12. Being good
(Reposting from my LinkedIn Account)
I found a small note I wrote some years ago, about ‘Being good’ which I would like to share with you.
First I would like to share with you this link on Lotus flowers, sign of purity in Buddhism. These pictures are the most beautiful piece of art I ever see. www.lotusflowerimages.com
I have at my desk a calendar of the Dalai Lama Teachings entitled “Insight from the Dalai Lama” which I flip through, to read a nice verse a day. I think the Dalai Lama will never know who I am, and I most probably will never have the opportunity to see him. Nonetheless, reading his insights keep me on the right track of ‘being good‘.
Some incidents in my youth remind me of the impact which other people, by their kind attention, have brought a significant change in my life.
I remember very clearly one day – at age 8 or so, that is about 50 years ago – I was playing badminton with my sister in the courtyard of my house, in my hometown, Dalat, in Vietnam, and the ball fell in the middle of the street. There was an American soldier who was walking by with an interpreter, he picked up the ball, came up to our courtyard, and gave it to us, with a smile, and walked away. The only word I knew in English was ‘thank you’. I guess that was what motivated me to learn English to speak more to other American soldiers who were very friendly to us. Since then, I have learned more languages, and am doing interpretation in 5 languages (at least) at some points of my professional life. My life has changed thanks to that friendly attitude.
Another incident that I remember was that I was laughing with my father in the store where my parents owned, then suddenly an American soldier (?) came in our store, and said to me, ‘Oh, you are such a beautiful girl‘ and took a picture of me and walked away, smiling. I was wearing something pink, and had long hair and had a beautiful sun tan. I still remember the look of admiration in his eyes, and the tone which he expressed his exclamation, although I was only ten by then, and was not beautiful in Vietnamese standards, but that compliment and the picture he took from me, gave me the confidence in my looks and shaped my behavior with other people around me – until today.
It was 1968, the toughest years for American soldiers in Vietnam. We were living in the heart of the war, with helicopters over our heads, fireworks lighting most of the horizon every night followed with heavy bombings somewhere at distance, resulting in losses of life and turmoil almost daily. Yet, my parents, in that chaos, made sure we had a very good childhood, that we, as children never lacked of anything, from shelter, to clothing, to access to the best education, to feeling empathy to the sufferings of others around us, and to believe in the good deeds of nature and the omni presence of ‘Ong Troi’ (GOD) so as to preserve our young days of fear and hatred. Only much much later, reading through the history books and viewing movies or video on that period of the war, did I realize the terrible situations we were living in.
I guess my parents life must not be easy, to have five children to raise in the midst of the war, struggling between 2 jobs, to pay for the very high school fees for our French private education. Yet, I could not recall any complaints or any dispute between my parents, nor any refusal to help other less fortunate people around us. Indeed, my family home was always open to welcome all the beaten wives colleagues of my mother, or some runaway children who came to take refuge in our home, some staying with us sometimes for months, fed and lodged free-of-charge by my parents. At a very young age, I was acting as the ‘foreign relations officer’ of the family, bringing our guests who came to visit us to discover the city, looking up for schools or jobs for some young interns, preparing gifts for the neighboring colleagues for special occasions such as Vietnamese (Chinese) New Year, or dead anniversaries. There was no social welfare assistants, nor unemployment office, we barely functioned by solidarity, with the conviction that ‘good deeds bring good karma‘.
My mother says she is a good Buddhist follower. And my father said he was not, but he still drove us year-in year-out, on the first day of the (Chinese) New Year, to the Pagoda to allow us to do our offerings to the Buddha. And while we are doing our prayers, he would stay outside in the garden and would wait for us. But coming to understand the Buddhist teachings, I realize that my father was a GOOD BUDDHIST, although he never admitted himself that he WAS one. In fact, according to the Dalai Lama,
The practice of morality – which means guarding your three doors of body, speech, and mind – from indulging in unwholesome activities, equips you with mindfulness and conscientiousness. Therefore, morality is the foundation of the Buddhist path.
My father just did that. Throughout his life, I have never heard him say nor act in any negative or harmful ways to others, nor pronounce any remarks that show it.
A further look on Buddhism, as interpreted by Bikkhu Bodhi in his book “The Noble Eightfold Path,The Way to the End of Suffering” shows that
The essence of the Buddha’s teaching can be summed up in two principles: the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. The first covers the side of doctrine, and the primary response it elicits is understanding; the second covers the side of discipline, in the broadest sense of that word, and the primary response it calls for is practice. In the structure of the teaching these two principles lock together into an indivisible unity called the dhamma-vinaya, the doctrine-and-discipline, or, in brief, the Dhamma. The internal unity of the Dhamma is guaranteed by the fact that the last of the Four Noble Truths, the truth of the way, is the Noble Eightfold Path, while the first factor of the Noble Eightfold Path, right view, is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths. Thus the two principles penetrate and include one another, the formula of the Four Noble Truths containing the Eightfold Path and the Noble Eightfold Path containing the Four Truths.
Bikkhu Bodhi explains these in the follow terms (see links):
- I. The Way to the End of Suffering
- II. Right View
- III. Right Intentions
- IV. Right Speech, Right Action, and Right Livelihood
- V. Right Effort
- VI. Right Mindfulness
- VII. Right Concentration
- VIII. The Development of Wisdom
In my upbringing as a young Buddhist, the teachings of Buddha, sum up in ONE word.
Have a nice day,
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