11 August (Day 14)
We bid our host, Dharma Master Ting Kuang, goodbye and drive on to Tangkat, a small town some forty minutes away. By now, we have gathered a rather sizeable retinue of Buddhist believers, who follow us in their own cars or buses wherever we go. They come because they want to hear the Dharma and draw near to the Abbot. It is not uncommon to see people who have taken no-pay leaves from work for two or three weeks or more, just to travel through part of the country with us. The younger monks, too, show up at various cities, eager to bow to the Abbot’s light.
Tangkat is a small community of Fukienese. We drive to the town hall where over three hundred people have gathered. This is not part of our planned schedule. The Buddhist societies, having heard that we are in the vicinity, jump at the chance of inviting us. The Abbot kindly consents to administering a refuge ceremony.
In this less than prosperous, somewhat sombre town the Abbot’s tone and message change to suit the occasion. He speaks about the three sufferings: the suffering within suffering, the suffering of decay, and the suffering of process; he also speaks of the six paramitas (giving, patience morality, vigor, samadhi, wisdom). These basic Buddhist truths come to life, sprinkled liberally with delightful stories that are loaded with the teaching.
For the first time in our trip the Abbot transmits a two-lined mantra for opening great wisdom. The time must be right. “This is a secret Dharma from the Shurangama Mantra. It’s hard to encounter in a thousand kalpas. Those who recite this mantra a thousand times each day are guaranteed to open great wisdom.”
The people are grateful; fascinated. We drive to a layperson’s house for lunch. Then we are on our way to the city of Seremban, some one and a half hours away.
This is a large Cantonese community. The town is prosperous and only a bit smaller than Kuala Lumpur. We arrive at Miao Ying Ssu (Wonderful Response Temple) in the afternoon and are welcomed by a rousing lion dance and leis of orchids and cassia. About a hundred lay people hover around in glee, chattering like happy and excited children. The Abbot, Dharma Master Chi Kung (“Still Brightness”) comes out to greet us, sporting his precept sash. This is the first Dharma Master who has donned a sash of his own accord. An auspicious sign.
The temple is spacious, with the back part totally converted into a clinic. Dharma Master Kuang is a capable Chinese physician and acupuncturist. He attends to scores of patients each day, working tirelessly to relieve them of their illnesses. A pungent rush of moxa perfumes the air.
News of our success has preceded us. We are now hailed as the “Victorious Army in Buddhism”. Several reporters crowd around the Abbot. He gives one of is rare interviews. His words are humorous, gentle, and he treats them with a touching, paternal affection. The reporters are delighted by his simple, to-the-point explanations of Buddhist theory.
In the evening we drive to the town hill. A crowd of over fifteen hundred has gathered. Another lion dance and hail of drums and gongs signifies a heady triumphant entry for the Dharma. The Abbot throws another “bomb”, this time about the sashes that left-home people should wear, in order to manifest the appearance of Bhikshu and Bhikshuni. It so happens that about five or six younger Dharma Masters who have heard the Abbot give a similar exhortation in Kuala Lumpur are all sporting their sashes. You can see their visible joy at being in accord with Dharma. Dharma Master Chi Kuang beams like a young man. Later at night, a heavy rain falls, bringing cool relieve to the air.
Daily our activities intensify in pitch, and daily there is need for direction, digestion, and assimilation. Our group tightens as each member becomes more aware of the ineffable tangents and subtleties each of us contributes to our mission.
As the Abbot said in a speech yesterday upon arrival at Miao Ying Ssu.
“The ten people in this group can conjure up a thousand changes and transformations. They can create something from nothing and return this something to nothing again. The reason is that all these people are very different, each having his or her independent viewpoint. Now, I will use an auspicious Chinese saying to describe us: 十全十美 (ten perfect and ten beautiful). So you can see that Wonderful Response Temple is really getting a wonderful response today (applause). It is not that we are boasting. Rather, I see that the flower of Buddhism has already blossomed in Malaysia, and now we’re waiting for it to bear fruit.”
Tonight the town hall is even more packed. People stand in the isles as well as outside the hall for well over three hours, and some for four. Strangely enough, it never rains right before or during lectures. It has been like this so far, a very uncanny miracle for a country that is deep into the monsoon season.
An expectant hush always descends upon the audience. As soon as the Earth Store Sutra is being explained, a noticeable glow pervades the atmosphere. Little babies stop crying, young and old sit riveted to their seats, some with mouths slightly agape. The Abbot deftly twirls his invisible Prajna sword and blow after blow eases away the dark knots of obstinacy and lack of understanding. A visible relaxation takes place at the end of every session, and there is much light and ease. I have never seen anything else but the Dharma fill people with so much joy from within. This joy emanates straight from the heart and is not dependent upon any external force.
