37 Practices of the Bodhisattva - Verse 16

Ken McLeod

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Ken McLeod continues his commentary on the 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva with the 16th verse. Watch the other videos here.

Even if a person you have cared for as your own child
Treats you as his or her worst enemy,
Lavish him or her with loving attention
Like a mother caring for her ill child—this is the practice of a bodhisattva.

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth..." How have you dealt with the anger of a child in your life?

For more of Ken McLeod's teachings, visit Unfettered Mind.

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fishman.ellen's picture

Trust the fruit is faithful to the seed.

The dharma as the fruit, then?
For what else is trustworthy? A parent/teacher?

Reminded of the story of Siddhartha below described by Ken.
Approximately 2,500 years ago, Siddhartha, a prince of the Shakya clan in northern India, abandoned his royal heritage to seek the source of human suffering.

Siddhartha grew up in the greatest luxury that his time could provide, sheltered by an overly protective father who wanted his son to succeed to the throne. Not until his twenties did the prince venture beyond the palace grounds. His illusions about life were quickly shattered as he encountered illness, old age, and death among his subjects.

What child is ever free of suffering? What parent/teacher is ever free from suffering? Except in times of "illness" or moments that are rare, parents/teachers are imperfect human beings and their parenting /teaching is the same.

Anger is then another form of fear, no?
In embracing another's anger we move toward that bond, which is ever changing, impermanent. The fear may be held but the holder doesn't have the ability to take the fear and dissolve it, even young children seek other sources of self soothing like sucking their thumb because a parent/teacher cannot stand in for them.

The dharma is the only fruit that we can taste over and over again to gain the energy and willingness to feel and let go, no?

Patricia.I's picture

A child does not betray
In anger a bond well-formed
Or please a parent with flattery
Except the bond be tenuous
So stings anger like a serpent's tooth
Only when return is expected for kindness
As investment or self-extension
To stroke and feed in time of need.

When a parent tutors a child in love
Without self-seeking thought
Absorbing gladly praise and blame
According to necessity
A child is raised to do the same
To stand by his charge
Indifferent to his own condition
Whether received with gratitude or not.

Trust the bond that's there
Trust when it is broken
Trust the fruit is faithful to the seed.

fishman.ellen's picture

Thank you for this opportunity to reflect.
How have you dealt with the anger of a child in your life?
Simply by dealing with the anger inside of myself, first.
As you mentioned, "Your anger points to a line in you."
My son was entering his senior year in high school and I have just finished a difficult caregiving session out of town with my father. Hitting a very low low, I sat in anger for a week, surrounded by a stupified family. When I was able to open my eyes without a cloud of disgust toward them, my son stood before me. Would I continue this behavior - lashing out in anger that was a familial pattern - and open the potential in him of going off to college and not return home as my siblings did or would I become an active agent of change?
As you said, "one must feel your own pain first". That was 16 years ago and he did come back and even lived a year as a post graduate to save money for law school.
Practice began then, 16 years ago. The anger of this child, myself, has taken years to sit with. I had to feel it a lot!!!
"Lavish him or her with loving attention "
This quote had to be taken towards myself which was not easy. As I see it, compassion that we show ourselves is one of the greatest uses of compassion, for it provides a door to opening cleanly towards others. Otherwise, I though I opened to the anger in others but really my actions were not always so clean. Rather my attention was usually crossing lines with them, i.e. trying to solve what only they could solve themselves. In that behavior, the three poisons come into play.
Although I still react to anger, my response can be a little less sticky depending on the situation, miles to go !!!

Claudia Hansson's picture

Your comments point to a number of important points. The essential movement of compassion is one of opening. We cannot directly know the experience of others. When we open we are opening to our own material and any reactions arising from our experiences with others. As Ken mentions, we may or may not be able to rest in attention with all of this. This is where the rubber hits the road so to speak. Our work on the cushion, continually opening to what is arising, helps us develop the ability to be present in these more challenging situations.

Your comments also eloquently point to the years of work required for our deepest patterns. Ken has often commented that this work may take a lifetime. We peel these patterns back a layer at a time. Things may seem resolved only to turn around 6 months later to find a new layer arising. The deeper and stronger our practice, the more subtle and sneaky our patterns can become. Keeping awake becomes even more important.

The other important point you mention is the issue of "crossing lines" with others. Knowing what needs to be done only arises when we are open and clear in our own material. It is so very easy to confuse compassion with rescuing others. The sense of knowing what is needed arises naturally from that place of awareness that free of a sense of self.

You are so right - we all have miles to go.

Claudia for Ken