We Are What We Think

We Are What We Think

May 2, 2022

The Dhammapada opens with the following three lines:

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.

To understand the Buddha’s meaning, we must first recognize that we don’t actually control our thoughts. Our thoughts are partially under our control, but in many ways, they are responses to environmental stimuli which we may only somewhat control, at best.

Instead of total control of our thoughts, as perhaps a first reading of the Buddha’s words might suggest, his intent is to discuss the next step in the creation of reality: the choices we make in each individual moment, based on our thoughts. We can call these types of decisions micro-decisions:

Speak or act with an impure mind And trouble will follow you As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

The Buddha doesn’t mean we are not allowed to have or recognize negative– even violent and/or insane– thoughts. He simply wants us to make good decisions in spite of those (and other) thoughts.

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