To be able to observe and absorb daily the Abbot’s words, gestures, and every move in all circumstances is to be handed precious jewels – Dharma tools of invaluable worth. As the Abbot always says,
“I don’t know whether my answers to your questions are correct or not; however, it’s up to you to do your own investigation. From investigating truth you open up your own wisdom. You should not listen to me blindly.”
The Bodhisattva … universally bestows all good roots upon living beings,
With certainty bringing them to maturity. He teaches and transforms with
Equality, with no trace of marks, no conditions, no measure, no falsehood –
Apart from all discriminations, grasping, and attachment.
Avatamsaka Sutra, Ten Dedications Chapter
13 August (Day 16)
Real change starts at home. In addition to really desiring to change, one needs a Good Knowing Advisor to point the Way. Then one has to travel down that road by oneself with unwavering resolution, vigor, and cheerfulness. A joyous heart is essential, for without the buffer of happiness, any pilgrimage of this intensity will deteriorate into a drag. So we learn not to be so pompous or to take ourselves so seriously, to laugh at our own mistakes and changes without fretting over them.
The other say the Abbot mentioned in a lecture a state I had about a year ago, something which I had forgotten and which happened just before I was to leave home. Sitting at night I saw myself dressed in a dark robe kneeling at a precept platform. The Abbot, the image of compassion, was presiding over the ceremony. With a vajra jeweled sword, he smote off my head in one clean and painless blow. Then he took another head and put it on instantly. The Abbot said in the lecture at Tangkat, “When you wish to open great wisdom, you should first ask Kuan Yin Bodhisattvas to change your head for you. Kuan Yin has so many heads that she can spare one for you.” In a way, this statement sums up what all of us, particularly in the group, are going through. The revolution begins from inside out. A tiny seed, smaller than an atom, starts to transform; it cracks, glows, and reassembles, becoming more and more diamond-like each day.
As cultivation intensifies, the “ante” mounts. The higher you climb, the greater the stakes. Cultivation is a curious game of working alone and then together with others. Investigating Ch'an is a chess you play with yourself. You end birth and death alone; nobody tags along for the ride. Yet, in the process you take all living beings cross at the same time. You work with Dharma peers with whom you share deep affinities and vows. The reason why we’re greeted everywhere with so much enthusiasm is in part because of the tightness and integrity of the entire group. The concern we have for one another in the area of the spiritual growth is the backbone of our unity. Among ourselves we rarely talk, except during our morning meetings. Yet, many feel our energy, many are moved by it. Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au continually make “gasoline” for the group, largely because they do not talk, making the impact of their vows that much stronger. When one person shines, he shines; when ten people of like mind shine together, they shine like a thousand suns.
Interestingly enough, this is where the tests come in. The Way is a double-edged sword. “When you cultivate well, you gain Dharma treasures, then you have to be discreet and protect your light. Aside from respecting others, you should also make sure that your actions are worthy of your own respect. If we do things that cannot face the light, if we are the slightest bit casual, then we will stumble.”
Cause and effect also become more severe and instantaneous as we progress: not a single chance for indulgence. You wander off just a bit, and the results hit you before you know it. Heng Ch'au and Kuo T’ung are both sick. The Abbot says it is because they cannot put down women. This ignorance flares up in all ways, namely, in the cravings for wealth, food, sleep, comfort, fame, and so forth. However, the strongest pull is still sexual desire. This is the formidable one: flames in the hells, snakes in a bottomless pit – do you dare play with fire?
Dung-sweeping, poor son
In the Belief and Understanding Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha relates the analogy of the poor son who left his palatial home and wealthy father to wander in the bowels of life for some fifty years. His aging and compassionate father pines for him day and night, wishing his son to return to a jeweled bequest which is his rightful heritage.
One day, the son finally returns. However, having been tossed and turned enough by the winds of destitution, he’s actually forgotten about his own father and his origins. When the elder sends attendants to fetch him, the son panics and flees. He runs to a nearby village and takes on the lowliest menial labor as a dung sweeper. He has gotten used to the stench. At the moment he cannot conceive of higher possibilities for his own life.
Isn’t this the way most people are? Like dung beetles in a latrine, vying with each other to see who makes the best dung balls. And when someone takes us out to a room full of good-smelling orchids, we downright suffer a stroke because we cannot handle the fragrance.
