Two more days to Mount Wu-T’ai

Long ago, in T’ang China, there was an old monk going on a pilgrimage to Mount Wu-t’ai, the abode of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Aged and weak, he was treading the long dusty road alone, seeking alms along the way. After many long months, one morning he gazed upward and saw the majestic mountain in the distance. By the roadside, there was an old β€œwoman working the field. “Please tell me,” he asked, “how much longer I must proceed before reaching Mount Wu-t’ai?” The woman just looked at him, uttered a guttural sound and returned to her hoeing. He repeated the question a second and third time, but still there was no answer.

Thinking that the woman must be deaf, he decided to push on. After he had taken a few dozen steps, he heard the woman call out to him, “Two more days, it will take you two more days.” Somewhat annoyed, the monk responded, “I thought you were deaf. Why didn’t you answer my question earlier?” The woman replied, “You asked the question while you were standing put, Master. I had to see how fast your pace was, how determined your walk!”

A cultivator is in the same position as the old monk in this story. As he practices the Dharma, seeking to help himself and others, he sometimes wonders why no one comes to his assistance. However, others may simply be trying to assess him, to gauge his strength and determination. This process can take five years, twenty years, or even a lifetime. Therefore, seekers of the Way, do not be discouraged, but forge ahead!

– Unknown.

Streams

The streams, lakes, and rivers that flow down to the ocean, when they reach the ocean, all have the same blue color, the same salty taste.

The same with human beings: It doesn’t matter where they’re from β€” when they reach the stream of the Dharma, it’s all the same Dharma.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.

The tail of the snake

We human beings don’t want suffering. We want nothing but pleasure. But actually, pleasure is nothing but subtle suffering. Pain is blatant suffering. To put it in simple terms, suffering and pleasure are like a snake. Its head is suffering; its tail is pleasure. Its head contains poison. Its mouth contains poison. If you get near its head, it’ll bite you. If you catch hold of its tail it seems safe, but if you hold onto its tail without letting go, it can turn around and bite you just the same. That’s because both the head of the snake and the tail of the snake are on the same snake.

Both happiness and sadness come from the same parents: craving and delusion. That’s why there are times when you’re happy but still restless and ill at ease β€” even when you’ve gotten things you like, such as material gain, status, and praise. When you get these things you’re happy, but your mind isn’t really at peace because there’s still the sneaking suspicion that you’ll lose them. You’re afraid they’ll disappear. This fear is the cause that keeps you from being at peace. Sometimes you actually do lose these things and then you really suffer. This means that even though these things are pleasant, suffering lies fermenting in the pleasure. We’re simply not aware of it. Just as when we catch hold of a snake: Even though we catch hold of its tail, if we keep holding on without letting go, it can turn around and bite us.

So the head of the snake and the tail of the snake, evil and goodness: These form a circle that keeps turning around. That’s why pleasure and pain, good and bad are not the path.

– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.