In polite society everybody notices if a man's hands are dirty. He'll be stared at contemptuously. Why, the fellow will be wretched until he washes his hands.
But isn't it funny how a man can character that's defiled by greed and hate and nobody will pay the slightest attention? He'll move about in perfect ease. Evidently, a dirty character isn't worthy of notice as a dirty hand.
It's so simple to restore dirty hands to a state of purity. Just wash them. But what about corrupted character? That's quite another problem...
Everything in the universe is subject to change. There's only one exception: death always follows life. Isn't it strange that people haven't noticed this, that they conduct their lives as though they're going to live forever, that death is nothing to worry about?
Of course if they want to live as long as they obviously expect, they'd best pursue the Dharma. Life, death and change itself are transcended in the Dharmakaya.
People think that if they possess worldly knowledge they know everything. But that's not correct. Even when subjects are mastered there's always room for error. And if the finest archers can miss their targets occasionally, what about the mediocre ones?
When we know the Dharma, we have all the information we need. No matter what the other facts we acquire additionally, our storehouse of knowledge, though very deep and wide, is already full.
If men can't even evade the demands of their father and emperor, what can they do when Death gives them an order? They may protest bitterly and scream at heaven, but they've got to obey. The man who howls the loudest is the one who thinks he has just reached the pinnacle of worldly success.
The enlightened understand life and death. They always live well and never complain.
The rich are admired because they have saved money. But what's been saved can be spent. The admiration goes with the money. A king receives loyalty because his people regard him as noble. If they decide he is acting badly, he may lose more than his throne. Those who are in rich in the Dharma and noble in the Buddha's Way always retain their wealth and the fealty of the people.
There are people who, having accomplished nothing, connive to receive great honors or high positions of authority. Well, people who gain high rank without having earned it are like rootless trees. They live in fear that even the slightest wind will topple them.
What are the two most common goals for people who live in the world? Wealth and fame. To attain these goals, people are willing to lose everything, including their health, mind and spirit. Not a very good exchange is it?
Worldly wealth and fame fade so quickly that we wonder which will last longer: the money, the fame, or the man.
But consider the goal of enlightenment, of attaining the wealth of the Dharma. Those who reach this goal are vigorous in body, keen in mind, and serene in spirit... right into eternity.
People are always looking for the easy way. The hard way - the way learned by difficult experience and painful realizations - doesn't interest them. They want a short cut.
True Dharma seekers are afraid of short cuts. They know better. They know that without effort, there's not sense of accomplishment. It's that sense that keeps them going.
People who don't appreciate the struggles of climbing lack understanding of where they've been, awareness of who they are, and determination to continue climbing. That's why they never attain the Dharma.
It is easier to do the right thing when we know what the right thing to do is. We can't rely on instinct to find the Way. We need guidance.
But once we're shown the path and begin to climb it, we find that with each step up, we grow in wisdom and fortitude. Looking down, we see how many of our old desires have fallen dead on the wayside. They look so feeble lying there that we wonder why we ever thought we lacked the courage to resist them.
The Mountain of Wisdom is different from other mountains. The higher we climb, the stronger we grow.
Look at people who keep tigers as pets. Even while they're laughing and playing with them, in the back of their minds they're afraid their pet will suddenly turn on them. They never forget how dangerous tigers are.
But what about people who lust after possessions, indulging themselves with one acquisition after another? They remain completely unaware of any danger.
Why are certain material objects so treasured? A gem is virtually useless and a gilded scabbard is no better than a plain one.
Man decides that gold is valuable because it is rare and enduring and brilliant. He then thinks that if he possesses gold, he himself will become rare or unique, that his individual worth will endure, and that he also will be considered a rather brilliant fellow. So obsessed he may become with these foolish notions that in trying to obtain gold, he will destroy the very life he is trying to embellish.
In the darkness of delusion the unenlightened believe that they can glorify themselves by reflecting the qualities they have assigned to their possessions. Those who live the enlightened life readily discern that the qualities of an object are not transferred to its possessor. They can see right through them.
Great accomplishments are composed of minute details. Those who have succeeded in attaining the Whole have attended carefully to each tiny part. Those who fail have ignored or taken too lightly what they deemed to be insignificant.
The heart's weather should always be clear, always sunny and calm. The only time the weather could turn bad is when clouds of lust and attachment form. These always bring storms of worry and confusion.
A single speck in the eye blurs good vision, we see double or triple images. A single dirty thought confounds a rational mind. Many errors in judgement can arise from it.
Remove that speck and see clearly! Remove that dirty thought and think clearly!
Put a fish on land and he will remember the ocean until he dies. Put a bird in a cage, yet he will not forget the sky. Each remains homesick for his true home, the place where his nature has decreed he should be.
Man is born in the state of innocence. His original nature is love and grace and purity. Yet he emigrates so casually without even a thought of his old home. Is this not sadder than the fishes and the birds?
What do people strive for? Money, or fame, or successful relationships, or the Dharma. Well, one man may become very rich but be hated by his family. Another man may be loved by everyone but not have a penny to his name. Still a third man may be hailed as a hero by his countrymen and then find himself with neither funds nor loving family.
Usually, so much effort is put into achieving one goal, that the other goals cannot be obtained. But what about the man who strives to obtain the Dharma? If he succeeds, he has gained in that one goal far more than the other three combined.
With one small fulcrum, a lever can move tons of weight. With one greedy thought, years of integrity can be corrupted. A greedy thought is the seed of fear and confusion. It will grow wildly.
