In these seemingly dark and troubling times, I’m finding that reflecting on the following words of wisdom to be a soothing and enlightening antidote. It’s from a well-worn book that I’ve treasured over the years: Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series, by D. T. Suzuki, first published in 1949. The following selected passages come from a liberal translation of a poem written by the Zen master Tao-hsin in the 6th century.
Inscribed on the Believing Mind-Heart
The Perfect way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preference:
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully and without disguise.
To set up what you like against what you dislike—
The is the disease of the mind:
When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood
Peace of mind is disturbed and nothing is gained.
Pursue not the outer entanglements,
Dwell not in the inner void;
When the mind rests serene in the oneness of things,
The dualism vanished by itself.
Tarry not with dualism,
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong,
Confusion ensues, the mind is lost.
The two exist because of the one,
But hold not even to this one;
When the one mind is not disturbed,
The ten thousand things offer no offence.
The Great Way is clam and large-minded,
Nothing is easy and nothing is hard:
Small views are irresolute,
The more in haste the tardier they go.
Clinging never keeps itself within bound,
It is sure to go in the wrong way:
Let go loose, and things are as they may bee,
While the essence neither departs nor abides.
Obey the nature of things, and you are n concord with the Way,
Calm and easy and free from annoyance;
But when your thoughts are tied, you turn away from the truth,
They grow heavier and duller and are not at all sound.
Gain and loss, right and wrong—
Away with them all.
In the higher realm of True Suchness
There is neither “other” nor “self”:
When a direct identification is asked for,
We can only say, ‘Not two.”
The infinitely small is large as large can be,
When external conditions are forgotten;
The infinitely large is as small as small can be,
When objective limits are put out of sight.
One in all,
All in one—
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect!
No more worry about the world we live in not being perfect. When was it ever?
No more worry about Hillary losing and Trump winning, when viewing the world from the larger perspective. His presidency will last at most 8 years. In a thousand years what will it matter?
What matters now are creating minds and hearts free from hate, free from clinging, free from worry. When have these negatives ever helped us create a better world?
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be working as hard as we can to create that better world–however we may envision it. It’s just that so many who don’t envision it the way we do are working just as hard.
The trick is to work without attachment to the result. For attachment creates clinging, opposition, frustration, hate and war when things aren’t going our way. And when it is going our way, it creates smugness, complacency, and self-righteousness superiority. And then, after all our striving, the world will turn, and everything is upside-down again.
How to end this vicious circle? Only within our own minds and hearts. It’s the only place we can truly reign, the only place where the good fight can truly be won–not in the outside world.
Working toward our goals with true “oneness” in mind, seeing others as ourselves, as “not-two,” we help free the world just a little bit from the hate and fear and selfishness and greed that cause so much pain and suffering. And the more who do so, the wider the influence. But it starts with us, with the One. We are that one.
So why do I keep forgetting this over and over and over again?
Why do I strive and cling, and then rebel when things don’t go my way?
When will I ever let go and just be?