Skip to content Skip to footer

The Power of Self-Composure

In Buddha’s time, the Buddha’s teachings spread widely and quickly because people saw that His followers were always well-mannered, while followers of other doctrines were different. Moreover, when people listened to the Buddha’s teachings, they were impressed and became faithful.

We can clearly see the difference between the practiced and non-practiced mind from one aspect, namely, self-composure. The practiced mind retains composure of his body, speech, and mind. By following the Buddhist Five Precepts, he does not harm others and behaves properly. However, there are also moral people who are not very well-behaved. When they are not in control of themselves, they follow their desires by way of how they live, eat, dress, and speak. As for those who do not hold the Five Precepts, they often act improperly and do not even care about Dhamma.

The key principle for lay people who desire spiritual progress is to maintain composure. This means they should remain calm and in control of their senses and desires. This reflects the state of purification and development of the mind, otherwise the mind will be controlled by impurities (kilesa). Then, whether a monk or a layperson, he will behave wrongly, damaging both himself and Buddhism. On the other hand, one who possesses self-control will think carefully and know how to conduct himself correctly.

I taught my students that all actions, whether in private or public or among friends or others, originate from the mind. Good and admirable acts, or bad and culpable acts, come from the mind. If any student behaves inappropriately and claims that it’s his nature, it means he has no respect to the Buddha, his teacher, or to Dhamma that he practices.

Personal conduct is most important. When one loses control, one can misbehave. Then, not only his life but everyone related to him, will be badly affected.

When I saw a corps of cadets, I admired the way they carried themselves – with perfect discipline and dignity. While waiting for the bus, they were standing upright and perfectly in line. They were so different from others who were also there, who chattered, slouched, and looked around restlessly – a scene that illustrated the difference between the trained and untrained.

People these days do not care about self-control; they feel happy telling others about their bad manners. They are wrong about social media too, thinking their Facebook page is a private space where they can share anything they want. In reality, the page is not private and whatever they post is shared openly and widely. With global social media networks, there is no longer any privacy.

If we always maintain our composure, we will not be haunted by any wrong acts and can live our lives naturally without stress. We can still have friends and share our happy or sad moments, and good stories on social media. But we just need to be aware of what we want to share with others. We don’t have to be a virtuous person to keep our composure but start from now as we take refuge in the Buddha.

Apart from this, composure also means humility. One should not be ill-mannered or overly obsessed with anything. For a woman, she should know how to dress according to the occasion, and her dress should not be too revealing. As we use our bodies in our lives, we have to take good care of them and keep them clean and pleasant. People in general admire the shell, so we have to show them that Dhamma makes us gentle, calm, and respectable. When our bodies, speech, and acts are refined, they will be good examples for others.

We have to maintain our composure wherever we are, especially when we are alone because it means we respect our own souls. This is the first and most important step to show sincere respect for others; once we respect ourselves, we will also respect others. This brings about self-composure, the character of virtuous people, which will lead them to Nirvana.