‘Living with the Gazelle’s Mind’

Walpola Rahula relates in his slender book on the Buddha’s teachings a story about the King of Kosala. The king praised the Buddha, telling him that, upon comparing his disciples with those of other religions, he could see that the former were ‘living with the gazelle’s mind, i.e., lighthearted.’

Such a mind, should we can surmise, would be swift and alert, joyous and concentrated and graceful, moving like light upon sand. What ill will could it hold, what ire for anyone? None. Could there be torpor or languidness, slackness of heart? No. Petty anger it could have none of.

Anger may be only noticeable, so slight it may be, so little as to be almost nothing, to the one so observant. Said of a too quick response. Of an edging in the direction of no. Of not quite or not yet refusal closer to, or closing in on, closedness. I will, it says, but it will put me back. I do but you owe me one. No, it says. Or not quite. Or yes, but.

Such thanklessness. All this, I say, comes before, days before ‘doing one a favor’ and years prior to holding grudges, keeping score, clinging to resentments. These are stored, filed away under Past Due. I am not speaking of these, only of the moment before everything comes apart; comes apart moment by moment; passes in the smallest cruelties. The sourness of an outlook, the smell of something turned, that which is like indigestion, like food fermenting in the large intestines.

Think of that acidity, that sourness, that little something in one’s outlook, in your own, and know well that it bars becoming as swift and cheerful as the free-spirited gazelle. Or could you never imagine cheerful laughter as innocent as a Gambel’s Quail’s honking, if only less ridiculous?

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