West London Buddhist Centre

Sweet and sour

Published on Feb 21st 2024, in Blog

There is more to the phrase ‘sweet and sour’ than the Chinese dish. In particular, I have been thinking about how we are motivated to do something or avoid it.

Some of us go for the ‘sweet’ approach, moving towards what we might interpret as more positive, kinder, perhaps more efficient, beneficial. ‘I want to be/do more like that.’ Others of us prefer moving away from something. Don’t want to be like that, feel that, think that. So let’s focus on the negative aspects or effects of that particular behaviour and that will inspire me (or frighten me) not to do it. Sometimes I go for sweet (when feeling a bit more positive to start with), sometimes I opt for sour (often prompted by an inner cringe or seeing the discomfort or anger I may have caused).

A few Buddhist teachings around wholesome or unwholesome speech caught my attention (and amusement) around sweet and sour.

Outcomes of wholesome (read kind, helpful, appropriate, truthful…) speech = sleep well, wake well, good complexion, dear to human and non-human beings, not being harmed by fire, poison or weapons, mind quickly concentrated, die unperturbed.

Unwholesome (read harsh, false, critical, divisive…) speech could result in: spending aeons and aeons in misery, a body covered in boils, being thrashed by iron bars, eating red-hot balls of iron, burning and boiling in a cauldron, being infested with worms, gnawed by jackals and speckled crows, stewing and boiling in blood and rotten flesh … (shall I stop there? there is more).

None of this needs to be taken literally (though if that works for you, why not?). These two examples really just cut to the chase of ‘actions have consequences’. Which direction, which flavour persuades you?

With a bow, Maitripushpa
(wholesome list: Anguttara nikaya 11.16; unwholesome list: Sutta nipata III.10)
from 1 March 2024 WLBC newsletter

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