Can divorces be less bitter?

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Verse 197, 198 AND 199: Natikalahavupasamana Vatthu – The Dhammapada

Verse 197: Indeed we live very happily, not hating anyone among those who hate; among men who hate we live without hating anyone.

Verse 198: Indeed we live very happily, in good health among the ailing; among men who are ailing we live in good health.

Verse 199: Indeed we live very happily, not striving (for sensual pleasures) among these who strive (for them); among those who strive (for them) we live without striving.

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Naina has been at her irritating best today. For the past three years she has been fighting a bitter divorce case. She and her husband have been headstrong and refuse to budge from their point. In their case, the bone of contention is the house they bought together.

It wasn’t a dream house, but a house they could finally afford to buy. After living out of rented accommodations for years, Rajeev and Naina were able to save enough to buy their first apartment. It wasn’t much, a twobedroom apartment in the suburb. But, for them, it meant the world. It was their little window to dream big about their lives.

Over the years, they built their lives together and fulfilled their dreams too. They moved houses, adding a room as they moved closer to the city, while getting farther from each other. Rajeev’s business flourished all over the world, and Naina’s fashion label made headlines at every runway. But with success came cracks in their ‘perfectly normal’ relationship.

Communication was minimal, and when they talked, they fought. Children were dragged into the arguments. Extra-marital affairs were dissected over the dinner table. Things went from bad to worst.

For the sake of providing some sanity to the children, they decided to part ways. Everything went smoothly, including the custody rights, till they reached that said apartment. Neither wanted to forsake it, as they considered it as their lucky charm. After all, it was from that house they gained so much.

It was a bloodbath at the court room, and yet nothing of consequence has been reached as yet. And, today, Naina’s tolerance has reached a new high. Her lawyer handling her case for the last three years has decided to move on to a new city, and appointed another lawyer for her. She wasn’t too thrilled, but had no other choice either.

Checking her make-up again, Naina drove to the lawyer–Mr. Awasthi’s–office. As she entered his room, she was surprised to see Rajeev with his lawyer there as well.

“What is he doing here?” demanded Naina, without bothering to hide the irritation in her voice.

“I am not here on my own accord. I was invited by Mr. Awasthi. I was told you want to settle this matter today,” said Rajeev in an equally irritated tone.

“Who gave you that authority Mr. Awasthi? You might be a senior partner at this firm, but you have no right to interfere into someone’s personal matter,” said Naina bursting with anger.

“Please sit down Naina and let me explain myself,” said Mr. Awasthi.

“I believe this case has been dragged for too long and for unnecessary reasons. Both of you are wasting your time and energy in a fruitless battle, and I think it is time to reach to a conclusion finally,” continued Mr. Awasthi in a composed manner.

“That’s none of your business,” said Naina and Rajeev in unison.

“Great, at least you guys agreed on something. Now, if you would allow me, I would want to tell you a story,” said Mr. Awasthi.

Sensing their discomfort, Mr. Awasthi assured, “It won’t take too long. And, what’s the harm in listening to a story. You never know, you might get your solution in it as well.”

As none of them resisted, Mr. Awasthi began the Story of the Pacification of the Relatives of the Buddha, from the Dhammapada.

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The story is in reference to the Buddha’s relatives who were quarrelling over the use of the water from the Rohini river.

Kapilavatthu, the town of the Sakyans, and Koliya, the town of the Kolyans, were situated on either side of the Rohini river. The cultivators of both towns worked in the fields watered by the Rohini river. One year, they did not have enough rain and finding that the paddy and other crops were beginning to shrivel up, cultivators on both sides wanted to divert the water from the river to their own fields.

Those living in Koliya said that there was not enough water in the river for both sides, and that if only they could channel the water just once more to their fields that would be enough for the paddy to mature and ripen. On the other hand, people from Kapilavatthu argued that, in that case, they would be denied the use of the water and their crops would surely fail, and they would be compelled to buy from other people. They argued that they were not prepared to go carrying their money and valuables to the opposite bank of the river in exchange for food.

Both sides wanted the water for themselves and bitter arguments and accusations led to much ill will between them. The quarrel that started between the cultivators came to the ears of the ministers concerned, and they reported the matter to their respective rulers, and both sides prepared to go to war.

The Buddha, the omniscient, saw his relatives on both sides of the river ready to wage war and he decided to stop them. He took the sky route, and stopped right in the middle of the river.

His relatives seeing him, powerfully and yet peacefully sitting above them in the sky, hid aside all their weapons and paid obeisance to the Buddha. Then, the Buddha said to them, “For the sake of some water, which is of little value, you should not destroy your lives which are of so much value. Why have you taken this stupid action? If I had not stopped you today, your blood would have been flowing li ke a river by now. You live hating your enemies, but I have none to hate; you are ailing with moral defilements, but I am free from them; you are striving to have s ensual pleasures, but I
do not strive for them.”

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 197: Indeed we live very happily, not hating anyone among those who hate; among men who hate we live without hating anyone.

Verse 198: Indeed we live very happily, in good health among the ailing; among men who are ailing we live in good health.

Verse 199: Indeed we live very happily, not striving (for sensual pleasures) among these who strive (for them); among those who strive (for them) we live without striving.

At the end of the discourse many people attained Sotapatti Fruition.

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Naina and Rajeev were not expecting to hear a discourse at their divorce meeting and were taken aback with the story. It made so much sense. Like the two warring clans, they were also fighting for something meaningless.

Looking at their bewildered faces, Mr. Awasthi said, “I am sure you must have understood by now that you two are fighting a futile battle. But, did you also understand the core of the story as well?”

As Naina and Rajeev shook their heads, Mr. Awasthi continued, “The two clans were dependent on the life-giving essence of water, and yet did not flinch at the thought of killing each other for that same water. Isn’t that ironic? Now, if you look at your situation, both of you bought that house when you wanted to build your lives together. The very essence of marriage is to set a home together.

While you outgrew that house, your home was in shambles. So, when you don’t have a home, why fight over a house–made up of few walls and windows. It holds no value. Let go off it, and release each other with loving-kindness.”

Naina and Rajeev were awestruck hearing Mr. Awasthi. They never thought of it from that perspective. Their hearts were filled with remorse at wasting so much of their time in such a futile argument. They looked at each other, which they had not done for years. The fight had taken its toll. They both looked weary and tired. And that’s when an idea struck them at the same time. They were not just individuals, but were parents as well. They had their children as the common link. Why not transfer the apartment on their names, while both of them hold a joint claim on the property?

They asked Mr. Awasthi if that was possible. He said, “It is just a matter of a little paperwork.”

“Then get it done immediately, we want to close this chapter at the earliest and move on with our lives,” said Rajeev.

After a few hours, Naina and Rajeev were finally ready to say goodbye to their formal relation. Rajeev shook Naina’s hand in an awkward manner and went out of the lawyer’s office.

Naina turned to Mr. Awasthi to thank him, who stopped her and said, “No need to thank me. Just remember to be compassionate, and have a lovely life ahead.”

Naina left the lawyer’s chamber, but the eventful episode left her with everlasting peace.

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