The Maha Parinibbana Sutta of the Pali Canon says that at the time of the Buddha’s Paranirvana, when the Buddha’s Enlightenment found its full fruition, Ananda, one of his closest disciples and his personal attendant for twenty five years was full of sorrow at the impending death of his teacher and wept, “Alas! I remain still but a learner, one who has yet to work out his own perfection. And the Master is about to pass away from me – he who is so kind!”
When I heard this Sutta some years ago it burnt a hole in my psyche. My ego, full of striving to be seen as clever, to be seen as worthy, was astounded that the Buddha’s kindness was at the forefront of Ananda’s mind. The Buddha, who had accomplished so much in his lifetimes was being remembered by his closest friend, beyond all his achievements, in those final moments, as kind.
Since hearing this Sutta I have reflected many times on my wish to be, and my ability to be, kind. Initially, I found I primarily noticed when I was unkind. Unkind in thought, in deed or in the words I used. I often found I would berate myself and feel overwhelming embarrassment at how I had failed to live up to the precepts I had chosen to live my life by – over time I have learned that kindness begins at home and that (Hri in Sanskrit), translates as skillful regret, remorse or shame arising from the recognition that one is falling short in relation to one’s own, independent sense of right or wrong, and that this is a positive step on the Buddhist path. I have grown less harsh on myself and therein on others, I have become softer. I have grown more able to notice when I act, speak and think with kindness in my heart, how this is received, the impact I can have in the world, and how it feels, but like anything worthwhile – the practice takes effort. The more I create the conditions to support my mind to be free from worry, free from grasping, judgement or doubt the easier the practice becomes.
There is still much work to do and my efforts towards universal loving kindness are frequently hindered as a suffering human being, and yet my desire and intention to be kinder drives me onward.
Much Love Aparacitta xx