Shakespeare and Buddhism
A few days ago, I listed the tenets of the "Eightfold Noble Path," as taught by Buddha. Today, on the day on which William Shakespeare's birthday is traditionally celebrated, I thought I would share with you an interesting coincidental illustration of the Eightfold Noble Path from Shakespeare's Hamlet, in which Polonius provides instruction on living a good life. This excerpt is from the book Whacking Buddha: The Mysterious World of Shakespeare and Buddhism, by Mark Lamonica, with Patrick McCulley (by way of Tricycle, Winter 2005):
I couldn't make this up even if I wanted to; there are eight precepts in Polonius's speech, interchangeable (depending on how you interpret them) with the Buddha's Eightfold Path:
Polonius: There; my blessing with thee! And these few precepts in thy memory see thou character.
1. Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportion'd thought his act. (right thought)
2. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. (right mindfulness)
3. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, / Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel, / But do not dull thy palm with entertainment / Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade. (right livelihood)
4. Beware / of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, / Bear't the opposed may beware of thee. (right action)
5. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice. (right speech)
6. Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment. (right concentration)
7. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, / But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy; / For the apparel oft proclaims the man, / And they in France of the best rank and station / Are of a most select and generous chief in that. (right effort)
8. Neither a borrower nor a lender be, / For loan oft loses both itself and friend, / And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. / This above all: to thine own self be true, / And it must follow, as night the day, / Thou canst not then be false to any man. (right understanding)
Just another example of how we cannot help ourselves when it comes to Shakespeare – as a culture, we cannot rest until we see everything in his works. Next we'll be using them to predict oil prices.
The disarming thing about this habit of culture, however, is that Shakespeare is so damned obliging.