desirous. I am afraid this is an example of Woodward's rather archaic English. 'Fain for
happiness' means desirous of happiness, bent on happiness. The Buddha is saying that it is
natural that all beings seek happiness. You don't wish your own search for happiness to be
obstructed; don't obstruct the search of others for happiness. In other words, put yourself
imaginatively in the place of others - which is quite difficult to do.
Sona: Going back to craving for a moment, you did say that animals are free from craving,
except for the craving for existence.
S: Animals aren't free from biological craving, but it isn't neurotic in that sense, is it, unless
they have been in association with human beings? You can have neurotic dogs, cats or horses.
You can even have neurotic lions and tigers if you keep them in a zoo.
Anyway, I think in these verses the Buddha is saying a little more than that you shouldn't
obstruct the happiness of others because you also would like to be happy. He is saying that if
you obstruct the happiness of others your own chances of obtaining happiness may be
reduced. Why do you think that is? It is the law of karma, but what is the law of karma - how
does it operate?
Subhuti: The state of mind which would lead you to perform such actions will lead you into
unhappy situations.
S: Right, yes. If you are quarrelsome and aggressive, through your quarrelsomeness and
aggressiveness you may cause others to suffer, but that same quarrelsomeness and
aggressiveness may lead you into situations where you become involved with people who are
even more quarrelsome and even more aggressive than you, and who make you suffer.
[68]
: Is it possibly even more direct than that? Is it that the state of mind of happiness is
incompatible with a state of mind in which you could be tormenting (others) - that you can't
be happy at the same time as you are doing something like that?
S: Mm, yes; though the Buddha does say 'hereafter' - 'When for the self hereafter he seeks
happiness, Not his, it may be, happiness to win.'
But also the question arises: why do you torment others? Why do you think the boys were
tormenting the snake?
Sagaramati: They were probably not aware of the fact that animals could experience pain.
S: They were not aware, yes. It seems that children are often not aware of this, and they have
to learn it. But supposing you are aware of it, or you do know it, or at least it is not unknown
to you, but still you persist in tormenting others; why do you think that is?
Sona: ...ness?
S: Not necessarily, no. I think it is more that you are not happy yourself. If you were happy
yourself, you couldn't torment others. And there are various subtle ways of tormenting others
- not necessarily physically tormenting them, but restricting and confining and causing trouble
for them, or inhibiting them. In other words, the sadist is the man who is frustrated, taking
sadism and frustration in the widest possible sense.
So when you trouble others, it is either because you are just unaware of what you are doing,
as in the case of the young and maybe inexperienced, or because you are not happy yourself.
You are already troubled within maybe by your own unsatisfied cravings.
Sagaramati: Is there any distinction here between this and what may be called joy? It appears
that you can experience joy when you are in a quite unhealthy state of mind. You could, say,
be torturing a snake and at the same time be sort of laughing and quite joyous. That is distinct
from contentment.
S: Yes. Oh, yes. It is a sort of fiendish glee, you could say. There is a word for this in German
which we don't have in English - Schadenfreude. Unholy glee, we say also, don't we?
Devaraja: I find sometimes when things get really bad personally, that I get a crazy sort of
glee, because, you know, there is nothing I can do about it. I don't know if that is the same
sort of thing.
S: No, I don't think it is. I think that is your own positive energy which cannot be downed.
The situation is such that there is no actual outlet for it, but it is there, it cannot be downed, so
it just comes out in that sort of causeless way. It transcends the situation. It has got no outlet
through the situation, it is completely blocked there, so it just finds an outlet. You may start
laughing almost hysterically, even though the situation is really bad and there is nothing you
can do about it. But it means that you are not really downed; you are not really defeated.
There is merely nothing that you can do about the situation, so the energy that you have and
that you could put into the situation if the situation wasn't so bad just escapes in this way -
which is good [69] because it means it isn't being blocked. So it is better, actually, if this
happens. It is your healthy refusal to accept defeat. It is the only way in which you can
express your non-acceptance of defeat, that your energy is still there. It is only the situation
that is completely blocking any constructive action on your part, so you just give vent to this
crazy, hysterical laughter. It is only crazy because the situation doesn't justify it. But the fact
that it refuses to accept the situation, and refuses in the only way which is open to it, is quite
positive.
ABC: That's interesting. I must admit I had the idea in my head that you should always accept
a situation first before you do anything about it.
S: But what do you mean by acceptance? In this particular instance, there is a situation
externally of complete stalemate and blockage. At the same time, the person concerned has
creative energy, but the situation is such that he or she sees no way of affecting that situation.
It may be that the situation is created by entirely objective factors, factors which are too
strong for him or her to alter. At the same time, the energy is there. It can't go into the
situation to change it, so it just escapes in the form of this crazy laughter, or glee, or
whatever. So it is in a way not a non-acceptance. It recognizes the situation and would like to
do something about it, but it can't, so the energy escapes in that way.
Devaraja: Accompanying that, in the once or twice it has happened to me, it has been like not
caring what the situation does to me any more. I don't know whether that's ...
S: It really means that you transcend the situation in the only way that is open to you. Of
course, the situation should be accepted in the sense of recognizing it as an existing fact,
because that's the first thing you have to do before you can deal with it, if it is a negative
situation. But you yourself are not completely identified with the situation, and even though
you can do nothing about it you don't accept that you can do nothing about it. You've got
energy there, and that energy transcends that situation and expresses itself not through the
situation, which is impossible, but just through your quite inappropriate laughter. This is why
people have been known to experience a sort of glee before they were executed. They were
not happy because they were going to be executed, but they had this positive energy which
could not be downed.
Sona: Sometimes the hysterical laughter turns to tears after a short while.
S: Yes, it's the same thing really. It is an expression of energy slightly positive in one case and
slightly negative in the other. The energy itself, of course, is positive.
There is a very good example of this sort of thing in the life of St. Francis. I have referred to
this before in a slightly different context and some of you have probably heard it. There is a
story in the life of St. Francis - in the Fioretti, the Little Flowers of St. Francis - where St.
Francis and the friars are recounting their greatest experience of joy. Do you remember ...

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