فصل 8کتاب: خرد تسلط بر خشم / فصل 9
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DAVID AND ANGELINA:
THE HABIT ENERGY OF ANGER
There was a young man named David. He was a very handsome young man and quite intelligent. He was born into a rich family and had everything he needed to be successful. But he did not enjoy life. He was not capable of being happy. He had a lot of problems with his parents, brothers, and sisters.
He did not know how to communicate. He was a very egotistical person, so he always blamed his father, his mother, his sister, and his brothers for his misery. He suffered a lot, but he was not miserable because everyone hated him, or because everyone wanted to punish him. He was miserable because he was not capable of loving, of understanding. He was able to make friends for a few days, but soon after that his friends would leave him because it was quite difficult to be around him. He was very arrogant, very self-centered, and he lacked understanding and compassion.
One day he went to a Buddhist temple in the town, but not to listen to a dharma talk. He did not care about dharma talks. He went with the hope of making new friends because he was in desperate need of a friend. So far no one had been able to remain his friend. He was rich, he was handsome, and many people were interested in getting to know him. But all of them abandoned him after a short time.
So that morning he went to the temple because life without a friend was hell. He was thirsty for a friend, for a partner, even if he was not capable of keeping a friend or a partner. And when he came to the temple, he passed a group of people coming out, and among them was a very beautiful young lady. The image of the young lady moved him deeply, and he was love-struck, dumbfounded. He was no longer interested in entering the temple anymore, and he turned around in order to follow the group. Unfortunately, another group of people came streaming in, and the crowd made it difficult for David to leave. When he managed to get out of the temple, the group and the beautiful lady had vanished.
He searched all over for one hour but could not find her, and he went home carrying that beautiful image in his heart.
He could not sleep that night, or the next night. And then on the third night, he saw a beautiful old man with a white beard in his dream. The old man said, “If you want to meet her, then go to the Eastern market today.”Though it wasn’t morning yet, he did not feel like sleeping anymore. He got up and waited until noon before setting out on his search for the young lady.
When he arrived at the Eastern market, there were not many people. It was still too early, so he went into a bookshop and began to look around. Suddenly, he looked up and he saw a painting of a very beautiful young lady hanging on the wall.
It was the same young lady he had seen three days before at the temple.The same eyes, the same nose, the same mouth. In the dream, he was told he would meet that lady in the market, but maybe this was what the old man meant—the picture was all he could have. “Maybe I deserve only an image,” he thought.
“I don’t deserve a reality.” So instead of buying books, he used all his money to buy that painting. He brought it home, and he hung it on the wall of his dormitory room at college.
He was a lonely person. He did not have friends. Often he did not go to the campus cafeteria. Instead, he stayed home and ate instant noodles. You may have already guessed that David is Asian. That day, he prepared two bowls of instant noodles, and two pairs of chopsticks. The second bowl was for the lady in the painting. He enjoyed his noodles, and from time to time he looked up and invited the lady in the painting to eat.
We know that there are people who cannot communicate with human beings. They have a cat or a dog to live with for company, so that they can pour out all their love and care on it. They buy the most expensive food for their pet. For many people, it is much easier to love a cat or a dog because they never argue with you. When you say something that is not nice, they don’t react. The same thing was true with David. He could live in peace with the lady in the painting, but if the real lady were there, he might not be able to live with her for more than twenty-four hours.
One day he could not finish his bowl of noodles. Life seemed to have no flavor at all. He had had it up to his neck.
At that moment, he looked up at the painting. He was about to ask, “What’s the use of living anyway?” when he saw the lady blink her eyes and smile. He was very startled. He thought that he was in a dream. He rubbed his eyes and looked up again, and there she was, perfectly still. A few days later, he saw the lady smile and blink her eyes again. He was very surprised. He continued to look at her, and suddenly she became a real person and stepped down from the painting.
Her name was Angelina, because she came from heaven. You cannot imagine how happy the young man was. He was in paradise. To have such a beautiful young lady as a friend, what could be more wonderful?
But you may have already guessed the rest of the story. He was not capable of being happy even with someone as fresh and kind as Angelina. And three or four months later, she left him. It was impossible to live with someone like David. One morning he woke up and found a note on his desk. The young lady had gone for good. She wrote: “David, it is impossible to live with you. You are too self-centered, you have no capacity to listen to anyone.You are intelligent, handsome, and rich. But you don’t know how to maintain a relationship with another human being.”That morning, David wanted to kill himself. He thought that if he could not even manage to live with such a sweet, beautiful lady, then he must be worthless.
He looked for a piece of rope to hang himself with.
Every year in France, twelve thousand people commit suicide.
That is about thirty-three every day. That’s far too many.
