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Problems and Responsibilities

by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda

FEAR AND WORRY

Fear and worry are born of the imaginings of a mind that is influenced by wordly conditions. They are rooted in craving and attachment. In fact, life is like a motion picture in which everything is constantly moving and changing. Nothing in this world is permanent or still. Those who are youthful and strong have fear of dying young. Those who are old and suffering worry about living too long. Locked in between are those who craze for merriment all the year round.

Joyful expectations of the pleasant seem to pass off too quickly. Fearful expectations of the unpleasant create anxieties that do not seem to go away. Such feelings are natural. Such up and downs of life play with an illusionary self or ego like puppets on a string. But the mind is supreme unto itself.

The training of the mind, otherwise known as mental culture, is the first step towards taming mental unrest. The Buddha has explained:

"From craving springs grief,
from craving springs fear
For him who is wholly free from craving,
there is no grief, much less fear"
.

All attachments will end in sorrow. Neither tears not long goodbyes can end the transitoriness of life. All compounded things are impermanent.

Old and young suffer in this existence. No one is exempted. Many teenagers have growing pains. Being neither frogs nor tadpoles, teenagers are understandably inexperienced at building stable relationships with members of the opposite sex. They try to show off their beauty in trying to impress their opposite sex who are flattered to see themselves as sex objects. Both try to behave not as they really are but as what they think is adult. They are afraid that if they behave naturally they will be laughed at. Beheviour like this has the potential for exploitation. There is fear of rejection as well as worry about deflated egos. Unrequited love will often "break" many teenagers hearts because they feel they have made "fools of themselves". Some are driven to commit suicide. But such traumas could be avoided if life is seen as it really is. Young people must be taught the Buddhist approach to life, so that they can grow into maturity the correct way.

'Wheresoever fear arises, it arises in the fool, not in the wise men'. says the Buddha. Fear is nothing more than a state of mind. One's state of mind is subject to control and direction; the negative thought produces fear, the positive use realizes hopes and ideals. The choice rests entirely with ourselves. Every human being has the ability to control his own mind. Nature has endowed man with absolute control over one thing, and that is thought. Everything a man creates begins in the form of a thought. Here is the key to help one understand the principle by which fear may be mastered.

A noted British anatomist was once asked by a student what was the best cure for fear, and he answered:"Try doing something for some one".

The student was considerably astonished by the reply, and requested further enlightenment whereupon his instructor said:"You cannot have two opposing sets of thoughts in your mind at one and the same time. One set of thoughts will always drive the other out. If, for instance, your mind is completely occupied with an unselfish desire to help someone else,you can't be harbouring fear at the same time.

"Worry dries up the blood sooner than age".

Fear and worry in moderation are natural instincts of self-preservation. But constant irrational fear and prolonged worry are relentless enemies to the human body. They derange the normal bodily functions.

CONTROL YOUR MIND

Man's mind influences his body profoundly. The mind has just as much potential to be a medication as it has to be a poison. When the mind is vicious, it can kill a being but when it is steady and diligent it can benefit others. When the mind is concentrated on right thoughts, and supported by right effort and understanding, the effect it produces is immense. A mind with pure and wholesome thoughts leads to healthy relaxed living.

The Buddha says: "No enemy can harm one so much as one's own thoughts of craving, thoughts of hate, thoughts of jalousy and so on".

A man who does not know how to adjust his mind according to circumstances is as if dead. Turn your mind inwards, and try to find pleasure within yourself.

It is only when the mind is controlled and properly directed that it becomes useful to its owner and society. An unruly mind is a liability both to its

owner and to others. All the havoc wrought in this world is the creation of men who have not learned the way of mind control, balance and poise.

Calmness is not weakness. A calm attitude at all times shows a man of culture. It is not too hard for one to be calm when things are favourable, but to be composed when things are wrong is hard indeed. It is this difficult quality that is worth achieving, for by exercing such calm and control, a man builds strength of character.

THE VOICE OF NATURE

Modern man does not listen to the voice of nature because of his preoccupation with material gain and pleasure. His mental activities are so preoccupied with wordly pleasures that he neglects the needs of his spiritual self. This unnatural behaviour of contemporary man immediately results in a wrong world view of human life and its ultimate purpose. It is the cause of all frustation, anxiety, fear, and insecurity of our present times.

If man is cruel and wicked, lives against the laws of nature and the cosmos, his acts, words and thougths pollute the whole atmosphere. Nature abused will not provide what man requires for his living; instead, clashes, conflicts, epidemics and disaters will be in store for him.

If man lives in accordance with the natural law, leads a righteous life, purifies the atmosphere through the merits of his virtues and radiates his compassionate love towards other living beings, he can bring human happiness. One who really likes peace should not violate another man's freedom. It is wrong to disturb and deceive others.

You may be a very busy person, but spend at least a few minutes a day in meditation or in reading some valuable books. This habit will rẹlieve you of your worries and will develop your mind. Religion is your benefit. Therefore, it is your duty to think about your religion. Spare some time to attend gatherings held in a religious atmosphere. Even a short period spent in the company of spiritually inclined people will produce good results.

MENTAL HEALTH AND CRIMINAL TENDENCIES

The increase of all kinds of mental ailments and disturbances is the most alarming of all diseases of modern age. There are more and more mentally sick patients all over the world; especially in affluent countries.

In many cases the criminal element within our society is mentioned in the same breath as mental illness. One positive and far-reaching result stemming directly from the research work of Freud, is the recognition that criminals and delinquents are mentally sick people, who need treatment rather than punishment. It is this liberal outlook on the problem that is the basis all "progressive" social reform to replace punishment with rehabilitation.

KNOW THY NEIGHBOUR

When we do not see how people live, we may not learn the different ways of living. Travel is the best form of education. Personal encounters with people different from ourselves make us feel more sympathetic. Intolerance is often born of ignorance of another person's needs and way of thinking.

MAN'S UNHAPPINESS

The Buddha's taught that all of man's unhappiness results from selfish desire: more pleassure that money can buy, more power over other men, and, most important of all, to live forever, even after death! The desire for these things makes people selfish. They think only of themselves, want things only for themselves, and do not care about what happens to other people. When their wishes are not fulfilled, they become restless and discontented. The only way to avoid this restlessness is to get rid of the desires that cause it. This is very difficult, but when a man achieves it, he appreciates it.

