The Tao Comes First and the Mundane World Second
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Spoken by the Supreme Master Ching Hai, Seven-day retreat, Hsihu, Formosa, September 24-27, 1988 (Originally in Chinese) MP3-3= It is not easy for us to leave this world because there are so many beautiful things in it. Many people want very much to leave this world, but cannot because of its many beautiful things that they fall in love with at first sight. If we have not seen more beautiful realms, of course, we will think that this world is the most beautiful; so it is not easy for us to go away. = But never mind, we have practiced the Quan Yin Method, one day we will know which realm is really beautiful. Perhaps we still do not know it, but there are fellow initiates who do. After listening to their descriptions, we already can feel the inspirational power urging us to practice spiritually and we want to be like them.= Someone wrote to me saying, "Master, can you please take back this blessing power? After the seven-day retreat, I feel so blessed that I don't seem to be able to cope with this world." (Laughter) Isn't that being stupid beyond words? (Audience: Yes.) Some people pray to Master, hoping to receive a few more blessings; but then, someone feels that the blessings are too powerful and want me to take them back. Why should I take back the blessings?= This blessing power is not controllable. It is not that I press a button here and you have the blessing. It is not like that. You want me to take it back, but I won't! (Master and audience laugh.) When it is given, it is given. What is there to take back? It is not like cows regurgitating the grass they have swallowed to chew it again!= The blessing power is very precious. Very few people can transmit it. You cannot have it even if you exchange the whole world for it; and here you ask me to take it back! If I really do, you will be meditating for nothing and suffering even more than you do now. It is because previously you had not had that uplifting experience of not clinging and non-attachment to the world. Now you have experienced it and realize what is good. If I really take that away, you will feel more miserable than before you began spiritual practice. Previously you did not know what happiness was, and you could live on. Now that you have known happiness, you will not be able to live on once it is taken away.= I once told you a story about an Indian woman who received immense blessings. Perhaps she had just returned from a seven-day retreat. She remained elated every day. Whenever she was making chapatis (round Indian flat bread), she fell unconscious; her soul would fly out and leave her body behind. The flour would fall all over the place and her whole body would be stained with flour and become white. Things were strewn around, the pan in front and the chopsticks behind. You know that kind of situation. Or maybe no one does.= Then the hungry husband came home and saw his wife lying there. There were no chapatis. The butter was left here and the milk spilled over there. It happened like that every day. He thought that his wife was lazy and slept too much. So he beat her, and the wife went to her master and cried, "Master, please take back your blessings." Just like our stupid fellow initiate! She begged her master a few times saying, "My husband beats me every day. I cannot bear it anymore. Look at the bruises all over my body."= Then the Master said, "You should bear this. The blessings are very precious. You can go into samadhi any time. Not many people can have this." Because her inner Sound was very powerful, her soul was pulled out whenever the Sound came, leaving just the body behind. Our body is just like our clothes. When the soul goes out, it is like a person taking off his clothes and leaving. However, she said, "But I can't bear it. There is no peace in my family. Every day my husband beats me when he comes home. Please! You must take back the blessings." Master said, "All right, I will."= After her master took back the blessing power, it became even more unbearable. The woman came and cried again, "Master, it is worse now! It was better before. Even when my husband beat me, I could sometimes enjoy the experience of samadhi. Now, although he does not beat me, I can no longer hear the inner Sound. There is nothing! That won't do!" You know disciples are all like that, fond of creating trouble for the master. Then her master said, "Go away, and don't bring me trouble. You want it today and do not want it tomorrow. It cannot be this way. This is not something to be joked about." The woman left and continued to suffer a lot. Of course, her master would still take care of her when she passed away. But after that day her whole life became meaningless, and there was no more experience, nothing! That is because she considered the mundane world more important than her spiritual practice!= Therefore, we cannot chop and change again and again in our spiritual practice. We should realize that this world is ephemeral; so are all the pleasures, anger, grief, happiness and suffering. We should not lose our eternal treasure for these ephemeral things. We receive blessings, enter samadhi in meditation, and have wisdom. These things are the most precious. We cannot trade them for anything in the world.