And David is among them, waiting for you to rescue him. In the United States and throughout Europe, the rate of suicide is very much the same. People are overwhelmed by despair.
For many of us, communication has become impossible and life no longer has meaning.
Offering the Incense of the Heart
While David was tying a knot in the rope, he suddenly remembered that one day Angelina smiled and said, “David, if someday I’m no longer around and you miss me very much, just burn some incense.”The day she said this, she had been able to convince him to come to the temple with her to listen to a dharma talk. There, the monk was explaining how to offer incense as a way of communicating. When you burn incense, you want to communicate with the Buddha, with the
Bodhisattvas, with our ancestors. If we can communicate with our ancestors, we can communicate also with our brothers and sisters around us. So the monk was talking about communicating through the act of offering incense. He said that the incense we offer should be the incense of our heart: the incense of mindfulness, the incense of concentration, the incense of wisdom, of insight. David was there sitting close to Angelina, but he did not listen very deeply. However, he heard enough to remember that event. After both of them left the temple, Angelina turned to him and said, “David, if someday you want to get in touch with me, offer some incense.” Remembering this, he dropped the rope, ran to the store nearby and bought a bundle of incense. But David did not know how to burn incense. In Plum Village every time we offer incense, we use only one stick. He used the whole bundle, and in just a few minutes, his room was filled with smoke.
He waited for fifteen minutes, half an hour, one hour, but Angelina did not show up. So then he remembered what the monk said—“For true communication to be possible, you have to offer the incense of the heart, namely the incense of mindfulness.The incense of concentration, the incense of insight.” Burning incense without mindfulness wouldn’t work.
David sat there and thought deeply about his situation.
He saw that he had not succeeded with his parents, with his brothers and sisters, with his friends, with his society. He had even failed with Angelina. He began to see that he always blamed other people for his suffering. This was the first time he had a few moments of concentration and he began to have some insight. This was the first time in his life he sat down quietly and saw that he had been unjust to his parents, and that communication was not possible partly because of him.
He had blamed everyone. He hadn’t understood until now that he was responsible. Even with such a sweet and beautiful person like Angelina, he had not succeeded.
For the first time, tears ran down his cheeks, and he was truly sorry for the way he had treated his parents, brothers, sisters, and friends. He remembered the time he came home drunk, very late at night, beat Angelina and abused her. He thought of all of this, and suddenly a drop of compassion penetrated his heart, a heart so full of suffering and afflictions.
And he continued crying. The more he cried, the more refreshed he felt in his heart. A transformation took place within him. He began to understand what Angelina had tried to tell him, about how to live according to the Five Mindfulness Trainings, about practicing deep listening and loving speech. He felt a willingness to begin anew, and he told himself that if Angelina ever came back, he would be a different person. “I will know how to take care of her, and how to make happiness possible.” At that moment there was a knock on the door. Angelina was back. Although David had practiced barely one hour, his transformation was profound.
David and Angelina Are Among Us
Do not think that David is only a person in a story, a person of the past. No. David is still alive; he sits here among us. Angelina, too. Remember that David was intelligent, handsome, but he had a very strong habit energy of always blaming others for his misery. He couldn’t communicate with his parents, his brothers, his sisters, or his friends. He made them suffer.
He did not want to make them unhappy, but his habit energy was too strong, so he could not avoid it. He was lonely, and he thought that he was the only one in the world who was that lonely. He was thirsty for the understanding of another human being, a person who could stand by his side. All of us have this need—it is very human. We need someone who can really understand us and help us confront the difficulties of life.
So, it is not difficult to understand David. You understand his deepest desire. You understand his difficulties. One day, Angelina stepped into his life. From time to time, this kind of good fortune happens to us, too. Sometimes a very nice person steps into our life. And if we know how to take care of that person, our life becomes more meaningful. But if we don’t know how to take care of ourselves and our habit energy, we will not know how to take care of our Angelina. So we become angry with her, and we mistreat her. That is why Angelina has left us, because she suffered so much from our behavior.
Keeping Angelina in Our Life
The minute Angelina stepped down from the painting and became a real person, she smiled a heavenly smile at David.
She looked at the bowl of the noodles and she said, “How can you eat such junk food? Just a minute.”Then she disappeared.
And in no time at all, she reappeared with a basket of green vegetables. She prepared a very delicious bowl of noodles for David quite different from the instant ones he was used to eating.
Angelina is talented. She knows how to make you happy.
But you were not grateful, and you lacked understanding.
You were not capable of keeping your Angelina, and that is why she left. Maybe you are Angelina, and because your David was so difficult to be with, you have left your David.
Although you did your best to help him, it was impossible to live with him. He was not capable of recognizing that you are his Angelina. His habit energy pushed him to continue to live and consume in a way that poisoned his body and mind.
