Maxims of Master Han Shan
(from Journey to Dreamland)
1. 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 the 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 can’t be found in the ego’s world of changing illusion. No one can drink the water of a mirage.
2. 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 the dark.
3. 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.
4. 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 became 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.
5. 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 the 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 tranquillity. Doesn’t a rough and tumbling stream also sparkle like striking flints – while it polishes into smoothness every stone in its path?
6. 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.
7. 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 the places of temptation? No. 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 large in wisdom we dwarf our old egotistical self. The contest is then over.
8. There are times when we act with unshakable faith in the Dharma even though we don’t understand the situation we’re 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!
9. 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.
10. 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 attained. But what about the man who strives to attain the Dharma? If he succeeds he has gained in that one goal far more than the other three combined. He who has Dharma lacks nothing.
11. 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 that 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?
12. Those who pursue money are always rushed, always busy with urgent matters. Those who pursue the Dharma, go slow and easy. “Boring” you say? Maybe. Maybe it’s downright dreary to stop and smell a flower or listen to a bird. Maybe a glint of gold is really more dazzling than the sight of one’s Original Face. Maybe what we need is a better definition of “treasure”.
13. 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.
14. 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 judgment can arise from it. Remove that speck and see clearly! Remove that dirty thought and think clearly!
15. Great accomplishments are composed of minute details. Those who succeed 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 enlightened person overlooks nothing.
16. 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. A heap of treasures piled in their path will not obstruct their vision. They can see right through them. Gold in the pocket is not gold in the character.
17. 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.
Yet, the tiger can eat only a man’s flesh. Greed can devour his soul.
18. 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.
19. 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 no 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.
20. What are the two most common goals for people who live in the world? Wealth and fame. To gain these goals people are willing to lose everything, including the health of their body, 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.
21. There are people who, though 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.
Undeserved honor is a preface to disgrace.
22. The rich are admired because they’ve 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’s acting badly, he may lose more than his throne. Those who are rich in the Dharma and noble in the Buddha’s Way always retain their wealth and the fealty of the people.
23. By successfully concealing his crimes a person can’t consider himself honorable. He knows he’s done wrong. By constantly bragging a person can’t claim to be famous even though he does hear his name mentioned everywhere he goes. By affecting the manners of holy men monks may receive veneration , but a pious demeanor never made anyone a saint. What are true honor, true recognition and true piety? They are internal qualities, not superficial acts or appearances. When a man’s conscience is free from stain, he is honorable. When his reputation for integrity precedes him, he is famous. When humility and reverence for the Dharma flow naturally out of his character, he is esteemed.
24. If men can’t evade the demands of their father and emperor, what can they do when Death gives them an order? They protest bitterly and scream at heaven, but they’ve got to obey. The man who howls the loudest is the one who thinks he’s just reached the pinnacle of worldly success.
The enlightened understand life and death. They always live well and never complain.
25. People think that if they posses 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.
26. Everything in the universe is subject to change. There’s only one exception: death always follows life. Isn’t 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 really want to live as long as they obviously expect, they’d better pursue the Dharma. Life, death, and change itself are transcended in the Dharmakaya.
27. I glean what the harvesters have overlooked or rejected. So why are their baskets empty while mine is bursting with so much good food? They just didn’t recognize their Buddha Nature when they saw it.
Everything in life depends on the choices we make.
28. 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 can wash his hands.
But isn’t it funny how a man can have 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…
29. If a man carries too many worldly burdens, his body will soon wear out. If he worries about too many worldly problems, his mind will soon collapse. To be so occupied with material things is a dangerous way to live, a foolish waste of energy. A man ought to simplify his needs and use his strength to attain spiritual goals. Nobody ever ruined his mind or body by exercising self-restraint.
30. What, ultimately, is the difference between hardship and pleasure? A hardship is an obstacle and an obstacle is a challenge and a challenge is a way to use one’s Dharma strength. What is more pleasurable than that?
People are always so afraid of hardship. They go through life trying to avoid the difficult and embrace the easy. For me, it’s just the opposite. I don’t discriminate at all between hardship and pleasure. Whether the path ahead of me is difficult or easy, I don’t have hesitate to follow it.