= Many spiritual practitioners were threatened in ancient times; history tells us that spiritual practitioners were not very safe sometimes. When Jesus Christ was alive, His disciples were intimidated and punished. For example, people cast stones at them, beat them and killed them, using barbarous ways to punish those who followed Christ and practiced the esoteric method. But they persisted in their practice resolutely. They were willing to die for the Truth. It is the same in India today. Many spiritual practitioners are misunderstood by others and subject to oppression, threats, harassment and punishment, but they still continue their spiritual practice.= Not very long ago, the Sikhs were also suppressed by some government or king, and many people were killed. But they did not waver and continued to practice spirituality. A master of the Lotus Sect in Japan was also threatened, suppressed and chased away when He preached in public. Some of his disciples were also killed by people in power, but the rest remained firm.= The government of Formosa here is very kind, allowing its people to have religious freedom, and it is even better that they are protected by its laws. But you are aware that I also encounter calamity sometimes. What you know is only a very small part that is exposed. There are many things you do not know and I have not told you. What I mean is that even if we have mundane problems and troubles, still we should not trade our fortune and merits in spiritual practice for worldly comforts in life because these are too valuable!= We should bear any difficulty or trouble we have in our spiritual practice. We should regard any adversity as a test to measure our confidence and courage. We should not withdraw, with shaken confidence, crying and complaining when a situation arises. What kind of spiritual practitioner is that, with no courage and acting like a child?= When we practice spirituality, we should check on ourselves, instead of keeping our eyes on others. We should look after how much courage we have, and whether our faith is strong. We don't have to look at how well or poorly others are practicing. It is enough already to look at ourselves. Each day we take care of our courage, our conduct as a great human, and our faith in the spiritual path (Tao), not allowing them to diminish, waver, or be destroyed. This is our responsibility.= If any fellow practitioner puts the Truth first and this mundane world second, he will be liberated for sure, no matter how quickly or slowly he progresses in his spiritual practice, or how much or less his experiences are. This is the best way to measure it. The world exists only for the purpose of tying us down. All the pleasures, anger, grief and happiness in this world are there to test our confidence and courage, our attitude as great humans, and our faith in the Tao.= It will be too cheap if everyone who practices casually also can become a Saint! What then would a Saint be if he is just the same as the ordinary person? If anyone can become a Saint even though he cannot tolerate anything, do anything, or pass any test, then what good is a Saint? How can he be worthy of praise by humans and heavenly beings? How can he be worthy of being a "Teacher of heavenly beings" or a "Compassionate Father of the Four Forms of Birth"?= So if you want to be a Saint, you should clearly understand that any unfavorable condition is there to test us. We should live on bravely. Even if it is very painful, things will get better in a couple of days. The darkest and longest night will only last till the next morning. The night cannot last forever; neither can our suffering. We must have learned this lesson as a child, that no painful situation will last forever. Even the most painful situation will not last too long. The happy situation will last even less time. So this world offers nothing for us to hold on to, nothing for us to become attached to!= Only one thing is eternal, and that is our inner Sound. It is always present and takes care of us every day. After a while we can rise and reside in that eternal place, where there is no night or day, no spring, summer, autumn or winter, and no pain like we have here. But when I say this, maybe someone will think, "Every day would then be the same and it'd be so monotonous!" It would not be monotonous! It is because our mind is still at the level of the mundane realm and we cannot imagine that kind of realm. That is why after reading the Amitabha Sutra, some people have asked me, "Who wants to live in that kind of realm?" And I've answered, "That realm is not as boring as you imagine."= Only after we have personally experienced it will we know the Pure Land and want to live there. Otherwise we cannot understand just by listening to others talk about it. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, He had a disciple who was a queen. As a queen, she already enjoyed the most beautiful things and the happiest situations in the world. However, when she visited the Pure Land, she was eager to stay there. She asked Shakyamuni Buddha, "Can I live there after I pass away?" The place she had seen was that beautiful!
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