Chapter 3: Power
Now if you want to save mental power, do not be concerned with whether or not a three-year-old child can say it, or whether or not an eighty-year-old-man can carry it out. Just don’t do any evil and you have mastered these words. They apply whether you believe or not, so please think it over.
If worldly people whose present conduct is without illumination would correct themselves and do good, though the goodness is not yet perfect, isn’t this better than depravity and shamelessness? One who does evil on the pretext of doing good is called in the teachings one whose causal ground is not genuine, bringing on crooked results. If, with a straightforward mind and straightforward conduct, you are able to seize supreme enlightenment directly, this can be called the act of a real man of power. The concerns that have come down from numberless ages are only in the present:. If you can understand them right now, then the concerns of numberless ages will instantly disperse, like tiles being scattered or ice melting. If you don’t understand right now, you’ll pass through countless eons more, and it’ll still be just as it is. The truth that is as it is has been continuous since antiquity without ever having varied so much as a hairsbreadth.
Matters of worldly anxiety are like the links of a chain, joining together continuously without a break. If you can do away with them, do away with them immediately! Because you have become habituated to them since beginningless time, to the point where they have become totally familiar, if you don’t exert yourself to struggle with them, then as time goes on and on, with you unknowing and unawares, they will have entered deeply into you. Finally, on the last day of your life, you won’t be able to do anything about it. If you want to be able to avoid going wrong when you face the end of your life, then from now on whenever you do anything, don’t let yourself slip. If you go wrong in your present doings, it will be impossible not to go wrong when you’re facing death.
There’s a sort of person who reads scriptures, recites the Buddha-name and repents in the morning, but then in the evening runs off at the mouth, slandering and vilifying other people. The next day he does homage to Buddha and repents as before. All through the years till the end of his life he takes this as daily ritual - this is extreme folly. Such people are far from realizing that the Sanskrit word ‘kshama’ means to repent faults. This is called “cutting off the continuing mind.” Once you have cut it off, never continue it again; once you have repented, do not commit wrongdoings again - this is the meaning of repentance according to our Buddha which good people who study the path should not fail to know.
The mind, discriminating intellect, and consciousness of students of the path should be quiet and still twenty-four hours a day. When you have nothing to do, you should sit quietly and keep the mind from slackening and the body from wavering. If you practice to perfection over a long, long time, naturally body and mind will come to rest at ease, and you will have some direction in the path. The perfection of quiescence and stillness indeed settles the scattered and confused false consciousness of sentient beings, but if you cling to quiescent stillness and consider it the ultimate, then you’re in the grip of perverted “silent illumination” Ch’an.
Ta Hui reminds me of an incident in Charles Darwin’s life. His sixtieth birthday was celebrated. The children of his neighborhood also thought of something to present to him. Great people, rich people, were going to present him many things - he had become by that time a world renowned scientist - but children have their own way of seeing things.
Charles Darwin’s whole life was devoted to the study of animals, birds, insects, fish. He was working out in what steps human evolution has happened, how man has come to be. He never believed in the theory of creation. No man of intelligence can believe in it, for the simple reason that every day new things go on happening. Creation would have been a closed circle: God created everything and there was no question of any new inventions, new discoveries. God’s work has to be perfect; hence there is no space for evolution. Evolution can happen only when things are imperfect.
The children found a way. They collected many insects, dissected them - took out some insect’s head, some other insect’s leg, some other insect’s body, and piece by piece they joined and glued a totally new insect which God has not created. And they went to Charles Darwin, saying, “We have brought an insect that perhaps you would love to know. We have never seen this. Just today we have found it.”
Charles Darwin himself was a little taken aback: he had gone around the world, but he had never seen such an insect. Then he looked closely and he saw that the head belonged to some other insect - he could see the glue and he could see the children’s inventiveness - and the children wanted to know the name of the bug.
Charles Darwin said, “I know it. Its name is humbug.”
Ta Hui reminds me.he is a humbug. He has been moving from one master to another master and he was collecting things - something from one person, something from another person. He has made a good collection and glued it perfectly well, but he cannot deceive one who knows the truth. And all the masters he had visited may not have been enlightened. Some certainly must have been enlightened, because there are a few statements which only an enlightened man can make. But there are a few others which only unenlightened moralists, puritans - that kind of people - can make. They are good people; they mean well, their intentions are good, but they don’t know that just to mean well is not enough.
You should be at the very source of your being, where you can feel these three things: goodness, beauty and truth. In India we have called it the experience of sat-chit-anand - that is one expression. The other expression of the three is satyam, shivam, sunderam. I would like you to understand both statements, because they contain the very gist of the religious experience.