31. People indignantly condemn thieves to steal material goods. I worry about the kind of thief who steals souls. People act to protect their property. They build walls and install security systems. They hang every thief they catch. What measures do they take to protect their minds from corruption and loss?
32. A man with good character is gentle, humble and free of material desires. A man with bad character is harsh, proud, and enslaved by greed. Gentleness indicates greater strength than harshness. Humility is more admirable than insolence. Freedom is always preferred to slavery.
It’s obvious. A man with good character has a better life.
33. There are material gains and spiritual gains. To gain the material objects of its desire, the mind searches the external world. When it seeks spiritual gains, it turns its attention to the heart.
A person ignores his heart becomes attached to the material world. The Dharma seeker looks inward and attends to his heart. That’s where he wants to form attachments.
34. You can’t be comfortable if you’ve got splinters in your skin. Worse, if you don’t get them out, the skin becomes infected. Infected skin becomes necrotic.
It’s the same with the heart. You can’t be comfortable if splinters of greed are stuck in it. And if you don’t get them out, your heart becomes infected. What will you do if your spirit dies?
35. A natural disaster, a so-called Act of God, doesn’t discriminate between its victims. It damages everybody – rich and poor, good and bad.
Whenever you have power over people, keep natural disasters in mind. Be godlike in your fairness.
36. They best way to convert other people to the Dharma Way, is to convert yourself to it first. Be an example for them to follow. One natural act flowing out of good character is more convincing than the most eloquent speech.
37. It’s easier to go from poverty to luxury than it is to go from luxury to poverty. Everybody knows that. Poverty is like being tossed around in troubled water. If a person is alert, he can find a way out. But luxury is like drifting gently in a river current. He’ll fall asleep and won’t wake up until he’s in the ocean. Welcome hardship. Regard rain as so much morning dew. Be afraid of sunny days. It’s hard to climb with the blazing sun on your back.
38. Our Buddha Nature is always clear and bright. If we can’t see because our eyes are darkly veiled with emotional dust. We can’t clean dust with dust and we can’t calm emotions with emotions. So how do we remove that veil? We use Dharma wisdom. Enlightenment lifts the veil and illuminates our Buddha Face.
39. The great quality of wisdom is that it always responds with precisely what’s needed. Like a well-aimed, sharp pointed sword – it always hits the spot. When we grow in wisdom we understand and can control our mind.
A wise person is always kind and considerate. He always sees what’s needed. He lets snow flakes fall on an overheated body. He provides cool water to slake a desperate thirst.
40. The easy path is always so appealing. So why do I prefer the hard way? On the easy path we take things for granted. We get lazy and bored. This is a formula for trouble and loss. When we go the hard way, we know we can’t let our guard down for a moment. We have to stay alert to meet the challenges. Solving problems makes our mind keener and our character stronger. This is achievement! This is true gain!
41. We all have a tendency to like those who listen to our advice and to dislike those who ignore it. We should guard ourselves against this tendency.
If we allow our emotions to influence us, we’re guilty of ignoring the Dharma’s advice. Love and hate can infect consciousness and jeopardize our ability to perceive clearly, to see with unprejudiced eyes. In the darkness we may stumble. When we control our emotions, we preserve the light.
42. People crave sensory stimulation. They enjoy this kind of external excitement. But I consider such craving a form of suffering. Sensory stimulation feeds on itself, grows larger and larger, and develops an ever-increasing appetite. People will destroy themselves and others, too, in trying to satisfy it. Pleasure derived from Dharma wisdom is internal excitement. Happiness grows along with the capacity to enjoy it. When given a choice between enjoyments, enlightened people always choose the Dharma.
43. Look, all worldly successes have their downside. The richer you become, the more pride you have. The higher your rank, the bossier you act. The greater your ambition, the more inconsiderate you are.
Success in the Dharma works differently. The better you become, the better you become.
44. Waves roughen the sea and windmill turn because of the wind. Take away the wind and the sea becomes calm and the windmills come to rest. For every effect there is a cause.
The waves of desire for things in the material world churn our minds, keep up in a constant state of agitation, scrambling in all directions. What do you think could happen if we eliminate desire?
