Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Don’t Profit From Another’s Loss

Don’t Profit From Another’s Loss is about not exploiting others in order to make yourself happy or successful.

The original lojong slogan is: Don’t seek others’ pain as the limbs of your own happiness, which means you should avoid seeking to gain from the loss and suffering of others.

This slogan can be hard to live up to because society is built on exploitation. You might not be personally exploiting others to get what you want, but the consequences of your choices mean that exploitation happens whether you intend it or not.

This slogan asks you to look at your choices and behaviour to see how much you’re taking advantage of others in order to benefit yourself. You can do your best to limit the amount of exploitation in your life and aim to treat everybody as fairly as possible.

Real happiness can only come from within, and can only arise when everybody is free to be who they are without fear of exploitation or suffering. So this slogan encourages you not to indulge your ego at the expense of others.

If you want to be happy, you must allow others to be happy too.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by considering if there’s anything that is off-limits in terms of what you’re willing to write about.

Many writers take inspiration from the people they know in order to create characters for their stories. Family members and friends, and especially enemies, can all be used as templates for characters, and even storylines.

But where do you draw the line? Should you disguise the identities of your inspiration and let them keep their privacy and dignity?

This slogan encourages you to consider your motives in writing about a particular person or situation. Are you trying to get back at people who have hurt you? Even if you’re not trying to hurt anybody, should you publish the story if it will hurt someone else? Is there a way of writing the story without humiliating them?

These aren’t easy questions to answer, but there are ways to write about people, even the ones you don’t like, without being wilfully exploitative or mean.

Your writing prompt this weekend: In your slogan journal, explore whether there are any subjects that are off-limits to you. What will you never write about?

More in the book: Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers


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