So, we scramble back to the latrine in an awful hurry … still playing with dung balls.
The Movie Reel (Wheel)
The first time I came to Gold Mountain to see the Abbot, he asked me:
“What do you want to do with your life?”
I said, “I wish to become a movie director.”
At that time I was working in media – television, film production, screen writing, etc. Waiting for my big break.
“Well, don’t you think that life is the best movie?” said the Abbot as he leaned over and gave me a penetrating smile.
“Hmmm…,” I didn’t say anything at that time, but the comment has stuck with me ever since.
You see, life is the best movie. And if you can direct this one, you’ve got it made. Think big. Don’t settle for being a small-time director, trying to make the pieces fit through endless manipulation, cajoling, and bitter frustration. The “real” or “big time” director is one who directs without directing, for he is already in total communion with the entire script, the Grand Picture.
The law of Heaven and Earth, the Tao, is the great director. Mountains and oceans corrode and are reclaimed, the stars and planets course along in orbit, all things are born, dwell, disintegrate, and return to emptiness from which they came. The Tao is impartial; it embraces all things and makes no discriminations. So what is the big deal about a human being roaming the face of the Earth? Ultimately how are we different from the millions of tiny bugs that crawl along the dirt?
After you’ve been humbled and brought down a few notches you can start perceiving the Cosmic picture with a wider angle. Your mind’s eye is the best camera. It has a magical lens: the big become the small, the small become the big, many become one, the one becomes many, and on to infinity – the million things in the universe are mutually unobstructive and interpenetrating.
Nowadays I don’t go out looking for movies. The best picture show is going on right inside my own back yard: you are the camera, the players, the script, the director, the whole show. You are your own universe.
A scrumptious lunch that tops all the scrumptious lunches we’ve had so far is served to us today. Ever since yesterday, about twenty women have been milling around the large kitchen, chopping and preparing. The entire place is decked with food: spring rolls, dumplings, chaio-tzu, about fifteen varieties of bean curd, salads, fruits, pastries – you name it, they’ve brought it all to Seremban.
At lunch over seventy people show up, including about twenty Bhikshu and Bhikshuni, all wearing their sashes. Hurrah! We exchange bows.
At night, the Abbot concludes a scintillating Dharma Assembly. As usual, there is a clamor of questions and answers. A brief selection:
Q: Are people afraid of ghosts, or are ghosts afraid of people?
A: By your first question, you must have assumed there to be ghosts already, so why bother to ask? As for your second question, when people have ghosts in their minds, then people are afraid of ghosts; when people have no ghosts in their minds, then the ghosts are afraid of people! (laughter)
Q: Some people claim that it is not necessary to take refuge in the Triple Jewel and still consider themselves orthodox Buddhists; is this correct?
A: Take studying, for example. If you want to graduate from elementary school, you have to complete the appropriate years in elementary school; if you want to graduate from high school, you have to finish your years of high school study; the same goes for college from a B.A., M.A., to Ph.D. degree, you still have to complete the corresponding courses of studies before you can actually graduate… taking refuge in the Triple Jewel within Buddhism works in this same way.
Q: Where do people come from?
A: Have you seen bugs in grains of rice? Originally there was nothing, then suddenly the bugs appear, as if from nowhere. People arise from real emptiness, according to a similar principle.
The Abbot has the last word amidst a lot of laughter and good vibrations;
“We have been fed so much good food ever since we started, that our delegation has decided to take action if you continue to feed us so well, we’ll have to go on strike. We’ll simply not eat. Better still, we have a proposal: just give us simple food. We ask to eat our fill, but not more than that. Rice, bread, only a few vegetable dishes lightly cooked - - that’s all we request. It hurts us to see so much good food go to waste. Now that I’ve made this public announcement, I hope you’ll help this Dharma Master and keep him from stuffing himself to death?
People are surprised and delighted. At about 11:30 p.m. we drive back to the temple. The audience sat with us for four hours. Many of them stood that long. The two monks bowed non-stop that long as well. They always bow during lecture-time, right next to the podium.
14 August (Day 17)
In the morning we return to Kuala Lumpur for a brief stop-over, and then off to the Cameron Highlands for the start of the next leg of our journey. The lunch at Hoeh Beng Temple is markedly different from our previous meals.
“We’ve gathered that the Venerable Abbot and his disciples really mean what they said last night, so we’ve tried to make adjustments in the menu. We hope this will be more to your taste,” say the laypeople.