45. The flow of a stream is sluggish if the source is shallow. A water-wheel won’t turn in it. A tall building won’t last if the foundation is shaky. Walls crack and soon the floors collapse. Depth and firmness are indispensable for good work and endurance. The saints knew this. That’s why they rooted themselves deep in the Dharma. They became towers of goodness that nothing could topple. Their enlightenment was a beacon that guided and inspired others for generations.
Don’t be content to study the Dharma, to memorize its surface. Plunge into it. Go as deeply as you can.
46. Limitless heaven and the huge earth are easily seen by the eye; but a tiny piece of lint can destroy that eye’s vision. A heart filled with love can expand into the universe; but a single hateful thought can puncture that heart and let the love drain out. Never underestimate the power of small things. The saints always gave full consideration to the tiniest thoughts.
47. Even though a hundred persons of great erudition predict failure, the wise person who has confidence in this own abilities will persevere and succeed. Even if these same hundred persons predict success, the person who has only knowledge and not the self confidence born of wisdom will fail.
Book knowledge alone gives rise to doubts and doubts cause confusion. In such conditions, no self confidence can develop. But wisdom leads to trust and trust inspires insight and clear thinking. Dharma followers pursue the path of wisdom in order to eliminate doubt and put knowledge to good use.
48. Not too long ago, when a person fell into the gutter, he’d feel such same that he’d vow with his blood to mend his way and never fall again. Nowadays, when a person finds himself in the gutter he sends out invitations for others to come and join him. This is really sad, isn’t it?
49. The only thing we can be sure of is that we cant’ be sure of anything. The only fact that doesn’t change is the fact that all things constantly change. The saints cultivated patience. No matter what situation they found themselves in, they calmly waited. They also understood that in matters of the heart it’s not the object alone that alters, but the subject, too, which proves fickle. Desire just might be the most changeable thing of all.
50. Cultivate the habit of going to sleep early. This is the best regimen for maintaining a strong and peaceful mind. People who stay up late need to show off and entertain their friends. Or else they’re bored and need excitement. Even if they sleep late, they’re still tired when they get up, still sluggish in body and mind. They can’t work or think well at all. People who follow the Dharma lead fuller, richer lives. They don’t need other people for support. Good habits are like muscles, the more they are exercised, the stronger they become.
51. All rivers, large or small, clear or muddy, flow into the ocean and the ocean responds by yielding vapors that become clouds which rain and fill the rivers. That is the cycle.
The saints show love and respect to all people, rich or poor, good or bad. The people, seeing such exquisite fairness, respond venerating the saints and trying to emulate them. This, too, is a cycle.
Regard the Dharma as a river regards the ocean, the source of its very nature and its endlessly renewing destiny. Regard the Dharma as saints regard the people, the object of love and the reward for loving.
52. If you treat other people as other, as separate, or as people different from yourself, you will not be inclined to be fair or merciful in your judgment of them. But if you treat other people as if they were just versions of yourself, you will understand their errors and appreciate their qualities.
Are we not fortunate that this is the way Heaven regards earth.
53. If one sees only superficial forms of matter and does not penetrate the true nature of visual reality, one is spiritually blind.
If one hears only temporary function of noise and does not penetrate to the true nature of auditory reality, one is spiritually deaf.
Forms and sounds are only illusions. We use vision and hearing to determine their essence to understand the true nature of reality.
54. The unstoppable stream of the ego’s conscious thoughts cannot stay still long enough to comprehend the truth. Yet people are always trying to think up a barrier to the flow, to use thoughts to stop thinking. Thoughts are like wildcats. We would never use one wildcat to tame another.
How then do we enter the state of non-thought? We understand the non-substantial nature of both the one who thinks and the thought itself. We understand that in reality there is not even a single tiny thought of a thought, or a thinker either. When we bear witness to this reality, our own testimony liberates us from bondage of thoughts of having no thoughts.
55. The very nature of mind and body is clear and calm and possesses not a single thought. It is the ego that thinks just as it is the ego that thinks that it desires not to think. The ego causes problems it tries to solve. To be empty of ego is to hear the soundless sound, to see the invisible sight, to think the thoughtless thought.
