Sunday, 23 December 2007

Two analogies from Thay

I've been reading Thich Nhat Hanh's 'No Death, No Fear.' I'm only just starting it, but already have read so many things I'd like to share. Here are two:

When you have a match, you have the condition to make fire. If the flame you make with the match lasts long enough, it will also burn up the match. The match gives rise to the fire, but the fire itself burns up the match; the teaching of impermanence is the same.

We have to go beyond the idea of permanence, but we have to go beyond the idea of impermanence as well. Then we can be in touch with nirvana. The same is true of no self. No self is the match; it helps give rise to the fire of the insight of no self. It is the awakened understanding of no self that will burn up the match of no self.

To practise is not to store up a lot of ideas about no self, impermanence, nirvana, or anything else; that is just the work of a cassette recorder. To speak about and distribute ideas is not the study or practice of Buddhism. We can go to a university to study Buddhism, but we will learn only theories and ideas. We want to go beyond ideas to have real insight, which will burn up all our ideas and help us to be free.

So, who feels like a cassette recorder? I have a blog here with a Buddhist focus, I have an altar in my bedroom and a mala in a box, I have a shelf of books and a head full of ideas. But what else do I have? Old concepts that won't go away, striving for permanence and narrow-minded love and worry for self, which I continue to experience as something entirely separate and unique and unchanging. My Buddhist practice is like sitting and striking match after match. Ooh, idea. Idea! Idea! When am I going to let the match burn itself away?

Waves are at the same time water. A wave may like to seek its own true nature. The wave might suffer from fear, from complexes. A wave might say, 'I am not as big as the other waves,' 'I am oppressed,' 'I am not as beautiful as the other waves,' 'I have been born and I have to die.' The wave may suffer from these things, these ideas. But if the wave bends down and touches her true nature she will realize that she is water. Then her fear and complexes will disappear.

Water is free from the birth and death of a wave. Water is free from high and low, more beautiful and less beautiful. You can talk in terms of more beautiful and less beautiful, high or low, only in terms of waves. As far as water is concerned, all these concepts are invalid.

Our true nature is the nature of no birth, no death. We do not have to go anywhere in order to touch our true nature. The wave does not have to look for water because she is water. We do not have to look for God, our ultimate dimension or nirvana, because we are nirvana, we are God. You are what you are looking for. You are already what you want to become.

Why should I strive to have compassion for other waves? Why should I see myself as separate from them? We are all water. This must be meditated on, I think. But I will not strive toward it. It is not a concept to master. It is a truth to surrender to.

May all beings be at ease.

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