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How to Improve Yourself

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This essay seeks to outline the main ideas expressed in the poems “Self”, chapter XII and “Anger”, chapter XVII of the book The Dhammapada.

Before making any steps in your life and building any plans, first of all, you have to understand yourself and develop specific methods to keep your thoughts and feelings in order. Some of them are described in the poem “Self”. I have chosen this poem, because it could be useful for understanding and improving my own mental world. This poem clearly states that if someone is overconfident, you should just give him an ability to get to know himself better. A wise person will understand that he is not the center of the world in the nearest future.

“Before trying to guide others, be your own guide first. It is hard to learn to guide oneself,” the  poem states (Eknath Easwaran 157). It means that before telling other people what to do and how to build their lives, first of all, you have to implement all these ideas in your own life. If you succeed, people will follow you. It is quite easy to talk and difficult to change your way of living.

It is also mentioned that everyone in the world aims at finding a safe place, where he can hide from all the troubles, and gaining harmony. However, we don’t have to search it anywhere. All we have to do is just to subdue to our inner world and we will find this harmony inside.

Every bad thing you have done, each person you have confused – all these actions have always remained in your mind. They destroy you from inside.

Besides, when you have a conflict with someone, you should keep your mind clear and not let the anger get into your heart. Anger makes you weak. You lose the ability to make reasonable decisions. That’s exactly what your enemy wants to see.

There’s also an opinion, that if you have a really meaningful goal, you will have to work hard to meet it. Almost all great aims are complex and require several steps to be taken. Those people who don’t want to make any efforts usually choose negative goals, because they are easier to achieve. As a rule, easy objectives aren’t beneficial.

It is also very important to follow the right doctrine that is represented by people that want to build but not to destroy. Otherwise it will lead to your own destruction.

Clearness of your mind and your heart depends on your own actions only. Only you decide whether to hurt someone or not. “Evil is done by oneself alone; by oneself is one defiled. Evil is avoided by oneself; by oneself alone is one purified,” declares the poem (Gil Fronsdal 40).

No one but you is responsible for your actions.

According to the poem, you shouldn’t remind a person his duty. As soon as you make sure that a person has understood what is needed, what his exact duty is, just give him some time and he will do his best to be good at it.

All these ideas can be very useful in our everyday life. For example, your best friend is in a football team and considers himself to be better than other guys (and not only at playing). If you’ll tell him anything about his skills, your relations for sure will become worse for sure and you might face a conflict. Having done several football and/or life failures your friend will understand his mistake and will not act like a ‘star’ any more. The ‘not-telling-people–what-to-do-principle’ can apply to rather different situations. If you want your kids to keep their things in order, make sure that you do. Don’t accuse your boyfriend of paying little attention to you before you evaluate your own actions. If you want your friends to stick to a healthy way of living, start running in the mornings or attending the gym yourself. A feeling of harmony is essential for everyone. There are several ways to achieve it (positive thinking, meditation etc.). It should help you not to be nervous because of the exams, avoid stresses at work, and face fewer conflicts. Let’s imagine that you were in a bad mood and offended your mother. You know that it was wrong and you could not change the past. However, you can apologize, buy her a present and try to avoid such situations in the future. Otherwise your guilt will be destroying you from inside.

Here is one more example, you have failed an exam. If you become angry and begin to panic, you won’t be able to prepare for it better, and you’ll fail again. But if you pull yourself together, you can learn all necessary information and get an “A”. Imagine a situation when you have to choose either to attend optional computer classes on Saturdays and Sundays or to spend this time hanging out with your friends. First alternative requires a lot of efforts, but it will be useful for your career, so you choose it. The second one may be even dangerous (alcohol, cigarettes, fights).

If you act due to the seven rules stated in the Bible, the concept of taking care of the environment, the concept of solving problems without war, you will probably become better. Becoming a part of such subcultures as emo, goths, punks etc. is destructive and might be dangerous for you. Don not let your friends down, keep your promises to parents, try not to make enemies, compromise, work on the solutions to your problems and your heart and mind will be clear. When you’re going to miss a class, think through, whether it is worth it. If your coworker forgets to sweep the floor after the working day each Monday, just provide him with a list of his responsibilities. You do not have to remind him of it every time.

The poem can help to realize that you can live in harmony with other people and environment, avoid conflicts, stresses and achieve personal goals, develop mentally and physically, remove negative feelings and thoughts, improve relations in the family and even get some followers.

Modern people, especially young people, are quite impulsive, what can lead to great deal of troubles and consequences. That’s why it’s so important to know, how to eliminate your anger. Solution to this problem is described in the poem “Anger”.

It is mentioned in this poem, that we should avoid anger, because it brings us lots of troubles. People led by anger in their actions usually face failures more often than the others.

The author describes anger and pride of a person like his own cage. If he gets rid of them, he’ll be released. “No sufferings befall the man who is not attached to name and form, and who calls nothing his own” (Max Müller 122).  Due to this statement, famous people are slaves of their popularity.

The poem clearly shows that a person should not be concentrated on his thoughts and body. Everyone should lead an ascetic way of life. It is one of the ways how to become free from pride and anger.

A person able to control anger is a leader, a master of his life. Other people allow leaders to manipulate them. The best way to defeat anger or its demonstration in actions is to use ‘kind instruments’ like calmness, love, truth, liberality etc. “Conquer anger through gentleness, unkindness through kindness, greed through generousity, and falsehood by truth,” the poem says (Eknath Easwaran 188). If you use aggression to respond to the anger, it will only enhance the struggle and its negative consequences, but it will not solve the problem.

You will succeed, if you will follow three simple rules: do not lie, avoid anger and help people. This advice will help you to be concentrated all the time. Besides, when you need some assistance those people will help you. Those that control their actions will not suffer any more. It is a reward for their self-control.

It is also said that people tend to act aggressively and start conflicts. Our task is to pay no attention to their actions. There is no a person in the world whose actions everyone is totally satisfied or unsatisfied with. Despite all these factors it’s necessary to control anger and our actions. Our efforts will be evaluated then. Especially we should control our bodies and not to fight, for example. While controlling our mind it’s essential to avoid anger and generate positive thoughts. The phrase “The wise are disciplined in body, speech, and mind” generalizes the whole idea(Eknath Easwaran 189).

Let’s take a look at the meaning of this advice in our real life. Imagine you are trying to create a web site, but it does not work. You will never find mistakes, if you are full of anger. Calm down and you will be surprised how many ideas will come to your mind. While learning how to drive a car anger also does not help. The same is with preparing for the sport competition, home assignment or learning to dance. Anger is the worst enemy in boxing. The main target of the game is to make not the hardest, but the cleverest blow. That boxer, who keeps his mind clear, can easily manipulate his competitor. If your manager gets at you, ask politely whether there is something you did wrong. If you help your sister Alice to get tickets for the concert, she will probably help you to choose the best present for your girlfriend. There is one more example: you are a waiter at the restaurant. From time to time some visitors are not very friendly, but you do not get angry and remain polite all the time. Your chef will notice that for sure, and you’ll get promoted at once. This poem will help me to release from negative emotions, attain mental focus, acquire more personal freedom, improve relations with other people and become happier.

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