56. When one reaches the state of the thoughtless thought, one thinks that he is awakened to the Dharma. He thinks about his meditation experience and how it will change his thoughts about his environment. He thinks that it is absolutely wonderful that he has controlled his mind. It wouldn’t be right to say that he has more to think about. Actually, he has less.
57. The clearer the body, the brighter one’s Buddha Nature shines. In the beginning, we still need the body. It’s like a lamp. The Buddha Nature is this flame. But we may still be conscious of shadows. As we progress we feel that the body is the universe itself and that our Buddha Self shines throughout it like the sun.
58. There is no beginning to what came before, and no end to what will come after. It is thought that interrupts the flow of time and calibrates it. It is thought that decides that night follows day, that death follows life, that some things are tiny while others are huge. What, to the universe, is big or large, bright or dark, future or past?
59. Acts are small; the Principle is great. Acts are various; the Principle is one. Those who live the Principle, who let its meaning flow through their very bloodstream, never act at variance with it. In whatever they do, they fulfill the Principle. Whether busy or at ease they are never deceitful, never manipulative. They have no hidden motives and need none.
60. Nothing in the world is gained without desire, without motivation. You can take the route of honesty and be sincere in the pursuit of your desire or you can take the route of deceit and get what you want under false pretenses. One way or the other, when you acquire the object of your desire you’ll become attached to it – for at least as long as it takes you to desire something else. But between the routes of sincerity and guile lies a path in which neither strategy is necessary. This is the route that leads to understanding worldly desires for what they are. On this route your motivations die in their tracks while you move straightforwardly on.
61. When you think of a thing, you impart existence to it. Objects which cause desire to arise disappear when the mind’s eye closes to them. They blend into the scenery.
It is the same with emotions. Hopes, fears, judgments of right and wrong, and feelings of pleasure or misery also vanish when the mind remains uninvolved in the worldly events that occasioned them. When uncluttered by worldly refuse, the empty mind can hold infinite space. Peace pervades its purity, heaven gleams, and the harmony of the spheres resonates throughout.
62. The more people try to use willpower to obliterate a desire, the more they strengthen the desire. The additional force only serves to confuse them. They become obsessed with the problem. The more people talk about the Dharma without knowing what it is, the more they strengthen their ignorance. They grow in this ignorance and soon consider themselves towers of rectitude. They’re like fish out of water who attempt to teach others to swim, or like caged birds who offer lessons in flying.
If you want to conquer a desire, take off its mask and see it for what it is. Instantly, it becomes insignificant – not worth a second thought. If you want to discourse on the Dharma, let it become your natural habitat. Be at home in it. Familiarize yourself with human nature by recognizing your own errors and base desires. Instantly, you’ll forgive others for their mistakes. Be humble and gentle in your love for humanity. That’s the way to set an example for others to copy. Proud rigidity isn’t rectitude. It’s spiritual rigor mortis.
63. Those who are serious about the Dharma seek the insights of wisdom in everything they do. Whether busy or at rest, whether alone or in a crowd, in every situation they find themselves, they strive to remain consciously aware. Such vigilance isn’t easy. But once they get used to the practice, it becomes so natural an activity that nobody around them even suspects what they are achieving.
64. If you subtract a single blade of grass from the universe, the universe can no longer be said to be all-inclusive. If you put one tiny thought of greed or lust into a pure mind, the mind can no longer claim to be undefiled.
Be careful of small things. Their absence or presence can change everything.
65. The mind expands, into the universe; the body shrinks to mouse-like size. To be enlightened is to appreciate the dynamics of the Dharma.
When the mind soars into boundless space, the body remains confined to earthly habitats. It is usually found scurrying around in the dark.
66. What a waste of time and energy it is to strive to obtain material objects of desire. No lasting satisfaction can result from acquiring them since by their very acquisition they have ceased to be objects of desire. They are consumed like firewood and “burnt offerings”. We spit out the ashes in our mouths and search for another tree to cut down.
The saints strove for spiritual insights. They questioned the meaning of life. Achieving this insight, they gained the universe. There being nothing else left to desire, they lit no sacrificial fires.
