A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

The chains that bind us

The strongest chains we will ever find, are the ones our thoughts make for us.

Have you ever felt tied down, like you will be where you are for the rest of your life? No on else is keeping you there. In our mind we hold onto the past with chains of thought that keep us stuck in the past. During this moment in time, you might be sitting at a coffee shop, looking at a stranger, wishing you could know who they are. Maybe it was the glance between the two of you at the same time, or it was the perfume or cologne they wore, that tantalizing scent that just drew your attention. Perhaps you are sitting at home, not sure of what to do today, so you linger over your coffee. Then again it might be that gossamer thread pulling your thoughts towards the possibility of tomorrow. That special event, perhaps a first date, or the anniversary of one from the past. Regardless of which of these it is, these are all chains that bind us, to keep us from living in the here and now. They are more securing than the steel ankle shackles used to keep prisoners from escaping. They hold our wrists more securely than any handcuffs could. Yet these chains have no physical form, they are merely energy, just our thoughts. When the Buddha spoke about form being formless, and the formless having form, he spoke of many planes. He also spoke about the physical power our thoughts have in this world. Our thoughts need to be based on right understanding or view of the world, in order for them to liberate us from chaining ourselves to unwholesome actions. If our thoughts are wholesome then our speech and actions will be as well. They can soften the hardest metal, stop the most destructive powers we can wield, and comfort those who have no hope. Many others have written about the power that our words have.

In 1839 Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote his play Richielieu; Or the Conspiracy he wrote:

“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword. Behold
The arch-enchanters wand! — itself a nothing! —
But taking sorcery from the master-hand
To paralyse the Cæsars, and to strike
The loud earth breathless! — Take away the sword —

States can be saved without it!”

The line of the pen is mightier than the sword, resonates with such meaning it has become part of our vocabulary. In the USA at the Library of Congress, if you take a walk through the Thomas Jefferson Building, you will find these words written on a wall. Christians find this concept in the Bible, in the Epistle to the Hebrews verse 4:12 “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Muslims learn of this from the Prophet Muhammad “”The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”. In the Dhammapada verses 130-133 we find:

“All tremble at force,
Dear is life to all.
Likening others to oneself
kill not nor cause to kill.

Whoever harms with force
Those desiring happiness,
As seeker after happiness
One gains no future joy…

Speak not harshly to other folk,
Speaking so, they may retort.
Dukkha indeed is quarrelsome speech
And force for force may hurt you.”

So throughout mans history we find wise teachers who teach us that our words are more powerful than any weapon, that society may develop. If words can stop the destruction of the world from nuclear weapons hundreds of times over and over., how powerful are those words that we have in our mind, that bind us to one place, one course of action, or prevent us from doing that which is wholesome. Take that chain link “can’t” and break it, for it already has been weakened from “can not”, then discard everything but can. Create new chains, ones that will allow you to carry any load, move any object, reach over any distance. Build chains of peace and love, not the bindings of war and destruction. Break those mental chains that keep you from being happy, yes I said being happy not becoming. Today break that first link, see how freedom feels, even just a little, and you will want more, then help those around you do the same. When they ask what they owe you, say to me nothing, to your fellow beings around you, the same as you have received, happiness and freedom from agony.

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