Maybe he went to the bar every night and got drunk. And no matter how much you pleaded with him, he could not stop drinking. And every night he came home drunk and beat you. He was not able to listen to you at all. No matter how hard you tried to be sweet, to be patient, he always cut you off, and didn’t allow you to finish your sentence. He was never capable of listening to you. You were patient, but you have your limits. Communication was impossible and so you gave up.
Where Is Your Angelina Now?
Who is David, and who is Angelina? I would like you to answer this question. Are you David? If you are David, then where is your Angelina now? Is she still with you, or has she left you? What have you done to her? How did you treat her?
Did you take good care of her? Were you able to make her happy? We have to ask ourselves all these questions. “Where is my Angelina now? Where is she? What have I done to her?” These are very important questions that help us to look deeply.
This is a meditation, true meditation. David might be your partner. Angelina might be your partner. Angelina can be a man or a woman, David as well. Angelina stepped into your life. In the beginning you were so happy to be with her, you cherished her presence. You thought that with her, life was possible again. But you were not able to maintain that kind of awareness. You lost the awareness that Angelina was life’s gift to you. You made her suffer so much that she left you. There was a time when she pleaded with you to practice the Five Mindfulness Trainings, but because of your strong habit energy, you never accepted. She begged you to consume in moderation, and to stop smoking and drinking. She invited you to use loving speech, to listen deeply, to associate with good people and not with those who water negative seeds in you. But you never listened to her. You continued with your way of life, pushed by your habit energy, and that is why she had to leave.
Your Angelina may be your daughter or your son. He or she has come into your life. How have you treated him or her?
Are you able to live with your son or your daughter in harmony, peace, and love? Or are you having difficulties with your Angelina? Maybe your Angelina has left home. In the story, David was about to commit suicide after the departure of Angelina. But he remembered the talk he heard about the practice of communicating through incense, and suddenly his despair turned into hope. He believed that if he offered the incense of mindfulness and concentration, Angelina would come back to him. He had an opportunity to sit down, to think, and to look back into his life.
In our daily life we run continuously. We do not have the capacity or the opportunity to stop and look deeply into our life. We must look back, and look deeply in order to understand.
David sat for forty-five minutes in his room, looking back at his life. He gained a lot of insight and he began to cry.
He cried for the first time in his life because he recognized his habit energy and the damage he had caused to the people around him, his parents, his friends, his brothers and sisters, and himself.
We may practice sitting meditation everyday, but have we had this kind of insight? In your sitting meditation, you have to see your Angelina stepping into your life as an angel. You have to see how things have deteriorated between you and her: how you treated her, how you made her suffer, and how she left you. When you can look into your relationship in this way, you are practicing deep meditation. The insight you get will tell you exactly what to do and what not to do. It is possible for you to offer the incense of the heart and call your Angelina back. Angelina is always there. Love is still in her heart. She is ready to forgive, if you know how to burn the incense of your heart, the incense of the Mindfulness Trainings, concentration, and insight.
You may be a lucky person, because more than one Angelina has stepped into your life. Your partner, your son, your daughter, your father, your mother are also your Angelinas.
The practice is to call your Angelina by his or her true name, to recognize and appreciate that he or she is your Angelina. Do not say that no Angelina has ever come into your life. That’s not true. Sit mindfully and silently call her name, his name. “My Angelina, I’m sorry.You have stepped into my life, and I have made you suffer. I have made myself suffer at the same time. I did not mean to. I was unskillful.
I did not know how to protect myself, and protect you, with the practice of the Mindfulness Trainings. I want to begin anew.” If you really practice like this, Angelina will come back to you.
Protecting My Angelinas
I am a David also. I have many Angelinas in my life. And in my small meditation hall, I have a picture of about one hundred of my Angelinas—they are my students who live in our practice centers in France and the United States. Before I practice sitting meditation, I always look at that picture and bow to all my Angelinas. Then I sit down and I vow to live in such a way that my Angelinas will never leave me. I vow to practice mindful speech, to practice the Mindfulness Trainings, and not to betray my Angelinas. By doing so, I avoid causing suffering to my Angelinas and I am able bring them joy. This makes me very happy.
If your Angelina has left you, what will you do to bring her back into your life? Your Angelina still may be with you, but about to leave you, or your Angelina may have already left you. In both cases the practice of protection is relevant, because the practice can help you to keep her or to bring her back to you. Please do not get lost in abstract notions. Spiritual teachings are alive, and they can help you to protect your Angelina. True wisdom and compassion are born from touching real suffering. This is the kind of dharma that is appropriate and effective and relevant to the situation. Use all your time and energy to look back and ask yourself these questions: Where is my Angelina now? How have I treated her? And if she has left: What should I do in order to bring her home again?
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