newsletter on international buddhist woman's activities
If any one of these elements should separate from us, the result is we die. Look at our breathing, inhaling and exhaling. We take it for granted ever since we were born. That this is our breathing, in and out. We take it for granted so much so that we never care to even look at how it functions. This breathing in and out seems automatic. But if we really look at our breathing carefully, we realize that when we take in, breathing in, if there is no breathing out, if there is no exhaling, life comes to an end. We die. It is so simple. It is so simple that we begin to be scared. That life in fact hangs on this very fragile thread of breath.
As we watch our breathing in and out, we become very mindful. Let's focus our mind, our consciousness at the beginning of our breathing. That is just above your lips, under your nostrils. That's where you feel the breathing going in and coming out. We watch our breathing mindfully. Do not let your mind wander around. Soon enough you will realize that your breathing becomes very calm. Very fine. The more refined your breathing is, the calmer your mind is. You notice when you are angry, your breathing is very harsh. You walk up the stairs, three or four flights of stairs, your breathing is very harsh and heavy. But during meditation, after you have meditated, say for twenty minutes, you're really calm. You're really focused. You're mindful at just one spot, under you nostrils. Your experience this calmness of your own mind.
You hear noise. You hear traffic on the highway. But it only just hearing. What do I mean when I say "just hearing"? Just hearing means you practice so that the sound is just sound. It touches your ear and then your ear like a mediator sends in the message to the mind. The mind reads the message and tells you it's the sound of the traffic. It's a big truck running on the highway. You know as though you don't know. You're very quiet and you just hear. Simply just hear without a subject taking in knowledge of your hearing. Therefore there is no liking or disliking in that hearing. It becomes just hearing. This is the very first step of the practice of meditation. You're mindful of your breathing in and out. And then you practice just hearing, but some thought might come up. You are angry at someone. This anger has been hovering in your heart for a long while. You dislike the person we shall call Mr. A. You dislike him deeply. He had done many bad things to you. He talked behind your back.
He told people all kinds of bad stories about you. You just hate his guts. You just wish him dead. Every time you have that negative feeling, the person who gets hurt most is you. Yourself, not him. As you watch your breathing you realize how fragile your own life is. So fragile. Then you think that his life is as equally fragile as yours. He could stop breathing this moment. And you can stop breathing this moment. Both of you would be dead and gone. Whatever harm he did to you in the past is his own karma. It will bear it own fruit. So why don't you leave him to suffer his own karma? Why do you get angry with him? In this state, you should feel sorry for him because every time when he talks bad behind you back, he is boiling with hatred. He is boiling with unwholesome acts. When he says something bad about you, the very first person to hear it is himself, because his ear is next to his mouth. So feel sorry for this kind of person who could keep on talking bad things about other people.
When he does not talk bad about you, he will be talking bad about someone else. It is his nature to talk bad. He has a mental setup which is bad. You should feel sorry for him. Now that you feel that his life and your life are equally fragile, you begin to let go. Let go of the anger. As soon as you let go of the anger, you let go of the hatred. The person who is most happy is you. It just feels wonderful. You feel light for a long, long while. So why do we harbor anger? Why should we be angry at someone who is bad in his own mental setup? Feel sorry for him. Forgive him. Wish him well.
During the Buddha's time two men were quarreling badly, really badly. The Buddha happened to pass by and the Buddha asked them to stop quarreling. Of course they did not listen. So the Buddha said, "why don't you dig down in the earth that both of you are standing on? Why don't you dig down and see what is underneath?" And these two men were kind of curious. Why did the Buddha ask then to dig the soil? So as they dug the ground, soon enough, hardly one meter deep they found two skeletons, theirs in the past. They had been hating each other, fighting each other, quarreling with each other for many lives. In the previous life they killed each other and the skeletons were still there to prove it. So when they realized that, they bowed to the Buddha, thanking him for pointing the way out for them.
It is the same with us. We usually dwell in anger for a long, long while. And the person whom you hate, he is perfectly fine. It is you who are suffering all these days, all these years. Then we have the case of a woman who had been beaten by her husband some five years ago. She felt the sadness of the violence acted on her by him. She felt sad. She felt sorry for herself. She felt the pain. The physical pain. But more than physical pain was her mental pain which she kept alive every time she thought about it. So instead of being beaten up by her husband some five years ago she is literally beaten up again and again every time she thinks about it. As practitioners, we should be wise. Be wise to let go of the past, what is gone. Your cannot do anything about it.
Another kind of suffering that we like to harbor, that we like think about, is to worry about the future. So we worry about the future. You have a little newborn granddaughter. The baby is hardy seven days old. Now you as a grandmother start worrying about who's going to take care of her when she goes to kindergarten. Which kindergarten would be the best for your beloved granddaughter? Then you think about her going to college?" You see how our minds keep wandering into the future, all the time worrying about it. So this is another kind of suffering. So we sway between the past and the present and the future. Very seldom do we remain in the present. To suffer about something in the past is foolishness because we cannot do anything about it. It is past and gone. To worry about the future, things that have not happened yet, is another kind of foolishness. So the Buddha often reminded us to be in the present. This present moment.
This is a beautiful Zen story telling us about a man who was being chased by a tiger. So he ran and then he jumped over a cliff. As he was hanging on the root of the tree, just below him there was a big snake crawling up just about to bite him. In between these two dangers, the tiger above, the snake below, the man happened to see this ripe strawberry growing next to the root that he was hanging onto. So he just grabbed the strawberry and put it in his mouth. "Ah, tastes so good." Can you imagine, instead of dwelling in the suffering of the past and worrying about the dangers in the future, this man learns to live in the present. Beautifully in the present.
We started out our talk the body as a sankara, as a coming together of the elements. It is the body which is the greatest teacher. Why so? How old are you now? Suppose that you are 55. Look at your hands. Your hands used to be very beautiful when you were young. Some of you, you know, were modeling jewels on your beautiful fingers.
But now at the age of 55, the nails keep on breaking up. You cannot keep them long any longer. The skin which was so beautiful when you were young is now wrinkled all over. You see a mark here and there. You see this cut because you used some type of cutter and you cut yourself by accident. You see this mark on your hand. You see that mark on your hand. Your hands are growing old. You just take a look at only one part of yourself. What about other parts? Because our body is composed of something, it decays. This is nature.
This is the natural course of our life. The Buddha was so true when he talked about the three characteristics, namely impermanence, suffering and non-self. Whatever is composite arises, stays for a while, and then decays. So is our life, so is our body, because it is composed of the four elements. So it decays as time passes by and if anyone of us tries to cling onto life, wanting it to remain the same way as when we were young will only experience suffering because we are going against nature. So this body is the greatest teacher to remind you of the truth of life, that is, it rises, it stays and it decays. Everything is impermanent, including you, including me. If we realize this fact, we will somehow be able to take life as it comes. Each day, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.
Then you will find that in this very minute in this very moment life is wholesome. Life is beautiful. So this is the beautiful teaching, this is a beautiful technique that is proved for us by the Buddha. If we call ourselves Buddhists, we should follow his teaching and we will find that after all, life is not so bad. Even if you are suffering from some kind of illness, don't feel sad that you have this kind of illness and you might die soon. What about the next person who was so strong, but happened to die of an accident the very next day. So thinking of it in this way, you will find life is worth living. No matter how long you are going to live, be it days, be it months, be it years, live the best quality of life, live your life mindfully. Make each minute meaningful, for you and for everyone around you. May you be in peace. May you live a joyful life. May you live a meaningful life.