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Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 128-132

Transglomeration: [128] For example, acting completely alone, a king’s officer could intimidate and persecute a whole crowd of people, but those in the crowd who are clear-headed would not react even if they had the opportunity.   [129] This is because they know that the officer does not act alone but with the power of the king.   Likewise, I should not make light of or react to even the slightest of these beings who do me even the slightest wrong … [130] for they are backed by the power of both the guardians of hell and the Compassionate Ones.   So I should respect and please each of these beings as I would the officer of that fiery king.   [131] Moreover, what could even such an enraged king unleash upon me comparable to the tortures and agonies of hell which would certainly become my experience from causing the sorrow of beings?   [132] And what possible reward could a gratified king bestow comparable to the realisation of Buddhahood which would certainly be achieved if I was instrumental in bringing benefit and happiness to beings?

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 127 serving beings serves Buddhas, serves my own ends, ending suffering = my Vow & practice
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 128-132 benefitting beings using the analogy of a king’s steward

Reflection: [128] it is best not to retaliate against bullies in power [129] because they have the might of that power protecting them; the full force – the punchline – of these two verses does not come until verse 130; these verses establish clearly (i.e. spells it out over two verses) that you don’t mess with other beings who are well-protected (in this case under the protection of a king: now, the ‘might is right’ is not so openly practised as to provide a useful example; now it is the fear of law (maybe…), social approbation (maybe…), but I can’t think of an example of an ‘untouchable’ outside of the social dynamics of gangsterism … maybe the equivalent is politicians, now, but their conduct has become the policy of repression, and their ‘protection’ is that ‘them’s makes the rules’, the Law), even though they might be one against a whole crowd, a whole populace, of people, because the punishment/retribution/comeback for messing with them would be definite and probably enhanced far beyond what you did; it is the definiteness and the extent of the comeback which would hold you back, and this is the point to be clearly established here using a worldly/political/military illustration, so you just wouldn’t do it, if you’re at all wise; even though the ‘steward’ might be just one against thousands, even though the crowd would be able to tear him limb from limb and eat his liver, even though he might personally be completely uncharismatic or stupid or impetuous in his actions, as long as he bears the king’s insignia, he is untouchable; it’s not saying it is right, it is merely establishing a clear illustration of how you ‘don’t mess’ with some people even if you have the perfect opportunity when you meet this person alone in a dark alley (in a neighbourhood from which the whole local population has been inexplicably moved out for … reasons, so there are no witnesses), and you happen to have a whole workshop of freshly-sharpened disembowelling knives and machetes with you and a spare machine-gun in your back pocket, ‘just in case’, still, this person is protected, don’t mess …); the point is some people are untouchable because someone else has their backs, they are protected by someone else – this is the only point being established in these two verses

Reflection: [131] (Jimmy Cagney voice): ‘… there’s protection on these beings, see; all of them, they’re very special to my dear friends; my friends, you see, they have this ‘special interest’ in all these beings: big plans, big dreams – yes, all of them (I don’t see it myself, still, that’s the way it is, I am loyal to my friends); now, we can do this the easy way – that’s how my friends would prefer it done, hell, they’d even want to include you in, the Family, sheesh – or we can spend some time (heh, quite a lotta time, actually) doing business with my boys, here (and, I’ll be totally frank with you, I’d prefer we didn’t have to use them, `always so much mess to clear up afterwards); so, come on, let’s be reasonable, here, we’re all grown-ups now, aren’t we…?’

Practice: when encountering someone who is against me, quick-as-a-flash, I imagine a hell-demon slavering behind them, newly-leering because I am about to do something which means it will be able to impale me or split me open yet one more time, and then, also quick-as-a-flash, I imagine a Compassionate Being behind them with a look of brows-raised-open-mouth shock at the harm I am about to unleash on them through my anger … that ought to calm me down

Reflection: [131] a king, an enemy with power, could deprive me of my rights, torture me, even kill me, fine, but once I’m dead he couldn’t do anything more to me – that’s the worst a sentient being could do to another; a hellish torment would not end with the exhaustion of my body, my life during that torment would not be short-lived; and this would all result from having harmed other beings in whatever way: they have the ‘protection’ of the hell-demons and the Compassionate Ones, not in the sense that they will stop the harm that we might inflict on others, but that they guarantee that there will be an outcome in terms of causal inevitability (the hell-demons will pay it back) and severity (the harm done will have hurt both the beings directly, and have frustrated the wishes of the Compassionate Ones, we don’t get away from having only hurt sentient beings, we hurt the Compassionate Ones as well – this is no small transgression); do the Compassionate Ones have wishes that we can go against and frustrate – in the sense that they are Enlightened, no, they have attained Enlightenment, but in that their only and natural function once they have achieved Enlightenment is to – by default – respond to those who, un-understandably, are not Enlightened, with compassion (they cannot not be like this, like water cannot not be wet, like water cannot not spread to the edges of that into which it is poured); if we, as deluded sentient beings are actively harming other beings, we are being more than just suffering beings needing help and direction, we are actively frustrating that very help and direction being supplied by the Compassionate Ones … have we no measure of our own blindness?

Reflection: [132] and – of course – this can be flipped (because this isn’t because it’s the ‘rules of some game’, it’s not because ‘Simon says’, it’s because this is the causal and conditioned reality devoid of the illusion of a ‘self’ of oneself or other which makes it seem like ‘all is for the taking’, ‘he who dares wins’, ‘luvvly jubbly’; when there is no self-existent anything, all that is left is the care and welfare of ‘other’ that hasn’t quite got round to realising it all yet, and what a quagmire of suffering they’re stuck in as a result): that if we pleased a ‘king’ (someone in power and influence), if we really got in there and charmed and impressed and proved indispensable to this someone of power, the best they might do would bestow some of that power, influence and maybe wealth back onto us; is that it?: power which could be undermined or equally taken away, influence that is as up to date as fashion, wealth which is only really useful when ‘liquid’ (as Gordon Gekko remarked), none of which would leave me any guarantee even into my old age, let alone my death; is that the best this king could bestow me – an unsteady burden, a shifting sand; and yet Buddhahood (no need of power or influence – no world or self to exercise over; no need of wealth and enjoyment – no need or self to indulge) could just be ours without any of the lifetime-career expended trying to position ourselves right within a loaded game in which we can never win … just by making others happy

Practice: don’t play the game, it’s always loaded; let the focus always be ‘benefit towards others’