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Let's Make Sure Not to Become "The Thief Who Blames The Rope"

Learning the law of happiness from Shakyamuni Buddha Lesson 11

When things are going well, we tend to think it is because of our own efforts. "See? That's because I worked hard!" But when things are not going well, we tend to blame other people. What did Shakyamuni Buddha teach regarding the attitude we should take during adverse circumstances?

Who is "the thief who blames the rope that binds him"?

There is an old proverb: "the thief who blames the rope." It describes this scenario: A thief is caught and is tied up with a rope. He curses, "It's because of this rope that I'm suffering now!" Upon hearing this, we might laugh, "What an idiot!" What was actually making the thief suffer? That was, of course, his own bad action of stealing. Blaming the rope makes no sense whatsoever. He is laying the blame at the wrong door. No matter how many ropes there are in this world, if he had not stolen from others, he would never have ended up getting caught and suffering.

This scenario is comical because of how foolish the thief is for not knowing this. But Buddhism teaches that blaming others for bad results is exactly the same thing as this thief is doing. What exactly does this mean?

It's my own bad action that's to blame

Happiness and unhappiness are both my own cause and effect

Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that our fate is caused by our own actions. If we plant good seeds (do good deeds), we will get good results (happiness). If we plant bad seeds (do bad deeds), we will get bad results (unhappiness and disasters). Happiness and unhappiness are both the results of our own actions. In other words, we reap what we sow. Our own causes bring about our own effects.

If in spite of this we blame and curse others for our bad results, that shows we believe that the results we are receiving came from seeds sown by someone else (other's causes produce one's own effects). This is exactly the same as the thief who blames the rope and forgets about his own actions.

The seeds planted by others will never bring about your results.

The seeds will grow even if you do not remember planting them.

When bad things happen to us, we may find ourselves thinking skeptically, "Wow, I don't remember planting such a bad seed..." But think of it this way: we don't even remember what we had for dinner three days ago! So of course, we probably won't remember what kind of seeds we planted a long time ago. But seeds not planted will never grow. So if I am receiving a bad result, even if I don't remember planting bad seeds, I must have planted them. If I had not, this would not be happening. If we accept the law of cause and effect in this way, our suffering will quickly fade away. As long as we blame our suffering on others, our hearts cannot be at peace. So what exactly is the rope which binds the thief? Buddhism teaches that this is a condition.

Don't mix up cause and condition

The causes that bring about our destiny are our own deeds, but just a cause on its own is not enough to create a result. Results only appear when both cause and condition come together. What is a "condition"? This is something that helps the cause to generate the result. So when we are blaming someone else for our misfortune, that person is actually the condition. However, the reason why we cannot accept bad results as our own creation is that we confuse this condition for the cause. By planting the bad seed of blaming others, we suffer all the more. If we understand the difference between the cause and the condition, we know that we have options to change our destiny. One is by changing the seeds (causes), the other is by choosing different conditions.

Lesson Point

  • The seeds planted by others will never bring about your results. (X Other's causes produce one's own effects)

  • As long as we are blaming others, our hearts cannot be calm.

  • When we accept that everything we reap is what we have sown, our suffering will fade away.

Let us have a good understanding of the relationship between cause and condition and make sure not to become "the thief who blames the rope."

Next theme:

If you avoid bad conditions and choose good conditions, your life will change drastically.


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