Excerpt from Living in Blue Sky Mind (Diedrichs): How We Act

How We Act

As with speech, we can make the people around us happy or sad by the way we act. We pay attention to what we do and the way we do it.

According to Buddha’s second step on the Eightfold Path, we try not to kill things. We want all beings, people, animals, and insects to live and be happy. I know this, and I try. Still, I kill rodents and insects such as rats, mice, cockroaches, centipedes, ants, and mosquitoes. I find it hard to live with these creatures: they bite, and their lifestyles make them unhealthy. Nonetheless, I do not like taking their lives. A centipede or any other hearty insect exerts a lot of life force, especially when scared. While I have my reasons for killing these creatures, I understand Buddha’s point about living my life free from trouble and misery by not killing.

I heard a story about a realtor showing a couple around a house that was for sale. In the kitchen, the realtor opened a drawer, and a big cockroach skittered out. The man picked up the cockroach in his hands and carried it outside. I wish I had the courage to do that. I try to think and respond like that. 
We want to be kind and caring to all living things, even those that bother and inconvenience us. When we save lives and stop killing living beings, we are happy.

Also, as part of Right Action, we do not steal. We only take those things that are freely given to us. We consider any other action as stealing.

When I was nine years old, I walked down the street and found a wallet in the gutter with money in it. I took the money and threw the wallet away. At home during the night, I heard sirens outside. I cried to my mother that the police were coming to get me because I took that money. I knew even as a child that taking what is not given is stealing.

Yet, a couple of years later, our sixth-grade teacher led our class through the school’s lost-and-found to see if any of our belongings were there. As I walked by a table, I saw a black-and-silver ring that I liked. I bent over and picked it up. I liked how it felt in my hand so I put it in my pocket. I never heard another thing about that ring, but here I am years later still sorry that I took it. It belonged to someone else. We are talking about this exact kind of regret and misery. These might seem little and simple acts, but their results stay with us.

Sometimes, we take things because we want them, as with that ring I saw. Maybe we don’t like somebody, so we steal their stuff. When we are happy with who we are and what we have and when we respect our own things, we respect other people’s things and don’t take them. Sometimes, we appreciate what we have so much that we give our stuff away. We call that generosity.

Buddha knew that if we take things that aren’t ours, we will be troubled and will make trouble for other people. If we only take things that are given to us, we and the people around us are happy. When we act generously, we make everybody happy. We offer a winning proposition.

When is the last time you took something that wasn’t given to you?
How does it feel when you steal something?
How does being generous turn around stealing?


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