A New Year’s Resolution: Be Careful

Doreen Schweizer

“Continue on with your lives diligently, heedfully, with untiring wakefulness; earnestly, with full attention; appreciatively, mindfully, with vigilance, kindness, and care,” said the Buddha to his closest followers before he died.

This statement is an elaboration and paraphrase from a teaching in Digha Nikaya, The Long Discourses of the Buddha called “The Buddha’s Last Days” (Mahaparinibbhana Sutta 6.7). All of the descriptive adverbs in my version above are taken from various translators’ attempts to give us a felt sense of the Buddha’s final spoken word, appamada. “Appamada” is also the title of the second chapter in the Dhammapada, The Collected Sayings of the Buddha. At our annual New Year’s Day sit and potluck, twenty-five of us gathered in the barn and in the house––with the subzero temperatures outside surrounding us and challenging any warmth we could generate. We proceeded carefully. After our period of silence, we read aloud four different translations of the first two verses of “Appamada.” All of them proclaim and agree that appamada describes the path to being fully alive in our lives, and that this mental attitude is to be delighted in and enjoyed. Stephen Batchelor translates appamada as “care”:

The reason I’ve chosen to translate it as “care” is because I’m looking for a term that is more embracing than diligence or mindfulness, each of which we can think of quite easily as particular states of mind or particular frames of consciousness. “Care” seems to encompass a wider complex of mental states.

At the New Year’s sit this past January, we considered taking this word care/appamada as our Word of the Year––as Valley Insight’s Word of the Year––to ponder, to contemplate, to know in our bodies and hearts: to live into our lives this year, to live into our shared world. As spring opens to us a new season with new possibilities with new beginnings, we welcome you to join with us in our explorations.

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“I don’t see anything as powerful or as useful as careful, wise attention [appamada] . . . . A person who attends in this way, naturally lets go of that which leads to more suffering for themselves and for others; and naturally and easily steps towards freedom.”
–– The Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya 1:16,
trans: A. Sucitto, S. Batchelor; vers. D. S.

“Let us therefore ask ourselves what care really means and then see
how care can become the basis of community.”
–– Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude

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