TIME WILL HEAL OUR WOUNDS

Trouble passes. What has caused you to burst into tears will be soon forgotten. You may remember that you cried but not why you did so! As we grow up and go through life, we are often surprised at how we lie awake at night brooding over something that has upset us during the day, or how we nurse resentment against someone by letting the same thoughts run through our minds concerning how to have our own back. We may fall into a rage at the spur of the moment over something, and later wonder what it was we were so angry about, and be surpised to realise what a waste of time and energy it had all been. We have deliberately gone on being unhappy when we could have stopped being so and started thinking about something else more wholesome.

Whatever our troubles are, and however aggrieved we may feel, time will heal our wounds. But surely there must be something we can do to prevent ourselves from being hurt in the first place. Why should we allow others or troubles to drain away our energy and make us unhappy? The answer is that they do not. It is we who make ourselves unhappy.

You may have some trouble in your work place but you should not infect your home with a bad atmosphere. You should realise that there is an end to those problems. The solutions could be found in achieving freedom from our selfish desires by eradicating all forms of confusion and ignorance.

Whenever we fail to find a solution to a problem, we are inclined to find a scapegoat to vent our frustration. We are not prepared to admit our own shortcomings. It is easier to put the blame on others. In fact, some even take pleasure in doing so. This is a completely wrong attitude to adopt. We must not show resentment towards others. We should do our utmost, pains-takingly and calmly, to resolve our own problems. We must be prepaired to face up to any difficulties that we encounter.

HEALTHY ATMOSPHERE

Jokes and remarks directed at you in bad taste should be deflected with good humour. This one way to avoid enmity with anybody. Losing your cool whole playing the game will get you strung up. You will forfeit a possible win. That will even spoil the pleasure of those watching the game.

There is no way you can change everyone in this world to your way of thinking . It is not even desirable. if everyone agrees with you, the world will soon run out of ideas.

There are many ways of correcting a person when he is wrong. By criticising, blaming and railing at him in public, you will be humiliating and not correcting him. Criticism is certain to make more enemies. If you can show concern for a man's future good with kind words, he will thank you for it someday.

Never use harsh or unpleasant words whenever you express your views on issues. Diplomacy, gentleness and politeness do not hurt anybody. In fact they will open many doors.

Do not feel defensive when your own faults are pointed out. Your faults are your signposts for learning perfection. Temper is a poor camouflage for shortcomings. When someone loses his temper he will blurt out too many things better left unsaid. Never reveal a former friend's personal secret no matter how angry you are with him now. You will only degrade yourself in the process and others could never accept you as sincere friend thereafter. Others will think you could do the same thing you did to injure a former friend: no one will trust you.

HAVE COURAGE TO FACE CRITICISM

Sweetness creates sickness, bitterness comes with the cure. Praise is sweetness, an excess of which causes sickness, and criticism is like a bitter pill which cures. We must have the courage to welcome criticism and not be afraid of it.

"The ugliness we see in others
Is a reflection of our own nature"

A man's life, circumstances and world are a reflection of his own thoughts and beliefs. All men are mirrors to themselves, sores, ills, and all.

HAPPINESS AND MATERIALISM

Many people believe that they can solve their problems by just having money. They however fail to realise that money itself has its attendant problems. Money cannot solve all problems.

Most people never think properly. All through their lives they are like race-track greyhounds running after a rabbit decoy. When the chase ends, all excitement disappears. This very much like the nature of sensual happiness in the wonderland of materialism. As soon as the desired object is attained, the happiness ends and new desires arise. Getting the object appears not quite as satisfying as the chase itself.

Or when we lose something, remember the following advice:

"Say not that is yours and that is mine,
Just say, this came to you and that to me,
So we may not regret the fading shine,
Of all the glorious things which ceased to be
"

Wealth is not something for you to accumulate for craving's sake. It is intended for your welfare as well as others. Try to make the world around you a better place to live in. Use your wealth wisely to reduce the sufferings of the poor, the sick and the aged. Fulfill your duties to your people, your country and your religion. When the time comes for you to leave, imagine what peace and bliss they could bring as you recall the past good and selfless deeds you have done.

To seek wealth through gambling is like expecting a passing cloud to shelter us from the sun. On the other hand, to aspire for prosperity through diligent work is as secure as building permanent shelter against sun and rain.

"Your property will remain when you die. Your friends and relatives will follow you up your grave. But only good or bad actions you have done during your life-time (Karma) will follow you beyond the grave".

Fulfilling dreams of riches sound magical, but fear and worry always lie in wait for such magic to wear off. A rich lifestyle brings its share of mental disturbance. With an abundance of ill-used wealth, simple things in life like friendship, trust and confidence which are taken for granted in humbler circumstances become impossible to attain. When a lifestyle begins to create insecurity, it requires wisdom to put oneself on the right track again. Riches have their trade-offs; the happiness of owning them is diminished as much fear and worry about losing them.

For our personal happiness we should acquire wealth righteously. "Blessed are they who earn their living without harming others" says the Buddha. Happiness cannot be long-lived and meaningful if wealth leaves sorrow and suffering in its wake. Wealth flouted arouses envy; but wealth well-conducted earns respect.

Your wealth can only edify your house but not you. Only your own virtue can edify you. Your dress can adorn your body but not you. Only your good conduct can.

Ultimately, it is bliss to know that "happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself". The world may not be what you want it to be but you can tune your heart to find happiness within it. It is only when you have suffered for doing good that you can rise above others in understanding and personal happiness.

"If you want to find happiness, let us stop thinking about gratitude and ingratitude and give for the inner joy of giving. Ingratitue natural - like weeds. Gratitude is like a rose. It has to be fed, watered, and cultivated and loved and protected". (Dale Carnegie)

ACT WISELY

Man must know how to use his youth, wealth and knowledge at the proper time and place and in the proper way for his own benefit as well as for others. If he misuses his privelege, it will only cause his down-fall.

