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Chapter 19: Relish the Mystery in the Depths of Your Heart

Throughout the sutras, the Buddha tells mortals they can achieve enlightenment by performing such meritorious works as building monasteries, casting statues, burning incense, scattering flowers, lighting eternal lamps, practicing all six periods of the day and night, walking around stupas, observing fasts and worshipping. But if beholding the mind includes all other practices, then such works as these would appear redundant.

The sutras of the Buddha contain countless metaphors. Because mortals have shallow minds and don’t understand anything deep, the Buddha used the tangible to represent the sublime. People who seek blessings by concentrating on external works instead of internal cultivation are attempting the impossible.

What you call a monastery, we call a sangharama, a place of purity. But whoever denies entry to the three poisons and keeps the gates of his senses pure, his body and mind still, inside and outside clean, builds a monastery.

Casting statues refers to all practices cultivated by those who seek enlightenment. .

And burning incense doesn’t mean ordinary material incense but the incense of the intangible dharma, which drives away filth, ignorance and evil deeds with its perfume. .

When the Buddha was in the world, he told his disciples to light such precious incense with the fire of awareness as an offering to the buddhas of the ten directions. But people today don’t understand the Tathagata’s real meaning. They use an ordinary flame to light material incense of sandalwood or frankincense hoping for some future blessing that never comes.

For scattering flowers the same holds true. This refers to speaking the dharma, or to scattering flowers of virtue, in order to benefit others and glorify the real self. . If you think the Tathagata meant for people to harm plants by cutting off their bloom, you’re wrong. Those who observe the precepts don’t injure any of the myriad life forms of heaven and earth. If you hurt something by mistake, you suffer for it. But those who intentionally break the precepts by injuring the living for the sake of future blessings suffer even more. How could they let would-be blessings turn into sorrows?

The eternal lamp represents perfect awareness. . Long ago, there was a buddha named Dipamkara, or lamplighter. This was the meaning of his name. . The light released by a buddha from one curl between his brows can illuminate countless worlds. An oil lamp is no help. .

Practicing all six periods of the day and night means among the six senses constantly cultivating enlightenment and persevering in every form of awareness. Never relaxing control over the six senses is what’s meant by all six periods.

As for walking around stupas, the stupa is your body and mind. When your awareness circles your body and mind without stop, this is called walking around a stupa. .

The same holds true for observing a fast. . To fast means to regulate your body and mind so that they’re not distracted or disturbed. .

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