Today’s advice form the heart:
Profit and respect are nooses of the maras, so brush them aside like stones on the path. Words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us, therefore blow them away as you would blow your nose.
I admit, I had to stop and research the word ‘respect’ for this post to better understand its meaning. There are very unfortunate translations in play and sometimes, the meaning of a word in Sanskrit or Pali or Tibetan is very different indeed than its English counterpart.
My urge was to be distracted by presenting the Sanskrit, Pali, and Tibetan root words and then, outline the various interpretations before coming to the one that seems to make the most sense in relation to this piece of advice. I stopped when I realized that any such determination would be nothing more than my own perspective. Would I be willing to be wrong and possibly deliver misinformation? In a word, no.
So, instead, I’ll simply talk about what this means to me and let you decide for yourself if you find the same sense of it, or not, and if not, encourage you to consider it for yourself, do your own study of it, and come to your own conclusions. That’s rather the point of practice, is it not?
To me, this seems very similar in manner to the regular exhortations to avoid openings through which one’s ego and pride can get the better of oneself. The ‘maras’ referenced here are an allusion to “demons” that are internal conflicts and unrests that pull one from the middle way. There are those traditions who interpret this quite literally, but my own efforts seem to point to the reality that all appearances are, in fact, reference points to those aspects of self that are difficult to see or address and deal with without first seeing them elsewhere and then, gently, over time, drawing them in and recognizing oneself in them.
The references used in this piece of advice seem quaint and rather rustic at first read. Simple. I find that a very beautiful thing, as, most times, meaning is where we find it and taking a simple thing and applying it in many ways to life, what one sees, thinks, feels, and experiences “around one” often lends more depth than were a teacher to attempt to provide those examples.
‘Stones on a path’ is wonderfully descriptive. Not that I tend to walk many actual paths these days, let alone enough to appreciate the metaphor of walking upon stones rather than a smooth way. But I remember such an experience well enough to find my own meaning in it — profit and the respect of others are the things that catch me and pull me from the path. They are like a rocky path rather than a smooth one; difficult to walk and sore to the feet.
I also understand the meaning behind the phrase ‘words of praise and fame serve only to beguile us’. We like the feeling of being praised. We like it when others tell us we’ve done well, or we’re special, or we’re different or unique or unusually ‘better’. It’s very easy indeed to be coddled in praise and the sense of admiration or adoration from others. It’s easy to be hungry for it, to seek it out, to be so eager to have it that we lose sight of what we were doing that brought it to us and become more concerned for this reaction, this feeding of the need to feel that way again.
I can admit to having that overtake my sense here and there in life. I remember very clearly how it has happened in the past. I know how good it feels when it happens now, today — at work, or when I’ve written or said something that someone else found meaningful. Indeed, one of the reasons I insist upon not setting my name and ‘being’ on things (generally) is to keep a strong, thick boundary in place. This effort is more exploratory and learning for me than it will ever be teaching or preaching for you. It’s important, I think, to keep humility in relation to things because I’ve yet to see any puffed up ego deliver wisdom (unless it is the wisdom of not allowing that to happen to myself).
This piece of advice, to me, is a simple reminder to keep one’s pride and ego in check. To remember that allowing praise and fame, renown, or respect color your mind is to insure that becomes a driving or motivating force in your choices. It’s better to brush off that praise and keep the mind on the effort to do well, I think.