"Man must be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to encounter fear, proud and unbending in honest defeat, humble and gentle in victory".

Some people have blessings of sudden wealth through chance of inheritance. But not many are endowed with the wisdom to protect, conserve or put it to good use. Anything that is not earned through the sweat of one's brow tends to be squandered through abuse.

ADJUST OURSELVES

Customs and traditions are important bonds for the learning and sharing of human experience in any community. The dilemma we face in an ever changing world is whether to live with or break with the past. There will always be a "generation gap" between the old and the young because of different perceptions of changing circumstances and values. The old fear the young may lose their heritage and the young worry that an ancient past may become a stumbling block in modern living. Change must be considered carefully.

Popular culture creates momentary idols and folk heroes who portray images of conflicting lifestyles. Mass media helps to reinforce this and young mind are prone to accept everything they stand for. There may be political or social messages in such movements like the Hippie or Yuppie movements but it is vital for the young to have the wisdom of the old to separate the good from the bad. Time-tested and proven good old values do not change. Values like thrift, honesty, liberality, and hard work for dignified living remain fresh in any community.

In an Asian setting marriage and funeral customs and traditions are very important. The question is whether we should spend so much money and time to carry out these customs and traditions in the modern world. Are they really necessary? There is no better advice than what the Buddha gave in the Kalama Sutta:

"When you know in yourselves 'These ideas are unprofitable, liable to censure, condemned by the wise, being adopted and put into effect they lead to harm and suffering, then you should abandon them .... When you know yourselves 'These things are wholesome, blameless, commended by the wise, being adopted and put into effect they lead to welfare and happiness' then you should practise them and abide in them'.

Every man is a creature of the universe. So long as man is concerned with humanising society and the re-ordering of the world for the better, time will always bridge the gap between the young and the old. Worry and fear over the direction of change will lose their grip. The old only have to remember how their own parents had objected to certain modern ways of living prevalent at the time when they were young. Tolerance for differences on an issue is a virtue. An open attitude can only be a happy one.

MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS

It is bliss to be able to attend to your own affairs without entertaining doubts about others. Here is the Buddha's advice:

"One should not accuse others for the mistakes and things done and left undone by them, but one's own deeds of commission and omission".

"He who is always observant of others' faults, and is irritable, his own defilements increase. He is far from the destruction of defilement".

"Easy to see the faults of others; but one's own if difficult to see. One winnows other's faults like chaff; but one's own one hides as a crafty fowler covers himself".

No one is free from blame and criticism.

The Buddha says:

"People blame others for their silence. They blame those who talk much and those who talk in moderation. There is therefore no one in this world who is not blamed". Further He says:

"There never was, nor will be, nor is there now, any one who is wholly blamed or wholly praised".

Not all those who criticise you are your enemies. You can use the oppotunity of their remarks to find out the weaknesses in yourself which you cannot see.

You should not give up good work just because of criticism. If you can admit your own weakness, indeed you have the intellectual strength to succeed.

"The noble ones swerve not from the right path let happen what may and crave no longer after wordly joys. The wise remain calm and constant in mind, alike in joy and in sorrow".

BE UNBIASED

You should not come to any hasty decision regarding any matter when you are in a bad mood or under provocation. Any decision or conclusion reached during such a period would be a matter you can regret one day. Allow your mind to calm down first and think. Then, your judgment will be an unbiased one.

Cultivate tolerance, for tolerance helps you to sympathise with other people's troubles. Avoid unnecessary criticism. Try to realize that even the finest human being is not infallible. The weakness you find in your neighbour can be found in yourself. It has been said that you should not throw stones at others while staying in glass houses.

HUMILITY

Humility is the wise man's measure for knowing the difference between what is and what is yet to be. "The Buddha himself started His ministry by discarding all His princely pride in an act of self-humiliation. He attained sainthood during His life, but never lost His naturalness, never assumed superior airs. His dissertations and parables were never pompous. He had time for the most humble of men. He never lost His sense of humour".

WASTE NOT YOUR TIME

To waste a man's existence in worrying about the future, grieving over the past, or in idleness or heedlessness, is to show his unfitness for the noble place he holds as the best of earthly creatures. He will thus create bad karma which will relegate him to a place befitting his unworthiness. Bear this in mind, and do good while life lasts. By wasting your time, you injure not only yourself but also others, for your time is as much other's as it is yours.

PATIENCE AND TOLERANCE

Be patient with all. Anger leads one along a blind path. While it irritates and annoys others, it also hurts oneself. Anger weakens the physical body and disturbs the mind. A harsh word, like an arrow discharged from a bow, can never by retrieved even if you would offer a thousand apologies.

Certain creatures cannot see in the day-time whilst some others are blind at night. But a man driven to great heights of hatred does not observe anything, either by day or night.

With whom and with what do you fight when you are angry? You fight with yourself, for you are the worst enemy of yourself. The mind is your best friend but it can easily become your worst foe. Some varieties of heart trouble, rheumatic disorders, and skin disease are traceable to chronic resentment, hatred and jealousy. Such destructive feelings poěson the heart. They foster the development of latent diseases by reducing the body's natural defences against disease microbes.

RETURNING GOOD FOR EVIL

If you want to be rid of your enemies, you must first kill the greatest enemy within you - your anger. If you are to be perturbed by distractions from your enemies, it means you are fulfilling the wishes of your enemies by unknowingly entering their trap.

You should not think that you can only learn from those who praise you, help you, and associate with you very closely. You could learn many things from your enemies. You should not think they are entirely wrong just because they happen to be your enemies. They may also possess certain good qualities.

You cannot get rid of your enemies by returning evil for evil; that will only be inviting more enemies. The best method to counter your enemies is to radiate your compassionate love towards them. You may think that this is impossible or something nonsensical. But this is the proven way of every cultured man. When you come to know that there is someone who is very angry with you, you should first try to find out the main cause. If it is due to your mistake, you should admit it and not hesitate to apologise to him. If it is due to certain misunderstandings between you both, you must enlighten him with a heart to heart talk.

