A Response to Bhante Buddharatna

When thinking of the many poor, limitless love and compassion occurs amidst a noble mindstream. Today the poor have expanded dramatically, and there are many avenues of “best”, some study, some start businesses, some work three or even four jobs, some care for their infirm families, some want to be poor (yes, true). Today, respect is taken for granted, and takes on cultural forms. Respect comes from the etymology for re- (i.e., back) and specere (i.e., look at), where the Proto-Indo European of specere comes from *spek- “to observe” (Harper, 2023a). In this way, respect shares index with religion’s early sign and index, having simply meant to re-read.

In older languages the sign and indexation was probably more closely aligned to shared attention to the sign/index’s object. In this case, respect most likely was less culturally fixed and more phenomenologically flexible. Buddhas are masters of not only language, but linguistic sign, index, and icon. Therefore to earn respect is to earn re-observance. This does not necessarily mean fans, audience, or support. Many re-observe individuals and do not like, subscribe, support, or assist, yet are moved. This is the essential respect, respect that moves.

In the dhamma, in this way, the poor are not people, as poorness is not self. Poorness is ignorance of selflessness, impermanence, etc. Taking poorness as self, sees poor people, and sees rich people. Yet this is ignorance, for what is poor is aversion, what is poor is attachment, and what is poor is taking poorness for self, poorness for other, poorness for we, and poorness for they.

Such it is said that the poor seek wealth, for attachment, aversion, and ignorance seeks the wealth of compassion, love, and liberation. It is in this way that the wealth of these limitless qualities arise in the midstream when perception perceives the poor. It is in this way that respect re-observes the wealth of the limitless qualities and does not backslide into seeing people as poor, and seeing people as wealthy.

This is the new turning and it banishes the dark times, until language evolves further and unexamined routes emerge from samsara’s evolutionary progress. Even samsara changes.


Harper, D. (2023). Respect (n.). Online Etymology Dictionary. https://www.etymonline.com/word/respect