67. Vast as the universe is, it fits inside the mind. Small as the body is, there is not enough in creation to satisfy it.
68. Everything in the universe has One Nature. People who live in the Nature have all that they could possibly want. The enlightened posses. The unenlightened desire.
69. The person who considers himself superior to others constantly renders judgments and perceives differences. He rigidly deals in opposites: good or bad, right or wrong. If he follows his own standards of fairness, he’ll have to reject at least half of creation.
A person who follows the Dharma strives to unify himself with the rest of humanity. He doesn’t discriminate and is indifferent to qualitative distinctions. He knows that Buddha Nature is the One, Indivisible Reality. A person who follows the Dharma strives to remain ever-conscious of his inclusion in that One.
70. Mountains, rivers and the earth itself are parts of The One. The clear mind is transparent; all existence can be seen through it. The mind clouded by illusion of ego sees nothing but itself.
Strive to realize that you are included in The One! Your body may dwell in the material world, but your mind will understand that there is nothing apart from itself that it can desire.
71. In the Dharma’s perfect stillness, the heart perceives and understands everything. There are no words for the tongue to speak, no sound for the ear to hear, no sights for the eye to see. Those who live in the Dharma live in their hearts. It’s strange that though their bodies may be decaying, their breath is always like a fragrant cool breeze. How wonderful it is to be near them!
72. I have learned so much from people who have been shunned by society. Yes, it’s true. Take my advice. If you want to find good teachers, seek out those who have been rejected for being blind, deaf or ignorant.
73. The objects of the material world are the props, sets and characters of a dream-drama. When one awakens, the stage vanishes. The players and the audience too, disappear. Waking up is not death. What lives in a dream can die in a dream; but the dreamer has a real existence that doesn’t perish with the dream. All that is necessary for him to stop dreaming, to cease being fascinated by dream images, and to realize that he has merely been a dreamer.
74. Most people only perceive change. To them things come in and out of existence. Sooner or later, what’s new becomes old, what’s valuable becomes worthless. Their egos determine the nature of destiny of everything
When existence is defined in such finite, ephemeral terms, the power to control people and things is naturally seen as an exercise of ego. And why not? Isn’t the ego an authority on the subject of change? Of course, when it comes to the One Thing That Never Changes, the ego is amazingly ignorant. Nowadays people don’t appreciate the Changeless. They scramble to keep up with every fad and fashion. They’re like comedians, desperately trying to acquire new jokes. Their lives depend on keeping the audience laughing.
What’s truly funny is their conviction that they’re free, powerful and in control. In reality they’re merely helpless slaves to an illusion.
75. There are two ways to perceive the Dharma: the Sudden Way, the way in which the obstacle of illusion is shattered by a striking awareness; and the Gradual Way, the way in which illusion is dispelled incrementally, by continuous effort. One way or the other the obstacle must be destroyed.
76. The Buddha Mind contains the universe. In this universe there is only one pure substance, one absolute and indivisible Truth. The notion of duality does not exist.
The small mind contains only illusions of separateness, of division. It imagines myriad objects and defines truth in terms of relative opposites. Big is defined by small, good by evil, pure by defiled, hidden by revealed, full by empty. What is opposition? It is the arena of hostility, of conflict and turmoil. Where duality is transcended peace reigns. This is the Dharma’s ultimate truth.
77. Though, in fact, the Dharma’s Truth cannot be expressed in words, teachers talk on and on, trying to explain it. I suppose it’s just human nature to say that something cannot be explained and then spend hours trying to explain it. No wonder people walk away. Well, we could be more entertaining. We could make up amusing stories and appeal to our audience with flattering assurances. Of course, we’d just be piling illusion upon illusion. But what would that have to do with the Dharma?
78. A person who is alone can’t hold a conversation. A drum has to be hollow for its sound to reverberate. Absences count. Words limit. Interpretations differ. What isn’t said is also relevant. Absolute Truth cannot be expressed in words. It must be experienced.
And then, in eloquent silence we best reveal that we have awakened to the Dharma.
Last modified: July 11, 2004
This work courtesy of Grandmaster Jy Din Shakya
Published by the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun, 1998