The Affairs of the World

§ Turmoil comes from our own defilements, not from other people. You have to solve the problem within yourself if you want to find peace.

§ Whatever has anything to do with the world, no matter how good it may be, is all an affair of stress and suffering. If you have one dollar, you have one dollar’s worth of suffering. If you have $100,000, you have $100,000’s worth of suffering—because the affairs of money are heavy and weighty. As for the affairs of the Dhamma, they’re light, with no need to wrap them up and carry them with you: nothing but shedding, setting aside, and letting go.

§ Our major loves are our major enemies. Our minor loves are our minor enemies. Whatever we don’t love at all is simply neutral.

§ Things of the world at best are either good but not true, or true but not good. Other people’s thoughts, words, and deeds are things that aren’t true. They’re affairs of the world. The Dhamma, though is really true and really good and really beneficial. It’s an affair of the heart, something very profound.

So when we know that the affairs of the world aren’t true in their goodness or good in their truth, we shouldn’t latch onto them. We have to brush them aside. If people say we’re good or bad, there’s no truth to their words—because “good” is true only in the mouth of the person speaking, and the same is the case with “bad.” So don’t latch onto anything they say. Focus instead on the good and bad that are actually within you.

§ Don’t latch onto outside words. If people say you’re good or bad, or if they curse you, let them keep it for themselves. If there’s a dog barking in the middle of the road, kick it off to one side.

§ Barking dogs don’t bite. Silent dogs might, so watch out.

§ Ears that listen to gossip are the ears of a pitcher, not the ears of a person.

§ Don’t believe everything you hear. If they say you’re a dog, check to see for yourself if you’ve got a tail. If you don’t, then they’re wrong.

§ The world is taken with words, but I don’t go along with that. I’d rather take hold of the truth in the heart. As for words, they’re things you spit out, not things you should keep. They’re not the truth. The truth lies in your heart. So whether your words are good or not, pleasing or not, make sure at least that your heart’s good.

§ Being easy-going and being at ease are two different things. Easy-going means that you’re slow and laid back and don’t finish the things you should. You spoil your work and waste your time. Being at ease means that there’s a subtle comfort and coolness in the heart, with no inner stress or turmoil mixed in at all. People who can be at ease in this way are people the world really wants—and the Dhamma wants even more, because coolness is like medicine that can drive away fever and soothe burning pain.

§ “A person in charge of the work” means that we use concentration and discernment to get the job done. “Work in charge of the person” means that we’re lacking in concentration and discernment, and think of the work even when we’re lying in bed. “Work in charge of the work” means that everything is out of control.

§ My motto is, “Make yourself as good as possible, and everything else will have to turn good in your wake.” If you don’t abandon your own inner goodness for the sake of outer goodness, things will have to go well.

§ “Don’t cut down a tree that gives you shade.” Give it fertilizer and look after it so that it will grow. Don’t forget the people who have helped you. Find some way of doing good to repay them. If you can’t do it with your words or actions, then at least do it with your thoughts.

§ If people can kill off their own goodness, there’s nothing to keep them from killing off other people as well.

§ If what you’re going to say isn’t good or true, keep still. Even if it’s good and true but serves no purpose, it’ll still cause harm.

§ A stupid person can sit in a gold mine but won’t have the sense to make anything of it. An intelligent person can take dirt and grass and turn them into silver and gold.

§ Even if a stupid person gets a huge inheritance from his parents or grandparents, he won’t be able to prevent himself from creating a lot of bad kamma with it. An intelligent person, though, even if he has only an ax to his name, can use it to set himself up for life.

§ Most of us know so much that there are no bounds to our knowledge. When our knowledge has no bounds, it’s like a forest fire that burns everything in sight. In other words, we’re so smart that we outsmart ourselves. We know what’s right and wrong but can’t keep ourselves from doing what’s wrong. This kind of knowledge serves no purpose and can only cause us harm. That’s why it’s like a forest fire that goes out of control and destroys everyone’s orchards and fields. People like this end up a total loss. They know everything in the world except for themselves. Knowledge with no bounds can cause two sorts of harm: We ourselves are harmed by it, and other people get harmed as well.

§ People who are thick with ignorance see turmoil as something fun, just like a fish that sees waves in the ocean as a fun place to play.

§ Greed means getting fixated and attached to things: our own things or those of others. If we get attached, it’s like getting sucked into an electric current until we die. The nature of everything in the world is that it spins around with each moment, just like an electric generator. If we touch the wires without any insulation, the current will suck us in until we’re fried to a crisp. We see the current as something pretty and bright, and so we want to fondle it—and it’ll electrocute us. If we latch onto things, our desires will get us stuck right there.

§ Don’t let defilements inside make contact with defilements outside. If we have defilements at the same time that other people do, the result will be trouble. For instance, if we’re angry when they’re angry, or we’re greedy when they’re greedy, or we’re deluded when they’re deluded, it spells ruination for everyone.

§ People aren’t equal, but you have to make your heart equal for everyone.

§ If you see other people’s bad side, turn your eyes around until you can see their good side as well.

§ A person who makes a mistake is better than a person who doesn’t act at all, for mistakes can be corrected. But if you don’t act, how will you know how to correct yourself?—for you don’t know whether you’re mistaken or not. The fact that you don’t act is a mistake in and of itself.

§ The more you study the affairs of the world, the more they branch out. The more you study the affairs of the Dhamma, the more they narrow down and converge.