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

Real Love

We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. We must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, and of the person we love. This is the ground of real love. You cannot resist loving another person when you really understand him or her.

From time to time, sit close to the one you love, hold his or her hand, and ask, “Darling, do I understand you enough? Or am I making you suffer? Please tell me so that I can learn to love you properly. I don’t want to make you suffer, and if I do so because of my ignorance, please tell me so that I can love you better, so that you can be happy.” If you say this in a voice that communicates your real openness to understand, the other person may cry.

That is a good sign, because it means the door of understanding is opening and everything will be possible again. Maybe a father does not have time or is not brave enough to ask his son such a question. Then the love between them will not be as full as it could be. We need courage to ask these questions, but if we don’t ask, the more we love, the more we may destroy people are love. True love needs understanding.

With understanding, the one we love will certainly flower.

Reference: Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh

Mind does not know mind

Mind does not know mind;
having a mind, one does not see mind.
Producing thought is confusion;
no thoughts is nirvana.

The Buddhas attain liberation by way of mind;
the mind, without defilement, is called pure:
immaculate in all states of being, it does not take on form.
Those who understand this attain the great Way.

Reference: Stopping and Seeing: Comprehensive Course in Buddhist Meditation by Chih-i (Translated by Thomas Cleary) p. 59

Zhuang Zi’s eight kinds of methods for health cultivation

Zhuang Zi is one of the prominent philosophers in the era of the Warring States. He has done much study about man’s spirit, integrity, nature-cultivation, heart-cultivation and advocated the nature-cultivation of unselfishness, few desires, quietness and transcendence.

Unselfishness. In the opinion of Zhuang Zi, selfishness is the origin of all evils and diseases. One is certain to worry about the gain and loss for everything and be in a state of restlessness if he is often self-centered and calculative and then overstrains of his body and exhaustion of his essence will ensue in a long run. In order to live for a long life one should be broad-minded, high-spirited, optimistic, free from fame and gain and unselfish.

Few desires. Neither abstinence from desires nor self-indulgence is helpful to nature-cultivation. Self-indulgence is certain to make one get into trouble or catch a disease. One won’t cheat or humiliate the other sex with little sexual passion. One won’t murder for money with little desire for substance. One won’t feign compliance, cut corners, play down the others and boost oneself with little desire for power. One who know his honour and disgrace and his place can be called the man with the nature of justice, honest and unselfishness who can be healthy and live at rest. In the present time, there is too much temptation all over the world. Most people are hunting for the happiness of substance and impatient, and someone is addicted in the desire for power, profit, sex, greed and hobbies. One will lose his temper and take it out on others when he is dissatisfied with what he had. Thereafter, those bad emotions such as worry, anxiety, depression, mourn, regret and anger will ensue and hurt his body.

Quietness. One can’t be affected by disaster nor attacked by exogenous pathogen with mental stability as well as indifference to fame or gain in the daily life and social intercourse. Quietness can restrain anger, rid of worry, settle down the mind and cultivate the health. Rather than thinking of nothing, quietness is one kind of mind state that should make one be far from the music and sex pleasure, out of win or loss, gain or loss, honour or disgrace, neither worry nor overstrain should exist. There is too much spirit-dispersing temptation including money, rank, fame and gain, beauty etc in the world. In this confused world, one should keep calm and out of power, fame and gain, money and scene of debauchery. Such mind state will make those bad emotions like nervousness, worry, anger, jealousy and hatred far from you and keep your mind calm. Quietness can make your mind at rest, Qi and blood circulation normal and then the modulation of your body will be normal and you will be healthy and live a long life.

Transcendence. There is a vivid metaphor in the book of Zhuang Zi, which the pheasant in waters can survive because of their optimism. They enjoy their lives, peck and drink something from time to time. It is not the same for the caged birds. It is certain that one will worry if he is imprisoned in the spirit shackles. That will be harmful to his health. Therefore, he advocates that one should be optimistic and open-minded, not be moved by grief and joy and enjoy his life. Zhuang Zi looks upon the life in an unprejudiced manner and let the nature take its course. He lives a hard life and from hand to mouth sometimes. He doesn’t care about all of that. His wife was dead and Hui Zi went to mourn for her. He started to sing instead of weeping. Hui Zi criticized him for his singing. He said calmly: at first, I am very sad about her death, and then I thought about carefully how man comes and goes in this world. I have the idea that man changes from the non-biotic substance. Figure takes shape and man has a life when Qi gathers. Man is dead when Qi scatters. Now my wife’s body is dead and will change into non-biotic substance. So I celebrate and say a farewell to my wife for her regression to the nature in the way of singing with beating the tub. What he said is not certain to be reasonable, but his transcendent and open-minded manner treating his life is worth advocating.

Reference: Zhuang Zi’s eight kinds of methods for health cultivation jsqg.sport.org.cn

The Tao is near and yet people seek it far away

Those whose vital spirit is scattered outwardly and whose intellectual ruminations ramble inwardly cannot govern their bodies. When what the spirit employs is distant, then what it loses is nearby.

So know the world without going out the door, know the weather without looking out the window; the further out it goes, the less knowledge is. This means that when pure sincerity emerges from within, spiritual energy moves in heaven.

Reference: Title quote from Mencius, Lyrics Wen-Tzu: Understanding the Mysteries 20 p. 26 translated by Thomas Cleary

The Three Precepts

1. Simplifying involvements
2. Not craving anything
3. Queiting the mind

“If people can empty their minds and contrive nothing, it is not that they want the Way, but the Way spontaneously reverts to them”.

Reference: Treatise on sitting forgetting from Taoist Meditation by Thomas Cleary p. 102