The food is simple – the first meal we’ve eaten that goes down well.
Kuo T’ung is still sick with stomach cramps and diarrhea. The Abbot chides him constantly about his penchant for the girls. Kuo T’ung knows the reason for his own sickness. The law of cause and effect works without fail. If you do not cultivate, you’re let off more easily; but, if you have brought forth vows and resolves, you’d better pursue them to the end. After only much tribulation and bitterness can the plant bear fruit.
We start shortly after twelve and drive north. The city recedes, and the countryside takes over. The vegetation thickens as we begin our climb towards the highland, a large plateau averaging 4,500 feet above sea level. We drive through thick, wet jungles where large, lush ferns, colius, giant creepers, and coconut trees dip from the mountain slopes all the way to the roadside like long fingers. The road winds around like a broad, gray snake. We meander past tea plantations and Tudor mansions, some leftover splendors from the colonial days. Cameron Highlands is a famous summer resort for tourists and the wealthy.
After about five hours, we approach our destination. Perched on a five-thousand-foot hilltop, a spectacular temple of the Ten Thousand Buddhas (Triple Gem Temple) rise majestically out of a sea of clouds and pines. The format of the temple is traditional Chinese. We first enter the front hall, where a huge fifteen-foot statue of Wei Tou Bodhisattva and the Four Guardian Kings preside. The main hall houses a twenty-foot gilt statue of Shakyamuni Buddha. On his two sides are equally impressive attendant Bodhisattvas, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva astride a blue-white elephant with six gold-tipped tusks, and Manjushri Bodhisattva wielding his jade scepter and riding an emerald-green lion. In other halls are a handsome statue of Earth Store Bodhisattva sitting on a unicorn, an exquisite many-handed Junti Bodhisattva, as well as gilt images of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. This is the largest temple we’ve seen so far in Malaysia – it can easily hold two thousand people. The ground floor has several halls of worship, plus a large kitchen and mess hall. The next two floors hold conference rooms and bedrooms. The temple was completed two years ago and celebrated a grand opening ceremony.
The Abbot, the Elder Dharma Master Ben Tao, is in seclusion. He has particularly requested to see the Abbot.
We climb a flight of steps to the top floor; there in an attic, behind a door that is perpetually locked, resides the old Dharma Master, now one and a half years into his seclusion. As we arrive, his head peers through a crack from a window that he opens from the inside. Dharma Master Ben Tao’s hair is snowy white; he is eighty-one.
“Today my temple is honored with the arrival of a great and venerable guest. I’ve admired the Venerable One’s repute even way back in China.”
He lays out his bowing cloth and bows deeply from behind the locked door.
“Ah… and so many young American disciples with you!”
“We’re giving the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to world Buddhism; would you like to come and join us?” the Abbot asks.
“Tsk, tsk – I’m old; I’ve gone into seclusion in an attempt to get rid of my heavy karmic obstructions.”
“ ‘One should understand karmic obstructions as originally empty; however if one is not finished with it, then quickly pay up old debts.’ I hope the old Dharma Master would make good use of his time in seclusion, and open up great wisdom,” the Abbot smiles gently.
Not wishing to disturb the elder Dharma Master any further, we go back downstairs to a welcoming party. Cakes, pastries, and soda pop is served. Our group sticks to tea.
One would expect a busy and vibrant atmosphere, yet we find the opposite. The vibrations inside the temple leave haunting questions – empty resplendence, vacant elegance, slumbering ghosts? We feel so much hidden resentment and resistance – disgruntled businessmen amble back and forth in between cigarette puffs; dark-eyed Hindu servants speak of injustices without words. The halls are full of silent statues.
Why the discord, the sizzling repressed anger? We’ve felt it in other Way Places too. not directed at us, but it hangs around the rafters, encircles the walls, screeches from the bedposts – all speak their dharma. The anger comes from impure precepts, from bickering, money and power-grabbing among lay disciples, from political games and jealousy among Sanghins vying for Dharma-protectors and offerings. In short, it’s a direct result of not understanding true principle.
Buddhism in Asia is like a living organism ridden with cancer. Worms work from the inside out. Someone asks the Abbot what it takes to learn to be a Buddha, and he replies,
“First learn to be a real person. Don’t learn to be a dog. If you cannot even behave like an upright person, you’re too far from being a Buddha. Confucius said,
A superior person sets up his foundation.
When the foundation is set up, the Way arises.
The Way is just a method for cultivation; it means shaping a lofty character and establishing virtue.
Once a person’s way is accomplished,
The Buddha’s way will be achieved.