If it is due to jealousy, try radiating your compassionate love. You could influence him by your mental vibrations. You may not be able to understand how it works but the experience of many people has shown that it is the most powerful, intelligent and easy method to win friends. It is highly recommended in Buddhism. Of course, to do this, you must have confidence and patience in yourself. By doing this, you will be able to make your enemy understand that he is in the wrong. Besides, you are also benefited in various ways for not accommodating enmity in your heart.

COMPASSIONATE LOVE

As long as there is one single fellow creature whom you can console by your kind words, whom you can enliven and cheer by your presence, whom you can help with your worldly possessions, however little that charity may be, you are a precious possession to the human race. You should never be disheartened or depressed.

There may be times when those you love do not seem to care for you, and you are apt to have a heavy heart. But there is no just cause for dejection. What does anything matter so long as you know that you are full of compassion for your fellow men? One should never depend on others for one's happiness. He who expects to secure satisfaction in life from others is worse than the beggar who kneels and cries for his daily bread.

THE MENACE OF DRUG ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM

Alcohol has been described as one of the prime causes of man's physical and moral degradation. Currently, another more vicious form of abuse, that of harmful and dangerous drugs, especially heroin, has created a much more serious human and social problem. This problem is now world wide. The repercussions of drug abuse are more serious and deadly than those of alcohol. Theft, robbery, sex-related crimes and swindling of vast sums of money have occured under the pernicious influence of drug abuse.

Drug lords, not being content as death mrechants have even tried to control weak governments through corruption, bribery, subversion and bombings. As a matter of public policy,

governments have to protect their citizens against drug abuse. Yet, drug lords in their devilish schemes have threatened the very foundation of society human dignity. Spokesmen of conscience and their families constantly run the risk of death because they dare to cross the lawless path of drug lords.

Without international co-operation to stamp out this evil, the vitality and the future of many nations will be bleak indeed. Worldwide, countless millions of hard-earned dollars have been spent to rid the addicts of their evil habits but the maddening craze persists. It is our duty to help in whatever manner we can, to eradicate this dreadful habit and to prevent our children from ever getting near it.

Life as a drug addict or an alcoholic is a life of torture and hell on earth, leading one to an early grave.

DRUNKENESS

</b> Drunkenness expels reason,
Drowns memory,
Defaces the brain,
Diminishes strength,
Inflames the blood,
Causes external and internal incurable wounds.
Is a witch to the body,
A devil to the mind,
A thief to the purse,
The beggar's curse,
The wife's woe,
The children's sorrow,
The picture of a beast,
And self murder,
Who drinks to other's health,
And robs himself of his own.

As human beings, we should have self-control to distinguish between what is good and evil. Keep away from drug abuse and alcoholism and help others to do so. That will be the greatest service to humanity. <b>

YOU CREATE HEAVEN AND HELL HERE

"If you want to live in this world peacefully and happily, allow others also to live peacefully and happily, so that you can make this world something which is worthy of life." Unless and until you adjust yourself to live according to these noble principles, you cannot expect happiness and peace in this world. You cannot expect this happiness and peace from heaven simply by praying.

If you act according to moral principles by upholding human dignity, you can create your own heaven right here in this world. You can also create the hell-fire on this earth itself if you abuse valuable human life. By not knowing how to live according to this universal cosmic law, we often stumble. If each man tries to lead a harmless and respectable life, people can enjoy real heavenly bliss better than the kind that some people hope to gain after death.

It is superfluous to create a heaven elsewhere to reward virtue, or a hell to punish vice; virtue and evil have inevitable reactions in this world itself regardless of religious faith. Compassion for all creatures is the onlý way to create heaven. We can have this irresistible luminous ideal for the good of society and country by breathing tolerance and sympathy for others' progress and happiness. We have come this far as a human race because illustrious individuals have shown us the way. By helping others morallly, you help yourself and by helping yourself morally, you help others.

HAPPY MARRIED LIFE

In a true marriage, man and woman think more of the partnership than they do of themselves. Marriage is a bicycle made for two. A feeling of security and contentment comes from mutual efforts. Impatience and misunderstanding are responsible for most family problems. A wife is not her husband's servant. She deserves respect as an equal. Though a husband has the bread winner's duties, helping out with household chores does not demean a husband's masculinity. At the same time, a nagging and grumpy wife if not going to make up for shortages in the home. Neither will her suspicion of her husband help to make a happy marriage. If her husband has shortcomings, only tolerance and kind words will get him to see light. Right understanding and moral conduct are the practical side of wisdom.

Marriage is a blessing but many people turn their married lives into a curse. Poverty is not the main cause of an unhappy married life. Both husband and wife must learn to share the pleasure and pain of everything in their daily lives. Mutual understanding is the secret of a happy family life.

WORRY NOT

The secret of happy successful living is to do what needs to be done now, and not worry about the past or the future. We cannot reshape the past nor can we anticipate everything in the future. There is but one moment of time over which we have some conscious control and that is the present.

Many people just worry about their future. They have to learn to adjust themselves to the circumstances. Whatever castles they may build in the air, whatever dreams they may have, they must alsways remember that they are living in this world of constant friction and change.

"There are no stars which we could trust,
There is no guiding light,
And we know that we must,
BE GOOD, BE JUST, BE RIGHT.
" </blockquote> PILLARS OF SUCCESS Failures are but the pillars of success. To learn by our failures is to achieve success. Never to have failed is never to have won. Unless we experience failure and its bitterness, we never appreciate the sweetness of victory; it becomes merely a turn of events that is of little or no interests. Failures not only help us to succeed, they make us energetic, enthusiastic, and rich in experience.

"We live and work and dream,
Each has his little scheme,
Sometimes we laugh;
Sometimes we cry,
And thus the days go by".

THE REAL BEAUTY Physical ugliness is no handicap to a charming personality. If an ugly person cultivates the virtue of compassionate love, that love will show in so many winning ways - serenity, radiance, kindliness and gentleness. That kind of attractiveness will easily compensate for any shortcomings in appearance. By comparison, a handsome person with airs or conceit, will look so unappealing and repulsive. Inner charm is the real beauty. It has a special quality and attractiveness.

WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO DEPART FROM THIS WORLD For most people, death is an unwelcome event. With so many cravings to be satisfied, the business of living in spite of enormous suffering is never quite finished. People feel more comfortable with the mirage of happiness than with the reality of death. If at all they have to think about it, it only has a slot in the eleventh hour. Attachments to wordly life create a morbid fear of death. But the truth is that all life is nothing but suffering. Death is natural and inevitable. It is not half as frightening as the thought of dying itself. The mind has an ability of its own to create and to stretch phantom images of death. The reason is that a mind untrained to see life with all its impermanence and unsatisfactoriness, is likely to cling to illusions just as a drowning man will even cling to a straw. It creates uneasiness even for those who fervently pray to an imaginary supernatural being for forgiveness and a place in heaven when life seems hopeless. Of course the fear of death is a manifestation of instinctive self-preservation. But there is a way to overcome that fear. Do some selfless service for the welfare of others to gain hope and confidence in the next life. Altruism purges all selfish attachments. Purity of the mind, not attachment to worldly things, will ensure a happy parting from this world. It is the constant contemplation on death to understand the impermanence of life, and the wisdom to correct the wrong way of living, that take the fear out of death. Strenghten the mind to face fact and realities of life. Avoid unrealistic and impracticable ambitions. Develop self-confidence. Then you will be more relaxed in overcoming your difficulties in life.

RESPONSIBILITIES We are all inclined to blame others for our own shortcomings and misfortunes. Have you ever given a thought that you yourself could be responsible for your own problem? Your sorrow has nothing to do with a family curse or the original sin of an ancestor. Neither is it the work of a god or a devil. Your sorrow is of your own making. You are therefore your own jailor and your own liberator. At the same time, you create your own hell and your own heaven. You have the potentiality of becoming a sinner or a saint. No other person can make you a sinner or a saint. You must learn to shoulder the responsibilities of your own life. You have to learn to admit your own weaknesses without blaming or disturbing others. Remember the old saying:

The uncultured man always blames others; the semi-cultured man blames himself and the fully-cultured man blames neither.'

Whenever any problem arises, we as understanding people should try to find out ourselves where the mistake lies without blaming anybody. If each person could try to correct himself, there would not be any trouble or conflict in this world. But people just do not make the effort to improve their understanding by acting unbiasedly. They prefer to find scapegoats. They look outside of themselves for the source of their troubles because they are reluctant to admit their own weaknesses. Man's mind is given to so much self-deceit that he will try to find some excuse to justify his action so as to create an illusion that he is blameless.

The Buddha says: 'Easily seen are other's faults; hard indeed it is to see one's own faults.' Dh. To hide their weaknesses with disclaimers for mistakes, many people adopt an aggressive attitude towards others thinking that by so doing, they can avoid the shameful situation or the cause of the complaint against them. They do not realise that such an attitude would only create more problems for themselves besides giving rise to an unhealthy atmosphere all around. You must admit when you are wrong. Do not follow the ways of the uncultured who always blame others.

The Buddha further says: 'The fool who does not admit he is a fool, is a real fool. And the fool who admits he is a fool is wise to that extent.' (Dhammapada) You are responsible for the sorrow that comes to you. When you allow even minor incidents to irk and overturn your mind, that in itself will give rise to your sorrow. You must understand that it is not that something is wrong with the world, but that something is wrong with all of us.

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES FOR MUTUAL UNDERSTANING Remember that whatever happens, you cannot feel hurt if you know how to maintain a balanced frame of mind. You are hurt only by the mental attitude that you adopt towards yourself and towards others. If you show a loving attitude towards others, you will likewise receive a loving attitude. If you show hate, you will undoubtedly receive hate in return. An angry man breathes out poison, and he hurts himself more than he would hurt others. An angry man who shouts at others will be unable to see things in proper perspective as if smoke got into his eyes. Anyone who is wise not to be angered cannot be hurt. Always remember that no one can hurt you unless you pave the way for others to do so. If you follow the Dhamma (righteous way of life), that Dhamma will protect you.

The Buddha says: 'Whoever harms a harmless person, one who is pure and guiltless, upon that very fool the evil recoils like fine dust thrown against the wind.' Dh. If you arouse the anger of others you are responsible for the reaction it produces. By showing your aggressive attitude, you will only fulfil the wishes of your enemies.

BLAME NOT OTHERS If you learn to guard your mind properly, external happenings cannot affect you. You must not blame circumstances when things go wrong. You must not think that you are unlucky, that you are the victim of fate, or that somebody has cursed you or had done some 'charm' against you. No matter what reason you give, you must not evade responsibility for your own actions. Try to solve your problems without sulking. Try to work cheerfully even under the most trying circumstances. Be courageous to face any change if change is natural or necessary; so be brave enough to accept what you cannot avoid. Be wise enough to accept what you cannot avoid. Be wise enough to understand the uncertainty of worldly conditions which affect everybody. Therefore, you must develop courage to face disappoitments and problems without feeling frustrated. Difficulties abound in our life. We have to face them bravely. If you know how to overcome them without creating further problems, you are indeed wise. Those who try to do some service to others also face problems. They even encounter more blame than those who do not serve others at all. You should not be discouraged; instead, have the understanding to realise that selfless service eventually brings happiness as its own reward. In rendering our service to others, there must be knowledge and understanding.

Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher says: 'Love without knowledge and knowledge without love cannot produce a good life'. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INNER PEACE You must learn how to protect whatever inner peace and calm you have created within your mind. To preserve the inner peace, you must know when to reduce your superiority complex; you must also know when to ignore your pride, when to subdue your false ego, when to discard you adamance and when to practise patience. You should not allow others to take away your inner peace. You can preserve your inner peace if you know how to act wisely. Wisdom comes through understanding.

'Man is not a fallen angel, but a rising animal.' Use your full effort with conviction to stand by your principles firmly and gently. At the same time, be humble for the sake of peace and tolerance to avoid clashes and violence. By doing so you will never lose anything. Instead, you gain in the end.

HOW TO FACE CRITICISM You must learn how to guard yourself against unjust criticism and how to make sensible use of constructive criticism. You must always look objectively at criticism. If the criticism levelled at you is injust, ill-founded, given with a bad intention, you should not cowardly surrender your dignity. If you know that there is no consciencious guilt in you, your attitude is correct and appreciated by wise people, then you need not worry about ill-founded criticism. Your understanding of both constructive and destructive criticism is important for to adjust your way of life to live in any society.

