No Refuge

Recently I was reading this great blog post by the blog Sententiae Antiquae which translates some text from 14th-centry Italian scholar Petrarch:

Portrait of Petrarch, late 14th century, courtesy of Wikipedia

…Thus, almost no one is free. Everywhere there is servitude, the prison, the noose, unless some rare person somehow dissolves the knots of the world with the aid of some heavenly virtue.

Just turn your attention wherever you’d like: no place is free of tyranny. Wherever there are no tyrants, the people tyrannize. When you seem to have escaped the iron fist of one, you fall into the tyranny of the many, unless you can show me some place ruled by a just and merciful king…

From Invective Against a Man of High Rank, translated by Sententiae Antiquae blog

This reminds me of certain Buddhist texts, in particular the Larger Sutra on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life wherein Shakyamuni Buddha describes at length the challenges of living in this world:

“The poor and the underprivileged are constantly destitute. If, for example, they have no fields, they are unhappy and want them. If they have no houses, they are unhappy and want them. If they have none of the six kinds of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, or if they have no male and female servants, or lack money, wealth, clothes, food, or furnishings, they are unhappy and want those as well. If they possess some of them, others may be lacking. If they have this, they do not have that, and so they wish to possess all. But, even if by some chance they come to possess everything, it will soon be destroyed or lost. Then, dejected and sorrowful, they strive to obtain such things again, but it may be impossible. Brooding over this is to no avail. Exhausted in mind and body, they become restless in all their doings, and anxieties follow on their heels. Such are the troubles they must endure. Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain. Such conditions may result in the sudden end of their lives or an early death. Since they have not done any good in particular, nor followed the Way [e.g. the Buddha-Dharma], nor acted virtuously, when they die, they will depart alone to an inferior world. Although they are destined to different states of existence, none of them understands the law of karma that sends them there.

translation by Rev. Hisao Inagaki

Thus, going back to Petrarch, he writes in Latin:

Humani generis mores tibi nosse volenti, sufficit una domus.

To one who wishes to know the ways of all the human race,
One house alone should do the trick.

From Invective Against a Man of High Rank, translated by Sententiae Antiquae blog

Being able to see the ways of man through one’s house (or even homō unus, one person) is the beginning of wisdom and the foundation of Buddhist metta.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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