Know Thyself is not enough. Know the Other as well
(Sutta 147 in Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha)
I gave a commentary on The Inquirer, a talk of the Buddha last week during our Dharma Enquiry Programme at the Waldhaus Buddhist Centre, near Andernacht, Bonn, Germany. The Buddha regularly encouraged mindfulness/inquiry to be directed towards others, as much as oneself.
The Buddhist tradition and other mind/body traditions have emphasised the inner, often at the expense of outer mindfulness/inquiry of another(s). The willingness to work to transform the outer can heal wounds, be deeply therapeutic and develop empowerment through action.
In the discourse, the Buddha said that a person “may not know how to gauge another person’s mind.”
He encouraged the investigation of the Buddha mind. He then listed areas of inquiry for one looking into the mind of another.
Are their defiled (corrupt) states of mind cognizable through the eyes and ears?
Is the mind free from corrupt states?
Is there a mixture of corrupt states of mind, namely bright and dark states.
Has the person attained wholesome states of mind over a long time or only recently?
Is the person aware of the dangers of name and fame?
Does the person experience contraction through fear or not?
Does the person pursue and indulge in pleasure or abides free from such priorities?
Does the person behaviour well or not?
Is the person caught up in material things or not?
Does the person despise people or not?
Is there clarity of mind and seeing it as the path without clinging to it?
If there is clarity with the other person, then one can place confidence in that person.
We can benefit from the clarity of another. Another can benefit from our clarity. Both can come to deeper and deeper levels, find more and more sublime realisations, and know the bright and dark aspects of the mind.
One can plant trust in the other person(s) that is rooted and established. Reason, firmness and vision supports trust and confidence, said the Buddha.
Such an inquiry into another is in accordance with the Dharma, he added.
Why is this an important discourse? We can apply mindfulness and inquiry to others – the friendly, the strangers and the unfriendly. We can learn much about others through inquiry to get to know them – the bright and the dark.
This principle of learning about and knowing the conditions of the other applies to little ones, the young, the middle aged and the elderly.
We need to know the inner condition, values and attitudes of those in authority, whether leaders, bosses or teachers and those who lack authority, as well as the variety of roles and identity of people of all ages and backgrounds that we meet.
People change. We practice to stay calm and clear with the changing presentations of another. Our enquiry into the condition of another(s) as well as their beliefs, networks and organisations, can provide clarity and insight for oneself and others, via the communication. Based on mindfulness and inquiry, we can explore skilful ways and means to develop the bright in the other and expose the dark.
We will not feel deluded or disappointed if we know the other and his, her or their tendencies.
To know thyself is not enough. Know the other as well.
If you are unhappy about the way things are, then change them, inwardly and outwardly.
May all beings inquire into the ‘other’
May all beings know the ‘other’
May all beings live with wisdom and an enlightened life