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Grand Master Xu (Hsu) Yun Chapter 8 - Perseverance and Resourcefullness

A warlord once stopped at a monastery on his way home from a successful military campaign. He came to visit the abbot who was an old teacher of his.

As the abbot and the warlord sat in the courtyard pleasantly chatting and drinking tea, they were distracted by an argument between a novice and a senior monk. The novice was complaining that the meditation technique given him by the senior monk was ineffective and worthless. "It cannot teach me how to concentrate much less meditate," shouted the novice. "Give me a more reliable technique."

Observing that the argument was distressing his old master, the warlord stood and said, "Please, Master, allow me to help this young man." When the master nodded his assent, the warlord summoned six of his archers.

The warlord then filled his teacup to the brim and carefully handed it to the novice. "Take this cup of tea," he ordered, "and without spilling a single drop, carry it around the entire periphery of this courtyard."

As the novice took the cup the warlord commanded his archers, "Follow him! If he spills a single drop, shoot him!" The archers drew their bows and began to walk beside the novice who, in the next twenty minutes, learned how to concentrate.

Dear Friends, there is no substitute for determination. Enlightenment is a serious matter. It can never be attained with a casual or lax attitude. You must be determined to succeed and you must be resourceful in your determination.

Strange to say, success in meditation has the same requirements as being a suspect in a crime: a person has to have motive, means and opportunity. It is not enough to have only one or two of these to be considered a criminal suspect. You must have all three: motive, means, and opportunity.

To help you understand this, I'll tell you several stories. The first story I personally witnessed:

In the year nineteen hundred, following the famous Boxer Rebellion against foreigners, eight foreign powers, provoked by the attack on their consulates, sent expeditionary forces to Beijing. The Manchu Emperor Guang Sui and Dowager Empress Zi Xi had supported the Boxers in their attacks on the foreigners, and so they naturally feared for their lives. In disguise, they fled from Beijing, seeking the safety of Shanxi Province. I was a member of their retinue.

Nobody was prepared for the journey. We had departed so suddenly and under such emergency conditions, that there had been no time to provision the trip. We had no food at all. We also had no horses or money.

As you can imagine, the situation was particularly difficult for the Imperial family. Not only had they never experienced hunger, but their every whim of appetite had always been satisfied by the finest delicacies. And of course, they never had to walk anywhere. Sedan chairs and carriages always kept their feet a good distance above the ground. And there they were... trying to pass for ordinary citizens!

The first day, we walked and walked and grew hungrier and hungrier, but the Imperial stables and kitchens were only a nagging memory.

Finally, exhausted and famished, we begged for food; and a peasant obliged us by giving us sweet potato vines and leaves, fare which normally is reserved for pigs.

Now, the Emperor, who was completely soft and spoiled, had never actually eaten pig food before; but because he was so hungry, he truly thought the vines and leaves were delicious. "What is this excellent food?" he asked; and he was certainly surprised to learn its identity. "More, more," he said, and he ate all he could with gusto.

We could not linger over this pleasant meal because, unfortunately, we were escaping from eight different armies. We had to "eat and run", as they say. Hurriedly we walked on.

So there was the mighty Emperor of China, who previously was carried everywhere he went and who never ate anything but the finest of gourmet dishes, jogging down the road and dining on animal fodder. I guess you could say he was getting in shape... mentally, too, because he lost all his Imperial airs and seemed to thrive in the simplicity and humility of the situation.

But what was it that motivated the Emperor to walk so fast and to enjoy eating such common food? And why did he discard his Imperial demeanor? I'll tell you: Eight foreign armies wanted to kill him and he knew it. He was running for his life and he suddenly developed a rather keen sense of what was important to that effort and what was not.

Later on, when peace was restored and the foreigners left and the Emperor and Dowager Empress were able at last to return to Beijing, he reverted to his old ways. He became the high and mighty lord again. Whenever he felt the slightest pang of hunger, he stuffed himself with delicacies; and of course he never walked anywhere at all. When he was fleeing for his life, he was made of steel. But now he once again was soft and spoiled.

If he had applied the same determination to fleeing from the enemies of his spirit as he had shown when fleeing from the enemies of his flesh, was there anything in this world that he could not accomplish? Well, we all know what happened to the Manchu Dynasty.

Dear friends, the demons of sloth and pride and gluttony never negotiate peace. They are always at war. Only a fierce determination can subdue them. And subdued, they lie and wait for us to slacken in our resolve when, you may be sure, they will reappear at the earliest opportunity.

Determination and resourcefulness. These are indispensable. Never become slaves to convenience and comfort. Learn to adapt to whatever situation you find yourself in. Welcome hardship more than you welcome ease. Hardship will present you with challenges... and it is in overcoming these obstacles, that you will develop character and skill. Challenges are our greatest teachers.

Don't be afraid to fail. Just try and try again. There is an old saying that is worth remembering: Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

If you don't let failures defeat you, they will become the foundation upon which your success will securely rest.

Let me tell you about a humble man who acquired the unusual name, "Imperial Master Dragon Trousers".

Once upon a time - actually in the latter half of the Sixteenth Century - there was a poor and illiterate man who devoutly wished to be enlightened. He believed himself too wretched and unworthy to become a Buddhist monk but nevertheless he went to a monastery and asked to be permitted to work in the fields there.

Every day this humble man cheerfully worked from dawn to dusk. He was too shy to come forward and directly ask anyone for help. He simply hoped that by observing the monks, he would discover a method by which he could achieve enlightenment.

One day a visiting monk came to the monastery. This monk had reached a low-point in his spiritual life and was going around to various monasteries trying to find a way to renew his faith. He happened to notice the man working so cheerfully in the fields, and he marvelled at the man's enthusiasm for hard work. Why did the man so enjoy life? What could his secret be?

And so the monk went to the man and with humility and admiration asked, "Sir, would you be kind enough to tell me your method? What practice do you follow?"

"I have no practice," said the man, "but I certainly would like to learn one. Venerable Master, would you be kind enough to give me some small instruction?"

The visiting monk saw the man's sincerity and humility and was quite moved by it. "You have done for me what many masters could not do," he said. And being truly inspired, he renewed his vow and his determination to gain enlightenment right there on the spot. Then he said to the man, "Although no instruction I could give you could ever be so valuable as the instruction you've given me by your own example, I'm delighted to offer you whatever advice I can. I suggest, Good Sir, that you strive to grasp the Hua Tou, "Amitabha! Who is it who now repeats the Buddha's name?"

All day long as he worked, the man pondered this Hua Tou. And then, when winter came and there was no more farm work for him to do, he retired to a mountain cave and continued to work on his Hua Tou. He made a bed of fragrant pine needles. For food, he gathered pine nuts and dug roots out of the earth. From clay he made himself a pot and after baking it in the fire, he was able to boil snow to make tea and soup.

Near his mountain cave there was a small village and as the winter wore on and the people used up their stores of food they began to come to him, begging for food. He gave them what he could and showed them where the best pine trees and roots were located, but many of them were too weak to look for food. Worse, in their hunger they had all become mean and selfish and uncooperative.

[Introduction]  [Chapter 1]  [Chapter 2]  [Chapter 3]  [Chapter 4]  [Chapter 5]  [Chapter 6]
[Chapter 7]  [Chapter 8]  [Chapter 9]  [Chapter 10]  [Chapter 11]  [Chapter 12]  [Chapter 13]
Last modified: July 11, 2004
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