It is as if a man had been wounded by an arrow thickly smeared with poison, and his friends and kinsmen were to get a surgeon to heal him, and he were to say, “I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know by what man I was wounded, whether he is of the warrior caste, or a brahmin, or of the agricultural, or the lowest caste.” Or if he were to say, “I will not have this arrow pulled out until I know of what name of family the man is — or whether he is tall, or short or of middle height …” Before knowing all this, the man would die.
Similarly, it is not on the view that the world is eternal, that it is finite, that body and soul are distinct, or that the Buddha exists after death that a religious life depends. Whether these views or their opposite are held, there is still rebirth, there is old age, there is death, and grief, lamentation, suffering, sorrow, and despair…. I have not spoken to these views because they do not conduce to an absence of passion, to tranquility, and Nirvana. And what have I explained? Suffering have I explained, the cause of suffering, the destruction of suffering, and the path that leads to the destruction of suffering have I explained. For this is useful.”
– Buddha, paraphrased Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta.
Let’s say there is a person walking along carrying some stones. He sees a dog, and throws his stones at the dog. He also sees a lion and he throws his stones at the lion, too.
What does the dog do? At the sight of the stone, the dog immediately tries to bite or chase it. Then the person gets to throw another stone at the dog. The dog again tries to follow the new stone and bite it. Now this guy has got a big collection of stones, so they are not going to run out any time soon. The dog becomes very tired.
Now when the man throws a stone at the lion, the lion does not look at the stone. Rather, he thinks, “Where did that stone come from? Who threw that stone?” When he sees the person who threw it, he pounces on him. A person only gets to throw one stone at a lion.
– Unknown origin. Heard from Mingyur Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhism.
One autumn day, I was in a park, absorbed in the contemplation of a very small but beautiful leaf, in the shape of a heart. Its color was almost red, and it was barely hanging on the branch, nearly ready to fall down. I spent a long time with it, and I asked the leaf a lot of questions.
I asked the leaf whether it was scared because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling. The leaf told me, “No. During the whole spring and summer I was very alive. I worked hard and helped nourish the tree, and much of me is in the tree. Please do not say that I am just this form, because the form of leaf is only a tiny part of me. I am the whole tree. I know that I am already inside the tree, and when I go back to the soil, I will continue to nourish the tree. That’s why I do not worry. As I leave this branch and float to the ground, I will wave to the tree and tell her, ‘I will see you again very soon.’”
Suddenly I saw a kind of wisdom very much like the wisdom contained in the Heart Sutra. You have to see life. You should not say, life of the leaf, you should only speak of life in the leaf and life in the tree. My life is just Life, and you can see it in me and in the tree. That day there was a wind blowing and, after a while, I saw the leaf leave the branch and float down to the soil, dancing joyfully, because as it floated it saw itself already there in the tree. It was so happy. I bowed my head, and I knew that we have a lot to learn from the leaf.
– Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Tradition.
Sensuality is like taking a stick and using it to poke a big red ants’ nest. The more we poke it, the more the red ants come falling on us, onto our face, into our eyes, stinging our ears and eyes. But we don’t see the drawbacks of what we’re doing. It’s all good as far as we can see. Understand that if you don’t see the drawbacks of these things you’ll never work your way free of them.
– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.
To clean one’s shirt, it is necessary to use soap. However, if the soap is not then rinsed out, the garment will not be truly clean.
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 “woman 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!
We’re like a tree with roots, a base, and a trunk. Every leaf, every branch, depends on the roots to absorb nutrients from the soil and send them up to nourish the tree.
Our body, plus our words and deeds, our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and feeling, are like the branches, leaves, and trunk. The mind is like the roots absorbing nutrients and sending them up the trunk to the leaves and branches so that they flower and bear fruit.
– Ajahn Chah, Theravada, Thai Forest Tradition.