The Buddha says: "There is no one who is not blamed in this world". -- Dhammapada

EXPECT NOTHING AND NOTHING WILL DISAPPOINT YOU You can avoid disappointments by not having any expectation for your service. If you expect nothing, then nothing can disappoint you. Do something for the benefit of others to relieve suffering. If you can do that without expecting any kind of reward, then you can have no cause of disappointment. You can be a contented man! The happiness that appears in your mind for the good that you have done, is itself a big reward. That happiness creates immense satisfaction in your life. By expecting reward, you not only miss your happiness, but very often you will even experience bitter disappointment. Perhaps, you may be a person who is good by nature and so you do not harm others. But nevertheless you get blamed despite having done good. Then you might ask "If good begets good and bad begets bads, why should I have to suffer when I am completely innocent? Why should I have to undergo so many difficulties? Why should I be troubled with so many disturbances? Why should I get blamed by others despite my good work?"The simple answer is that when you do some good deeds you may unwittingly be going against many evil forces at work in the universe. Those evil forces naturally interrupt good deeds. If not, it could be that you are facing the evil effects of some past evil deeds (kamma) that is ripening at the present moment. By continuing your good work with sound understanding, you will eventually be free from such troubles. Since you are the one who initially created the disappointments, it is reasonable that only you can overcome them - by realising the true situation of your wordly life.

"By protecting others, you protect yourself. By protecting yourself, you protect others". Many of the wordly conditions are beyond our control. Unexpected changes, diverse influences and uncertainties do occur to disappoint us. That is why it is sometimes difficult to do good in such changing circumstances. If people heed this advice of the Buddha, everybody could contribute something for their mutual protection.

GRATITUDE IS A RARE VIRTUE The Buddha considered gratitude to be a great virtue. Yes, it is true that this virtue is rare in any society. You cannot always expect other people to be grateful to you for what you have done. People are inclined to be forgetful especially when it comes to remembering past favours. If people fail to show gratitude, you have to learn accept them as such - only then can you avoid disappointment. You can be happy regardless of whether people arẹ grateful for your kindness and help; you need only think and feel satisfied that you have done your noble duty as a human being to your fellow men.

COMPARE NOT WITH OTHERS You can rid yourself of unecessary worry and trouble simply by not comparing yourself with others. As long as you regard others as your "egual", "superior" or "inferior", you will have intolerance and restlessness. If you do not adopt such an attitude, there is nothing for you to worry about. If you think you are higher than others, you may become proud. If you think you arẹ second to none, others may descend on you. If you think you are inferior, you may lose your own self-confidence. For most people, it is very difficult to subdue their pride. It is advisable to learn how to reduce one's pride. If you are able to sacrifice your pride, then you can find your inner peace. you can harmonise yourself with others so as to experience peace and happiness. Which is more important - to maintain your pride or peace of mind? Try to realise that equality, inferiority, and superiority are all changing realtive states: you may be poor now but at another point of time you may be rich. Today you may be ignorant, later however you can be become wise. Today you may be sick and unhappy but given time you will probably be healthy again. However, there are many intangible human qualities which are regarded as mankind"s heritage - human rights, human dignity, human status etc..

Others have no right to deprive you of them. If you are good to yourself, you are good to others. If you good to others, you are good to yourself'. HOW TO HANDLE TROUBLE-MAKERS You have to realise that you might have contributed something, either intentionally or unintentionally, for the troubles and problems that now befall you. It is also important for you to know what you must do to overcome your problems that have come to you through various sources. If your understanding is deep enough to sublimate your responsibility for having caused the existing problem, you will certainly get the idea of how best to get rid of them. Then you know how to handle trouble-makers and your opponents. Those who oppose you also have a human heart. Therefore it is not difficult to accommodate them; develop their friendship instead of isolating them. If you are strong enough to resist their wrong attitude, then there is no reason to avoid associating with them. Through your association with such people, you can influence them for their own betterment. Remember that is your own understanding that protects you from your enemies and allows you to guide them to become good. If a man does something wrong to you through his ignorance or misunderstanding, that is the most opportune time for you to show your wisdom, your education and religious understanding. What is the use of all your education and your religious knowledge if you have not learned how to behave yourself as a real gentleman particularly at a time of trial? When others do wrong to you, you must regard their action as an opportunity for you to develop your patience and sympathy. Patience is one of the prime qualities which everyone must cultivate. The more you practise such a virtue, the more you will be able to maintain your dignity. You must know how to make good use of your knowledge and principles to deal with people who are hostile to you. Sooner or later, they will realise their folly and change their hostile attitude. Sometimes, people try to take advantage of your tolerance and patience as signs of weakness. That is the time for you to act wisely without becoming a victim to such cunning people.

Virtues must be practised wisely'. Kindness, honesty, and patience are fertile grounds for cunning people to be mean on their intended victims possessing such generous qualities.

FORGIVE AND FORGET To take revenge on trouble-makers is only to create more problems and disturbances. You must realise that negative feelings and hostile actions could only bring harm and suffering to both you and the trouble-makers. In order to take retaliatory action, you have to harbour intense hatred in your heart. This hatred is like a poison. Since the poison is initially in you, surely it will harm you before it can harm anyone else. Before you can throw a blazing iron at another, you get burned first. Your action merely goes to show that there is no basic difference between you and your opponent. By hating others, you only give them power over you. You do not solve your problem. If you become angry with a person who simply smiles back at you, then you will feel defeated and miserable. Since he did not co-operate with you to fulfil your wish, it is he who is victorious. The Buddha teaches us how to live happily when we are faced with disturbances.

'Ah happily do we live without hate amongst the hateful. Amidst hateful men, we live without hate'. -- Dhammapada. We can live happily without fanning the fires of hatred. Perhaps you may not be strongh enough to extend compassionate love to your enemies; but the sake of your own health and happiness and that of everybody else, you must at least learn how to forgive and forget. By not hating or crushing your trouble-maker, you act like a gentleman. To act in this manner, you must understand that the other person has been misled by anger, jealousy and ignorance. He is therefore no different from all other human beings who have also at one time or another been misled by the same negative states of mind.

