Monday, August 11, 2014

Forgiving in the Face of ANGER (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Andrew Olendzki, Vepacitti Sutra (SN 11.4)
Churning Space: bas-relief of Samudra manthan, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, shows Vishnu in the center, in his Kurma avatar, with the asuras and the devas on either side (Wiki).
Rebel asuras, cast from deva-world by Sakka, fall to Earth (Hieronymus Bosch).

Asura Dvarapala, Borobudur (wiki)
This noble teaching on how to respond when faced with anger is placed in an ancient historical/mythical setting. The story is told by the Buddha of a great war between devas (shining ones, angels) and the asuras (titans, demons).
The devas are ultimately victorious (as happens in later Greek and Norse versions of the same myth). They capture Vepacitti [full history], a titan king. Bound in chains, he is brought to the space station of the Thirty-Three and into the presence of Sakka, King of the Devas.
Being the titan that he his, Vepacitti hurls a torrent of abuse and insulting names at his captor (the catalog of which in the commentary is most interesting). Sakka, however, is unmoved, inspiring Matali, the charioteer of his spacecraft, to begin the following poetic exchange:
The poem is in the prevalent vatta meter, with eight syllables per line, and contains much subtle word-play. For example, the words bala (fool) and bala (strong, powerful) dance with one another throughout the piece (appearing 17 times), nowhere more intimately than in the frolicking alliteration of Lines 31 and 32 (abalan-tam balam aahu yassa balaabalam balam).
  • FOOLS (Bala Sutra, Book of the Twos, AN 2.98) "Meditators, there are two fools. Who are the two? The one who takes up a burden that has not befallen one, and the one who does not take up a burden that has. These are the two fools."
A king of the titans (Evs in Nz/flickr)
The linking of the word titikkhati (forbearance) with the similarly sounding tikicchati (healing) is also a poignant touch that is hardly accidental.

This exchange shows well how the Buddha adapted the heroic ideals of his warrior's heritage to the inner struggle for self-mastery. The strength of the victorious Sakka -- who is a stream enterer having been a hearer of the Buddha's Dharma and won that attainment -- rests in his wisdom and forbearance.
The weakness of the fierce yet vanquished titan comes from his lack of understanding, earning him the label "foolish," which leaves him helpless to resist the passions raging within him.
Was Zarathustra an asura? (G6G)
Though these verses were penned thousands of years ago, their truth is timeless. It is the same truth that has helped many non-violent social and political reform movements achieve dramatic results in our own century.

Conquest is only the apparent victory of the short-sighted, while transformation of oneself and others is the more lasting "victory" of the wise. Remaining unprovoked in the face of anger and hostility still offers the best hope for healing our troubled world.
  • THE FOOLISH AND THE WISE (Bala-Pandita Sutra, AN 2.21) "Meditators, there are two foolish persons. Who are the two? The one who does not see a transgression as a transgression, and the one who does not rightly forgive another who has confessed a transgression. These are the two fools. There are two wise persons. Who are the two? The one who sees one's own transgression as a transgression, and the one who rightly forgives another who has confessed a transgression. These are the two wise persons."
Bas relief of Sakka, King of the Devas [of Tavatimsa], and apsaras (wiki)
Calm in the Face of Anger (verses)
[Matali:] Sakka, could it be you're afraid,
Or weak, that you forgive [khanti] like this,
Though hearing such insulting words
From the lips of Vepacitti?

[Sakka:] I am neither afraid nor weak,
Yet I forbear Vepacitti.
How is it one who knows, like me,
Would get provoked by such a fool?
[Matali:] More angry will a fool become
If no one puts a stop to him.
So let the wise restrain the fool
By the use of a mighty stick.

[Sakka:] This is the only thing, I deem,
That will put a stop to the fool:
Knowing well the other's anger,
One is mindful and remains calm.

[Matali:] This very forbearance of yours,
Sakka, I see as a mistake.
For when a fool reckons like this:
"From fear of me he does forbear,"
The dolt will come on stronger still —
Like a bull the more that one flees.

Deva Sakka defeats the dragon or naga (

[Sakka:] Let him think whatever he likes:
"From fear of me he does forbear."
Among ideals and highest goods
None better than patience is found.

For surely he who, being strong,
Forbears the ones who are more weak —
Forever enduring the weak —
That is called the highest patience.

For whom strength is the strength of fools,
It is said of the strong, "He's weak!"
For the strong, guarding the Dharma,
Contentiousness is never found.
It is indeed a fault for one
Who returns anger for anger.
Not giving anger for anger,
One wins a dual-victory.
One behaves for the good of both:
Oneself and the other person.
Knowing well the other's anger,
One is mindful and remains calm.

In this way one is healing both:
Oneself and the other person.
The people who think, "He's a fool,"
Just don't understand the Dharma.
The lore of St. Michael, the archangel, are echoes of Sakka, King of the Angels. He is revered in Buddhism, Vedic Hinduism, Yazidi Islam, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and Catholicism.

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