Monday, September 03, 2007

Phra Pimala Dhamma (Pimon Dham)

Something that has often struck a cord in my little head is the importance we place on an outward appearance of humility. One finds oneself compelled to couch one's words euphemistically and contrivedly in what appears to me more of a boast (of being humble) than simply telling the truth and cutting to the point. One also feels a sense of dread in letting be known even the slightest of one's good deeds, feeling compelled to hide away one's good works, lest one be open to an accusation of conceit.

Here's a quote that should make one consider this problem from a different angle, translated from the Thai:

"Though Luang Vijitvaadakaan ... might say, 'do good but not outstandingly; it will bring danger; no one wants to see us too outstanding,' well, I welcome and volunteer wholeheartedly to receive such fruit in return; all I ask is that such works as did not exist before come into existence, as did not arise before come to arise. Meaning, I am willing to sacrifice everything in trade for those works ... and if I might lose something along the way, I should be willing to lose it happily; I should not be broken-hearted or heavy-hearted for that reason at all."

Being outstanding means giving others a chance to respond to what we think, say and do, for good or for bad, this is clear. But it is equally clearly not the case that putting one's best thoughts, words and deeds forward is a bad thing, no matter what danger it might bring. Phra Pimon Dham, due to jealousy over his success, was charged accused of sexual intercourse as a monk, of destroying the Buddhist religion, and of promoting communism; he was stripped of his title, removed from his place has abbot of Wat Mahadhatu, forced to disrobe (he refused and wore white robes for the time) and put in prison for five years. The happy ending? The charges never stuck, he was released (the time in prison, he said, gave him lots of time to practice vipassana and even teach via writing - he said in prison everything is free, food, shelter, even a watchman to keep him safe 24/7; if I die, he said, they will probably hold a funeral for free too!), exonerated of all charges, given back his title and restored as abbot. His work can still be seen today in the fact that abhidhamma study and vipassana practice still exist in Thailand, in return for his great work and personal sacrifice.

If you ask me, it is not being outstanding that brings danger, it's wanting to be outstanding that is indeed very dangerous.