In being a person, there is need to build a firm foundation. Just as when building a skyscraper; the ground must be very solid. If an individual is likened to a small house, then Buddhism is a huge skyscraper, including all and everything within it.
Buddhism is just the art of being a person. It means, ‘In your words, maintain good faith; in your actions, merit respect.’ You have to practice what you preach, and in your actions, start out by respecting yourself. If you do not even respect yourself and do things that cannot face the light, then how can you expect others to respect you? So, in everything you do, do not be casual or sneaky. The Buddha is just a perfected being. He didn’t descend from the sky or rise up from the earth. He just cultivated the ten thousand conducts and six paramitas to perfection.
Why have we not become Buddhas yet? Because we have not seen through it and put it down. We haven’t even become real people. From now on, you should try to get rid of your selfishness and your attachments to money, sex, fame, food, and sleep. After perfecting the way of a person, you’ll attain Buddhahood quite naturally.”
After lecture the hall lights up. Even in dark places the light of truth breaks through. People exchange their pained frowns for smiles. The spiritual hunger of these people pains our hearts.
15 August (Day 18)
We wind down the mountain in the morning. After three hours of zigzagging through jungle countryside, we arrive at Ipoh, a stronghold of Buddhism in the north. After lunch we arrive at Tze Tzu Lin (Purple Bamboo Grove), a large temple run by five or six Bhikshunis. A score of laywomen and several young girls live here.
At 2 p.m. there is a welcoming tea-party, attended by the local press and the main Buddhist societies. Heng Sure gives a rousing introduction to the meeting:
“If we cannot even do what the Buddha taught us to do – in the very least attend morning and evening recitation and sing the meal-offering chant before meals, if we do not wear our precept sashes, how can we call ourselves left-home people?”
Quite a few raised eyebrows; most people wake up from their afternoon doldrums. Then I speak:
“I can’t make myself say pleasant things but must speak to you truthfully from my heart. I trust all of you have the wisdom to discriminate between right and wrong. Why has Small Vehicle degenerated to such a state in Asia, a land where it originally came from? Why are we ridiculed and met with disbelief the world over, particularly by people with learning? Because right within the Triple Jewel we corrupt ourselves, gossiping and fighting. If Sanghins run after money and fame, lay people are led to be even more unruly. We are worms feeding off the lion’s flesh; we wallow in superstitions and external show, and we forget to look deep within our hearts.”
Then the Abbot speaks:
“I have disciples who are as stupid as myself, and they do not know how to say pleasant things. I am this way too, yet I want to speak the truth. What is it? the greatest problem within Buddhism right now is selfishness and self-seeking. Sects pit themselves against sects, temples against temples, and Dharma Masters against Dharma Masters. What was originally a perfect religion is divided up by political factions, much hatred, and small-mindedness. If we cannot unite ourselves within Buddhism, there is even less chance that we can be open to other religions of the world. This is the space age, but why boast about travel to other stars and galaxies when we haven’t even straightened out our own planet? Why should left-home people be greedy for money and offerings? Haven’t we left-home just to transcend the three realms? If we like money so much, we needn’t leave home. There are plenty of money-earning occupations in lay life.”
Local big-shot Dharma Masters are given a whack over the head. Buddhist disciples are either disturbed or ecstatic – no one remains unmoved. The floor is opened up for questions and they come in a vehement torrent, with lay people rapidly firing questions like arrows. The delegation answers with brevity, firmly and to the point. The press is particular impressed. All afternoon reporters hound us.
The message has been transmitted – Buddhism is new and alive in the West. And now we’re going full circle again. East and West must work together to propagate the Proper Dharma.
Tonight a crowd of over a thousand comes to Tze Tzu Lin. News of our campaign has traveled. Some have come to hear the Dharma; some, no doubt, have been propelled by curiosity to check out this American Buddhist delegation.
The Abbot’s teaching is a continuation of this afternoon’s speech:
“Left-home people should see through such things as money and fame. Why should left-home people hoard a lot of money anyway? Therefore, I urge – if we are at all intent upon reforming the Dharma – that Sanghins give up holding private assets under their own names. They should give them to the Central Assembly. Take, for example, the Catholics: the central government is in the Vatican, and all the legislation and resources are controlled there by a central committee. Priests every where do not keep private assets. They receive a given allowance per month for their needs, but they do not dabble in business. They probably have realized the trouble that money can get one into. If you don’t have money, you keep on cultivating; but once you have money, your head gets turned. The reason this is called the Dharma Ending Age is precisely because people have forgotten to cultivate. They are bound by the chains of the five desires.