The Buddha says: "Evil-doers are not wicked by nature. They do evil because they are ignorant". Therefore they need guidance. We should not curse them. It is not justifiable for us to say that they should be condemned to everlasting suffering as it is still not too late to correct them. We should try to explain to them in a very convincing way that they are in fact in the wrong. With this understanding, you can treat the evil-doer as you would a patient who is suffering from a sickness and in need of treatment. When the sickness is cured the ex-patient and everyone else will be well and happy.

The ignorant must be guided by the wise. "Good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge". If a man does something wrong to you of ignorance or misunderstanding, then that is the time to radiate your compassionate love towards the evil-doer. One day, he will realise this folly and relent on his evil habits. So it is better to give him a chance to be good. Repentance of his past misdeeds will change him into a better person and in the end he will truly appreciate your kind thoughts.

The most compassionate Buddha's advice is: "Hatred does not cease by hatred; by love alone it cease. This is an eternal law". If you can radiate compassionate love, no harm will come to you. This will help you to achieve both physical and mental health. Life has its own rythm. When you lose on the swing, you gain on the roundabout. Those who do not understand this principle often get into trouble and face difficulties in life. If a man does something wrong to you again and again, you must act wisely in correcting him each time he makes the mistake. Although it not so easy to do that, you should nevertheless try your best to follow the example set by the Buddha. Then you will come to know that it is after all not impossible.

The attitude of the Buddha in such a situation could be summerised thus: "The more evil that comes to me, the more good will radiate from me ". Some people think that is not practicable to return good for evil. Try it and see for yourself. If you find it too difficult to return good for evil, then you can still do a great service to yourself and to others by not returning evil for evil. "Sympathetic consideration is needed for less-understanding people who make mistake".

WE ARE ALL HUMAN All human beings have weaknesses and are therefore prone to make mistake. All human beings have desire, anger and ignorance. These weaknesses prevail in all of us in varying degrees. unless you are perfect or an Arahant, you are no exception.

The nature of the human mind shows itself in the following saying: "Man is not satisfied with his life and never finds the purpose of life even after gaining the whole world".

Let us take a closer look at a man who is envelopped by ignorance. His mind is clouded by disturbances, confusion and darkness. Out of ignorance, man creates misfortunes and he shares this with his fellow men. most of the worry and misery that come to man are due to changing wordly conditions and man's own craving for wordly pleasures which to his selfish mind should continue forever. Disappointment unfulfilled desires which arise from unexpected changes create worry. Therefore you are responsible for your worry. Nobody is perfect in this world; everybody is liable some time to commit certain mistakes or evil actions. So how can you think that you are free from mistakes or evil? Ignorance is the main cause for nurturing the impulse of craving which in turn generates worry.

"Fear and worry disappear when ignorance is dispelled by knowledge". If you can understand the weaknesses present in a man's mind in this way, then there should be no reason for you to grumble over your problems. You will have the courage to face them. Man's mind is responsible for both his happiness and unhappiness.

"Nothing happens to man that is not contained within man". -- -C Jung, well known psychologist. PARENT RESPONSIBILITY

You are responsible for the well-being and upbringing of your children. If the child grows up to be a strong, healthy, and useful citizen, it is the result of your efforts. If the child grows up to be a delinquent, it is you who must bear the responsibility. Do not blame others. As parents, it is your bounden duty to guide your child on a proper path. Although there are a few incorrigible cases of juvenile delinquency, nevertheless as parents, you are responsible for the behaviour of your children. A child at its most impressionable age, needs the love, care, affection and attention of the parents. Without parental love and guidance, the child will be emotionally handicapped and will find the world a bewildering place to live in. Showering parental love does not mean pandering to all the demands of the child, reasonable or otherwise. Too much pampering would in fact spoil the child. The mother in bestowing her love and care, should also be strict and firm but not harsh, in handling the tantrums of a child. Show your love with a disciplined hand - the child will understand. Unfortunately, all too often parental love in our present day society is sadly lacking. The rush for material advancement, and the rising aspiration for equality of the sexes, have resulted in many mothers joining their husbands in the rat-race. Mothers struggle to maintain their family image or status symbol by working in offices and shops, rather than being at home tendering to the needs of their off-spring. Children who are left to the care of relatives or paid servants, as well as 'latch key' children who are left to their own devices at home, are often deprived of motherly love and care. The mother, feeling guilty about her lack of attention, would try to placate the child by giving in to all sorts of demands of the child. Such action only spoils the child. Providing the child with sophisticated modern toys that are detrimental to character formation such as tanks, machine guns, pistols, swords and the like are psychological unwholesome. The child is unwittingly being taught to condone destruction instead of being taught to be kind, compassionate and helpful. Such a child will develop brutal tendencies as they grow up. Giving a child such toys is no substitute for a mother's love and affection. Parents are often placed in a dilemma. Rushing home from a hard day's work the weary parents have family chores waiting upon them. When the day's work is done, it would be time for dinner followed by T.V., and whatever time there is left, is hardly enough to attend a child's rightful dues of parental love and affection. With the call of women's liberation, many women seem to think that the solution is to compete with men outside the home. Such women should consider very carefully whether to bear children. It is irresponsible for a mother to bring a life into this world and then 'abandon' it. You are responsible for what you create. A child has a right to be satisfied materially, but more importantly spiritually and psychologically. The provision of material comfort is secondery compared to the provision of parental love and attention. We know of many people from poor homes who have with meagre income, brought up children well and plenty of love. Conversely, many rich people have provided every material comfort for their children, but being deprived of parental love, these children have grown up to become phsychologically and morally handicapped. Some women may feel that advising them to concentrate on the upbringing of the family is something degrading and reflects the thinking of the old and the conservative. It is true that in the past women have been treated very badly, but this was due more to ignorance on the part of men than to an inherent weakness in women. The Sanskrit word for a housewife is 'Gruhini' which literally means 'leader of the house'. Certainly it does not imply that a women is inferior. Rather it means a division of responsibility for the male and the female. In certain countries, many husbands hand over their pay packet to their wives who handle domestic affairs. This leaves the man free to concentrate on what he can do best. Since each partner knows clearly what his of her reponsibilities are, there is no conflict between them. The atmosphere at home is happy and peaceful where their children can grow up well. Of course, the husband must see to it that his partner is well cared for, that she is consulted on every family decision, that there is enough freedom for her to develop her own personality and that she has her own free time to pursue her personal interests. In this sense, husband and wife are equally responsible for the welfare of their family. They are not in competition with each other. A mother should consider carefully whether she should continue as a working mother with all the attendant pitfalls or as a housewife giving all her due affection and care to her growing child. Strangely, some modern mothers, particularly in certain countries with military regimes facing a shortage of manpower, are being trained to handle guns of other deadly weapons when they should be cuddling their children and training them to be good or law-abiding citizens. The modern attitude of working mothers towards their children tends to erode the time-honoured filial piety which children are expected to uphold. The replacement of breast-feeding by bottle feeding is yet another cause. Hitherto, when mothers used to breast-feed and cuddle babies in their arms, the tender affection between mother and child become much greater. A breast feeding mother, through her maternal instinct, often experiences a tremendous satisfaction from knowing she is providing the baby, as nature has intended, with something of her very own which no one else can give. The influence a mother has on the child grows and becomes much more pronounced. Under such circonstances, filial piety, family cohesion and obedience are invariably present. These traditional traits are for the good and the well-being of children. It is up to the parents, especially the mother to provide them with love, care and affection as their rightful dues. The mother is responsible for the child being good or wayward. The mother can thus reduce juvenile delinquency! At the highest level of thinking, you can see things as they are, not as you are. Then you know that you are responsible for everything.

