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Food for Thought - Self-Reliance
 
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Self-Reliance

May 22, 1959

In Christianity they teach that if you've done wrong or committed a sin, you can ask to wash it away by confessing the sin and asking for God's forgiveness. God will then have the kindness to hold back punishment, and you'll be pure. But Buddhism doesn't teach this sort of thing at all. If you do wrong, you are the one who has to correct the error so as to do away with the punishment on your own behalf. What this means is that when a defilement — greed, anger, or delusion — arises in your heart, you have to undo the defilement right there so as to escape from it. Only then will you escape from the suffering that would otherwise come as its natural consequence.

We can compare this to a man who drinks poison and comes down with violent stomach cramps. If he then runs to a doctor and says, "Doctor, doctor, I've drunk poison and my stomach really hurts. Please take some medicine for me so that the pain will go away," there's no way that this is going to cure the pain. If the doctor, instead of the sick man, is the one who takes the medicine, the sick man can expect to die for sure.

So I ask that we all understand this point: that we have to wash away our own defilements by practicing the Dhamma — the medicine of the Buddha — in order to gain release from any evil and suffering in our hearts; not that we can ask the Buddha to help wash away our mistakes and sufferings for us. The Buddha is simply the doctor who has discovered the formula for the medicine and prepared it for us. Whatever disease we have, we need to take the medicine and treat the disease ourselves if we want to recover.


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