Escape from Violence

ฐานิสสโร ภิกขุ

Escape from Violence

Ҥ1. When embraced,
the rod of violence
breeds danger & fear:
Look at people in strife.

I will tell of how
I experienced
Seeing people floundering
like fish in small puddles,
competing with one another—
as I saw this,
fear came into me.

The world was entirely
without substance.
All the directions
were knocked out of line.

Wanting a haven for myself,
I saw nothing that wasn’t laid claim to.
Seeing nothing in the end
but competition,
I felt discontent.

And then I saw
an arrow here,
so very hard to see,
embedded in the heart.

Overcome by this arrow
you run in all directions.
But simply on pulling it out
you don’t run,
you don’t sink….

Whatever things are tied down in the world,
you shouldn’t be set on them.
Having totally penetrated
sensual pleasures,
sensual passions,
you should train for your own
unbinding [nibbāna]. — Sn 4:15

In this short passage, the Buddha describes his sense of dismay at the violence and conflict in the world, together with his important discovery: that the only escape from violence is to remove the causes of violence from your own heart.

To remove these causes, you first have to restrain yourself from engaging in violence on the external level. That helps create the proper karmic context—more peaceful and honest—for extracting the causes of violence and conflict on the internal level.

In other words, you have to stop engaging in violence before you can isolate and uproot the emotions and thoughts that would make you want to engage in violence to begin with.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Study Guides book, Non-violence : A Study Guide Based on Early Buddhist Teachings, “Introduction.” (Quote from the Pāli Canon: The Rod Embraced, (Sn 4:15), translated from Pali by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu.)