In Buddhism, what we lack most is healthy education institutions. Without schools and dissemination of Buddhist principles, how can people recognize Buddhism for its true worth? Will people respect us if we are immersed in external show and superstitions? For this reason I have vowed to translate the holy Sutras into all the languages of the world. This is a project of government in order to be truly feasible. Yet, we have started from nothing. From 1968 until the present, the Institute of the Translation of Buddhist Texts has translated thirty volumes of the Sutras. Dharma Realm Buddhism University and the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas arose as a direct response to the need of our present time. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas simply sprang forth from the earth, because the time is ripe.
I’ve decided to dedicate the City to the entire world – to Buddhists of the entire world and to people of other religions as well. Buddhism has begun afresh in America. I have vowed that wherever I go, I’ll only allow the Proper Dharma to thrive.
Now America is a leader among the countries of the world, and if Buddhism catches on there, other countries will be influenced, provided we practice the true Dharma. I am giving the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas as the headquarters of World Buddhism, a place where Buddhists from all countries, and people of other religions as well, can come to study and cultivate in harmony. Next year, in the fall, there will be a Grand Opening Ceremony of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Dharma Realm Buddhism University. We will hold an International Convention of Buddhism, during which time we will elect a world leader of Buddhism. We’ve been too long without any organization, without any focus. In order to be strong again, we need a central government. The solution to our critical situation is to be without selfishness. If we put down our won attachment s to money and fame, and give ourselves up solely to the thriving of Buddhism, there is no doubt that our religion will spread to every corner throughout all of Empty Space.”
A rousing teaching. What amazes people is the Abbot’s unconditional gift of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas to the entire world. It will probably be hard to find any other Dharma Master, even a billionaire, who is willing to give away a city of such magnificence, and all for free. The Abbot says:
“I have observed the conditions of our time. Only this move can save Buddhism from impending total destruction.”
So, “Revolution is the Sangha’s work,” in every moment. Resistance gives way to acceptance and respect. After lecture we’re rushed by hundreds of people. They always linger outside our rooms until around 1:00 in the morning. The number of the Abbot’s admirers is, of course, even more overwhelming. He compassionately allots certain hours in the day to receiving audiences. But at all times, people are waiting outside of his room, eager to take a look, steal a word, snatch even a smile. If you ask them what they want, most of them are hard put to tell you. But the light of a sage attracts with no movement away from itself. People are drawn in naturally like iron filings to a magnet.
All through this, the Abbot remains unattached, calmly embraced in free-and-easy playful Samadhi. He assumes as low a profile as he can get away with, letting his disciples bathe in the limelight.
I am just a little ant, a mosquito. All my disciples here are Masters or Ph.D.s, they have a lot more intelligence than I. Besides, I do not wish to walk in front of anybody; I want to walk behind all Buddhists.”
The sage stays behind, thus he is ahead.
He is unattached, thus at one with all.
Through selfless action, he attains fulfillment.
Tao Te Ching
The Ego Dies Hard
The “self” has a million transformations. Some are gross enough to detect right off the bat, some are very subtle: seeds of defilement hidden in the eighth consciousness that float around like dust particles in the air. Just as it is hard to perceive dust motes in empty space, it is equally as hard to perceive the almost imperceptible, crooked ways with which we cheat ourselves. And so we make excuses lifetime after lifetime, never really growing up.
The ego will try any trick to avoid direct confrontation with the truth: that the self is basically empty I for one have had several close brushes with death already, and I’ve found that the “ego” is willing to commit suicide before it’ll own up to the truth. It’s bad, a spoiled brat.
What is the antidote? Practicing the Three Studies of Non Outflow: Precepts, Concentration, and Wisdom. They are designed to directly plug the leaks caused by the three poisons: greed, anger, and stupidity.
Your mind is the world’s most subtle and delicate instrument. The more you plug up the leaks, the more precise and finely-honed your instrument becomes. It’s the archer who in the end makes himself the target.
Anger is another manifestation of Ignorance, wu-ming (literally, “without light”). It is an ugly, writhing dragon, or a ripping hurricane, that hurls all beings into its mad, destructive violence. When you get angry at people, or direct hateful or jealous thoughts toward them, you kill them with your nature. The result is as lethal as if you were smiting them with a club or knife. When you get angry at yourself, you kill the living beings within your own nature. In either case it causes pain and offence karma.
A single thought of hatred arises,
A million doors of obstruction open up.
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