'Those who lead their lives by going against nature, must face the consequences either physically or mentally' .

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR MENTAL AGONY Whenever certain difficulties and problems arise, make up your mind to reduce your mental agony. First, you must try to understand the nature of the world where you live. You can never expect everything in this world to be perfect and to run smootly. The world situation may not always be in your favour. There could be no world and no life without problems. Natural forces like sunlight, rain, wind and moonlight are favourable and useful to many, yet at times they could be a nuisance to many others. There is in fact nothing perfectly bad of perfectly good in this world because the very things that are welcomed by one group could be hated by another group. Therefore, we define good and bad according to our needs. Things are neither good nor bad by nature, According to Buddhism, the world exist on conflict to which you become part of. If you have strong selfish cravings for existence and the senses, you will have to pay the price - the mental agony of having to survive with a topsy-turvy view of the world. Wishful thinking, yearnings for eternity and clinging to feelings such as the elusive 'I' or 'Me' only warp the mind and its sense of time. Unfulfilled desires yields their crop of quarels, friction, communication failures, fear, worry, loneliness and anxiety. There are no free rides. If you are desirous of eradicating the mental agony within you, you have to subdue selfish cravings. Life's journey has a T-junction. Either you take the right path and develop your spiritually to unwind the tensions of wordly life or you continue to indulge in sensual pleasures with their many attendant confrontations. One way to relieve yourself of your occasional mental agony is to understand the degree of your own sufferings and difficulties compared with those experienced by others. When you are unhappy, you often feel that the world is against you. You think that everything around you is about to collapse. You feel that the end of the road is near. However, if you take a mental note of things around you and count your blessings, surprisingly, you will find that you are indeed much better off than many other people. You might have probably heard the saying: .

'I complained I had no shoes until I met a man who has no feet'. In short, you have been unduly exaggerating your own difficulties and problems. Others are in fact worse off, and yet they do not worry themselves induly. Problems are there. You should try to solve them instead of worrying and creating mental anguish within you.

The Chinese have a practical saying about solving problems: 'If you have a big problem, try to reduce it to a small problem. If you have a small problem, try to reduce it to no problem'. Another way to reduce your problems is to recapitulate what you have gone through before, under similar or even worse circumstances; and how you have, through you own patience, initiative and effort, been able to surmount your then seemingly insurmountable difficulties. By doing so, you will not permit your existing problems to 'drown you'. On the contrary, by seeing life in a new perspective you will be able to solve whatever problems that you may now face. You should realise that you have gone through much worse situations before and that you are prepared to face them squarely, come what may. With this frame of mind, you will soon regain your self-confidence and be in a better position to solve whatever problems that will be in store for you. If you are facing a problem, there must surely be a remedy to overcome it. So why worry? On the other hand, even if there is no solution for your problem, again why worry because your worry cannot contribute anything to settle your problem.

ALL ARE NOT EQUALLY GOOD Occasionally, there are complains from people who have never caused or given any trouble to other people and yet they become innocent victims of the wiles and intrigues of others. They feel frustrated despite the good lives they have lived. They feel they have been harmed through no fault of their own. Under such circumstances, the innocent victim must realise that the world is made up of all sorts of people - the good and the not so good, the bad and the not so bad, with all the unusual characters that go to make this world of ours. The innocent victim may console himself that he belongs to the good category whereas the disturber of the peace belongs to the bad, and that on certain occasions, he will still have to bear patiently the misdeeds of those belonging to the bad. We take for instance the case of a 'good and careful driver' and a 'bad and reckless driver'. The good and careful driver took every precaution to drive carefully but nevertheless he met with an accident, through no fault of his own - the fault being that of a bad and reckless driver. Thus we can see the good may have to suffer, despite their goodness, because there are bad and reckless people around us. The world is neither good nor bad. It produces criminals as well as saints, fools and enlightened ones. Out of the same clay, beautiful and ugly, useful and even useless things can be made. The quality of good pottery depends on the potter and not on the clay. The potter is in fact yourself. The moulding of your happiness or unhappiness is in your hands.

YOU GAIN WHAT YOU SEEK If you try your level best to overcome your difficulties by practising the advice given in this booklet, you will definitely find peace, happiness and harmony which you are seeking. Follow principles which have been tested and proven as outlined in this booklet for your protection.

 
 

Source : http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Problems_and_Responsibilities_by_Venerable_K._Sri_Dhammananda"

 

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