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Listen to Yourself: Think Everything Over
Dreaming within a Dream
Now I will speak some crazy words, which are not in accord with any rules or regulations. What sort of crazy words? We are all living in a dream, we are all talking in dream-talk!
You run off to the east, you run off to the west, you run off to the south, you run off to the north, you run off to the upper direction, you run off to the lower direction—to the point that you run all over empty space and the Dharma Realm, seeking for what you believe you want. However, from the day of your birth to the moment of your death, whatever you may have sought after, whether or not you obtained it, is of no significance—you have just wasted your time.
If you get what you seek, temporarily you’ll feel happy and satisfied. But after a certain amount of time, you’ll start growing tired and bored with it, feeling that it has become meaningless and insipid. Huang You-chun, in his Ode in the Orchid Pavilion, put it very distinctly.
People meet, gazing up and looking down
--that’s how they spend their entire lives
Perhaps they will meet in a room and exchange their views.
Due to circumstances, they become very indulgent, devoid of propriety.
When they behold that which they like,
momentarily they are infatuated and content,
And they do not notice the coming of old age.
By-and-by they grow tired, and their
sentiments change with the passing of events.
This causes them great remorse, and then things take an unhappy turn.
They become sour, and many unpleasant situations arise.
Isn’t this worthy of regret?
In the past people have behaved this way; people of the present behave this way; and people of the future will behave in the same way. So it is said,
When those of the future regard the present,
It will be just like us of the present when we regard the past.
When contemplating this, you should ponder: from the time of birth until the time of death, what are people chasing after?” It’s nothing but desire! ! Desire. Some pursue the desire for leadership; some pursue the desire for wealth; some pursue the desire for sex; some pursue the desire for fame, recognition and benefit. To put it in a nut-shell, although their variations may be many, they are all after the same thing.
Do we live in the world only in order to pursue those meaningless things? No! Then what are we living for? Our sole purpose on earth is to wake up from this dream we are in. Don’t dream on within a dream, lingering on in your dream, not willing to let go. You should awaken from it! Not only should you awaken yourself, but you should help everyone else wake from their dreams as well. After you wake up, you will no longer be so upside down. Before you awaken from your dream, if someone were to tell you, “Hey, do you know? You are living in a dream! No matter how much wealth you have, no matter what high official post you may have gained or how successful your career has been, it’s all happened within a dream!” you would certainly not believe that person. But just wait until you wake up from your dream, then you will know, “Oh! Originally it was just a dream!”
What do I mean by “living in a dream”? If you weren’t living in a dream, then why have you forgotten everything about the past? Why can’t you foresee events of the future? Why can’t you make the present remain? You do not have a grasp on any of these things. Tell me, what in this world is ultimately yours?
Someone says, “My body belongs to me.”
Well, if your body really belongs to you, can you keep your eyes from becoming hazy? Can you stop your ears from growing deaf? Can you keep your teeth from falling out?
You say, “I can take care of all of that; no problem. If my eyes grow dim, I can put on a pair of contact lenses, and then I’ll be able to see.”
But that is borrowing from external conditions; they are not your own.
“If my ears grow deaf, I can use a hearing aid.”
That’s also borrowing from external conditions and not using your own resources.
“If my teeth fall out, I can put on dentures.”
That is also borrowing from external conditions; none of those things belong to you. Only people who are spineless borrow from external conditions. People with back-bone stand on their own two feet, they try their best without cease, and they do not rely on outer conditions.
If this body really belongs to you, you will be able to tell your hair not to turn white, tell your feet not to hurt, tell your head not to ache, tell your body not to get sick—only that can be counted as having some control. But since you are not in control, you should realize that the body is just a false combination of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind. If it’s all false anyway, why should you become so upside down because of it? Even if you become so upside down over it, in what way will it repay you? Tell me.
Therefore, we in this world should put down all of our attachments. Put down the false, take up the true—only then will our lives have some meaning to them. Do not dream on within a dream, taking your dream as real and not waking up from it.