Fifty

Between birth and death,
Three in ten are followers of life,
Three in ten are followers of death,
And men just passing from birth to death also number three in ten.
Why is this so?
Because they live their lives on the gross level.

He who knows how to live can walk abroad
Without fear of rhinoceros or tiger.
He will not be wounded in battle.
For in him rhinoceroses can find no place to thrust their horn,
Tigers no place to use their claws,
And weapons no place to pierce.
Why is this so?
Because he has no place for death to enter.

Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching translated by Gai-Fu Feng and Jane English

A benevolent and just ruler

A ruler exercising benevolence and justice will surely win the support and help of most people; if he fails to do so, the people will be absolved of all loyalty to him.

Mecinus

Suchness

In Buddhism,the word “suchness” is used to mean “the essence or particular characteristics of a thing or a person, its true nature.” Each person has his or her suchness. If we want to live in peace and happiness with a person, we have to see the suchness of that person. Once we see it, we understand him or her, and there will be no trouble. We can live peacefully and happily together.

When webring natural gas into our homes for heating and we know the suchness of gas. We know that gas is dangerous – it can kill us if we are not mindful. But we also know that we need the gas in order to cook, so we do not hesitate to bring it in to our homes.The same is true of electricity. We could get electrocuted by it, but when we are mindful, it can help us, and there is no problem, because we know something about the suchness of electricity. A person is the same. If we do n o t know enough about the suchness of that person‘, we may get ourselves into trouble. But if we know,then we can enjoy each other very much and benefit a lot from one another. The key is knowing a person’s suchness. We do not expect a person always to be a flower. We have to understand his or her garbage as well.

Reference: Peace Is Every Step p. 68-69 by Thich Nhat Hanh

Our Life Is a Work of Art

After a retreat in southern California, an artist asked me,“What is the way to look at a flower so that I can make the most of it for my art?” I said, “If you look in that way, you cannot be in touch with the flower. Abandon all your projects so you can be with the flower with no intention of exploiting it or getting something from it.” The same artist told me, “When I am with a friend, I want to profit from him or her.” Of course we can profit from a friend, but a friend is more than a source of profit. Just to be with a friend, without thinking to ask for his or her support, help, or advice, is an art.

It has become a kind of habit to look at things with the intention of getting something. We call it “pragmatism,” and we say that the truth is something that pays. If we meditate in order to get to the truth, it seems we will be well paid. In meditation, we stop, and we look deeply. We stop just to be there, to be with ourselves and with the world. When we are capable of stopping, we begin to see and, if we can see, we understand. Peace and happiness are the fruit of this process. We should master the art of stopping, in order to really be with our friend and with the flower.

How can we bring elements of peace to a society that is very used to making profit? How can our smile be the source of joy and not just a diplomatic maneuver? When we smile to our- selves, that smile isnot diplomacy; it isthe proofthat we areour- selves, that we have full sovereignty over ourselves. Can we write a poem on stopping, aimlessness, or just being? Can we paint something about it? Everything we do is an act of poetry or a paintingifwe do it with mindfulness. Growing lettuce is poetry. Walking to the supermarket can be a painting.

When we do not trouble ourselves about whether or not something is a work of art, if we just act in each moment with composure and mindfulness, each minuteofour life is a work of art. Even when weare not paintingor writing, we are still creating. We are pregnant with beauty, joy, and peace, and we are making life more beautiful for many people. Sometimes it is better not to talk about art by using the word “art.” If we just act with awareness and integrity, our art will flower, and we don’t have to talk about it at all. When we know how to be peace, we find that art is a wonderful way to share our peacefulness. Artistic expression will take place in one way or another, but the being is essential.So we must go back to ourselves, and when we have joy and peace in our selves, our creations of art will be quite natural, and they will serve the world in a positive way.

Reference: Peace Is Every Step p. 39-40 by Thich Nhat Hanh