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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 45 |spring 2006 when it’s time for them to go, let them go. When they come, let them come. All these phenomena (sabhava) appear and then disappear. That’s all. We understand that all these things are flowing, constantly appearing and disappearing. Making offerings, listening to teach- ings, practicing meditation – whatever we do should be done for the purpose of developing wisdom. Developing wisdom is for the purpose of liberation, freedom from all these conditions and phenom- ena. When we are free, then no matter what our situation, we don’t have to suf- fer. If we have children, we don’t have to suffer. If we work, we don’t have to suf- fer. If we have a house, we don’t have to suffer. It’s like being a lotus in the water: “I grow in the water, but I don’t suffer because of the water. I can’t be drowned or burned, because I live in the water.” When the water ebbs and flows, it doesn’t affect the lotus. The water and the lotus can exist together without conflict. They are together yet separate. Whatever is in the water nourishes the lotus and helps it grow into something beautiful. Here it’s the same for us. Wealth, home, family, and all defilements of mind – they no longer defile us, but rather they help us develop parami, the spiri- tual perfections. In a grove of bamboo, the old leaves pile up around the trees, and when the rain falls they decompose and become fertilizer. Shoots grow and the trees develop because of the fertilizer, and we have a source of food and income. But it didn’t look like anything good at all. So be careful – in the dry season, if you set fires in the forest, they’ll burn up all the future fertilizer, and the fertilizer will turn into fire that burns the bamboo. Then you won’t have any bamboo shoots to eat. So if you burn the forest, you burn the bamboo fertilizer. If you burn the fertilizer, you burn the trees and the grove dies. Do you understand? You and your families can live in happiness and harmony with your homes and posses- sions, free of danger from floods or fire. If a family is flooded or burned, it is only because of the people in that family. It’s just like the bamboo’s fertilizer. The grove can be burned because of it, or the grove can grow beautifully because of it. Things will grow beautifully, and then not beautifully, and then become beau- tiful again. Growing and degenerating, then growing again and degenerating again – this is the way of worldly phenom- ena. If we know growth and degeneration for what they are, we can find a conclu- sion to them. Things grow and reach their limit. Things degenerate and reach their limit. But we remain constant. It’s like when there was a fire in Ubon City. People bemoaned the destruction and shed a lot of tears over it. But things were rebuilt after the fire and the new buildings are actually bigger and a lot better than what we had before, and people enjoy the city more now. This is how it is with the cycles of loss and development. Everything has its lim- its. So the Buddha wanted us to always be contemplating. While we still live, we should think about death. Don’t consider it something far away. If you’re poor, don’t try to harm or exploit others. Face the situation and work hard to help yourself. If you’re well off, don’t become forgetful in your wealth and comfort. It’s not very difficult for everything to be lost. A rich person can become a pauper in a couple of days. A pauper can become a rich per- son. It’s all owing to the fact that these conditions are impermanent and unsta- ble. Thus, the Buddha said, “Appamado maccuno padam,” “Heedlessness is the way to death.” The heedless are like the dead. Don’t be heedless! All beings and all sankhara are unstable and imperma- nent. Don’t form any attachment to them! Happy or sad, progressing or falling apart, in the end it all comes to the same place. Please understand this. Living in the world and having this perspective, we can be free of danger. Whatever we may gain or accomplish in the world because of our good kamma, it is still of the world and subject to decay and loss, so don’t get too carried away by it. It’s like a beetle scratching at the earth. It can scratch up a pile that’s a lot bigger than itself, but it’s still only a pile of dirt. If it works hard, it makes a deep hole in the ground, but it’s still only a hole in dirt. If a buffalo drops a load of dung there, it will be bigger than the beetle’s pile of earth, but it still isn’t anything that reaches to the sky. It’s all dirt. Worldly accomplishments are like this. No matter how hard the beetles work, they’re just involved in dirt, making holes and piles. People who have good worldly kamma have the intelligence to do well in the world. But no matter how well they do, they’re still living in the world. All the things they do are worldly and have their limits, like the beetle scratching away at the earth. The hole may go deep, but it’s in the earth. The pile may get high, but it’s just a pile of dirt. Doing well, getting a lot – we’re just doing well and getting a lot in the world. Please understand this and try to develop detachment. If you don’t gain much, be contented, understanding that it’s only the worldly. If you gain a lot, understand that it’s only the worldly. Contemplate these truths and don’t be heedless. See both sides of things, without getting stuck on one side. When some- thing delights you, hold part of yourself back in reserve, because that delight won’t last. When you are happy, don’t go completely over to its side, because soon enough you’ll be back on the other side with unhappiness. From EvErything is tEaching Us: a collEction oF tEachings by vEnErablE ajahn chah. translatEd by PaUl brEitEr and PUblishEd by abhayagiri bUddhist monastEry. TuBTenYeshe