Dhammapada 7-8

Today’s couplet:

One who stays focused on the beautiful,
is unrestrained with the senses,
knowing no moderation in food,
apathetic, unenergetic:
Mara overcomes him
as the wind, a weak tree.

One who stays focused on the foul,
is restrained with regard to the senses,
knowing moderation in food,
full of conviction & energy:
Mara does not overcome him
as the wind, a mountain of rock.

Thoughts:
Oh, this one is a little bit more challenging than the first few couplets, isn’t it? Staying focused on the beautiful is BAD? What now? Focus on the FOUL? That sounds like it would suck. It rubs me the wrong way. But the point here is that beauty is fleeting, and at the same time blinding. If you’re only focused on chasing after the good stuff, you are a slave to your senses. A lot of people think this is a good, fulfilling way to live, but Buddha warns against it.

Who is this Mara, anyway? A metaphor for the clever trickster of desire, you might even call Mara the Buddhist version of the devil. But I don’t think the idea is quite as evil as it’s portrayed in Christianity. Mara (desire, wanting) is easily defeated with the Buddha’s instructions.

Basically I think the Buddha is saying that if you’re constantly distracted by beauty, or by whatever the new sparkly shiny thing is, you’re not being vigilant enough in reigning in your senses. Social custom dictates that you don’t just take everything you see and you don’t believe everything you hear. Your senses shouldn’t rule you, but often they do. In order to break free of this, we have to keep our focus balanced between material life and spiritual endeavor.

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