The material gain that a greedy act brings is a small gain indeed. To act without greed and lose some material benefit is also, therefore a small loss. But to lose one's integrity! That is an immense loss!
The enlightened person stands in awe of the fulcrum.
There are times when we act with unshakable faith in the Dharma even though we don't understand the situation we are in. There are other times when we understand our situation but are afraid to be completely faithful.
In one instance, we have heart; and in the other, we have mind. We must put these two together. Understanding AND faith!
Our mind and body are by nature pure; but we sully them with sinful thoughts and deeds. In order to restore ourselves to our original purity, we need only to clean away the accumulated dirt. But how do we proceed with the cleansing process?
Do we put a barrier between us and the occasions of our bad habits?
Do we remove ourselves from places of temptations?
We cannot claim victory by avoiding the battle. The enemy is not our surroundings, it is in ourselves. We have to confront ourselves and try to understand our human weakness. We have to take an honest look at ourselves, at our relationships and our possessions, and ask what all our self-indulgence has gotten us. Has it brought us happiness? Surely not.
If we are ruthlessly honest, we'll have to admit that it was our own foolish egotism that soiled us. This admission is painful to make. Well, if we want to melt ice, we have to apply heat. The hotter the fire, the quicker the ice melts. So it is with wisdom. The more intense our scrutiny, the quicker we will attain wisdom. When we grow in wisdom, we dwarf our old egotistical self.
You're a puzzle that I will never be able to piece no matter how much I try. I know this and yet I try and I will always try. I scold you sometimes when you haven't really done anything wrong. It's because I don't understand you and I'm angry with myself, not you.
You are stimulated by social interaction whereas I am stimulated by solitude. You even go as far as doing things for attention, just so people look at you. But I have come to realise that this isn't just for your benefit. You want to make people smile, laugh if possible. To you a day is wasted if there is no laughter.
You don't take things seriously. Life's a party is your motto. You put things off until the last minute, sometimes you put them off all together. I thought this was because you were lazy and uncaring and it mad me angry. But I realise that you are not as self-assured as you make out. Sometimes you put things off because you don't think you can do them. It's easier to spend your times laughing and making others laugh. It's how you cope I suppose.
You can be selfish. I nicknamed you diva, remember? I realise that you don't mean this and that you care deeply about others as when you are faced with the realisation that you have hurt someone you are mortified. I forget sometimes that you are not as observant as I. In my little head I sometimes find it hard to understand why people wouldn't act the same as me in a given situation. And sometimes that leads me to believe that their method must be wrong. But you are not wrong. You are just different. Always be different. Always.
In the ego's world of illusion, all things are in flux. But continuous change is constant chaos. When the ego sees itself as the center of so much swirling activity, it cannot experience cosmic harmony.
For example, what the ego considers to be a devastating hurricane is, as far as the universe is concerned, a perfectly natural event, a link in the endless chain of cause and effect. The universe, having no ego, continues its existence without rendering judgments about hurricanes or ocean breezes.
When we are empty of ego, we too, can carry on in calm acceptance of life's varying events. When we cease making prejudicial distinctions - gentle or harsh, beautiful or ugly, good or bad - a peaceful stillness will permeate our mind. If there is no ego, there is no agitation.
True Dharma seekers who live in the world use their daily activity as a polishing tool. Outwardly they may appear to be very busy, like flint striking steel, making sparks everywhere. But inwardly, they silently grow. For although they may be working very hard, they are working for the sake of work and not for the profits it will bring them.
Unattached to the results of their labor, they transcend the frenetic to reach the Way's essential tranquility. Doesn't a rough and tumbling stream also sparkle like striking flints - while it polishes into smoothness every stone in its path?
What is the best way to sever our attachment to material things?
First, we need a good sharp sword, a sword of discrimination, one that cuts through appearance to expose the real. We begin by making a point of noticing how quickly we become dissatisfied with material things and how soon our sensory pleasures also fade into discontent. With persistent awareness, we sharpen and hone this sword. Before long, we find that we seldom have to use it. We've cut down all old desires and new ones don't dare to bother us.
There are also those who, claiming enlightenment, insist that they understand the non-substantial nature of reality. Boasting that the disease of materialism cannot infect them, they try to prove their immunity by carefully shunning all earthly enjoyments. But they, too, are in in the dark.
Neither are they correct who dedicate themselves to exposing the fraud of every sensory object they encounter. True, perceptions of material objects give rise to wild desire in the heart. True, once it is understood how essentially worthless such apparent objects are, wild desires are reduced to timid thoughts. But we may not limit our spiritual practice to the discipline of dispelling illusion. There is more to the Dharma than understanding the nature of reality.
When we preach the Dharma to those who see only the ego's illusory world, we preach in vain. We might as well preach to the dead.
How foolish are they who turn away from what is real and true and lasting and instead pursue the fleeting shapes of the physical world, shapes that are mere reflections in the ego's mirror. Not caring to peer beneath surfaces, deluded beings are content to snatch at images. They think that the material world's ever-flowing energy can be modified into permanent forms, that they can name and value these forms, and then, like great lords, exert dominion over them.
Material things are like dead things and the ego cannot vivify them. As the great lord is by his very identity attached to his kingdom, the ego, when it attaches itself to material objects, presides over a realm of the dead. The Dharma is for the living. The permanent cannot abide in the ephemeral. True and lasting joy cannot be found in the ego's world of illusion. No one can drink the water of a mirage.