圖 / 三乘佛學院文 / 文獻中心
Practice Through Suffering
In my own practice I have taken suffering as a way to develop great perseverance and to reach awakening. We often feel that the suffering of this world is overwhelming, and don`t give thought to the fact that through suffering, we can understand and experience the truth that the Buddha taught. We don`t know how to pursue the Buddha’s teaching and realize the preciousness of truth through suffering.
When I began my own practice, I read about the great masters who engaged in ascetic practice in the depth of forests, wilderness and graveyards, in order to realize the truth, to cut off all troubles and develop true freedom, peace and stability of heart and mind. I deeply felt that the Buddha wanted me to go this way too. And so I studied the method that the great masters used in their own practice, and then started living in a dilapidated pagoda, then in a graveyard, then in a cave. There I devoted myself to the practice of Chan and quiet contemplation to realize the truth of our essential nature which the Buddha taught.
When I practiced meditation in the graveyard in Yilan, I took death as a way of contemplating the “I”, calmly observing the transition from life to death that was happening in front of my eyes. I came to feel that death is the great equalizer. No matter what our station is in this life, we are all the same when we arrive in the graveyard. And so I started asking myself:“What is the meaning of life, of my life?” To find an answer I kept the Buddhist precepts (sila), and practiced concentration (samadhi) to develop the wisdom of seeing through things (prajna). When we keep the precepts and practice concentration, we no longer hanker after things, but we learn to master our own heart and mind, to make it smooth and soft. Then we use wisdom to see through everything that exists in this universe, to let go and completely free ourselves from worries and troubles. At that time, I practiced Chan all day and night, never giving up. This is how I developed great perseverance.
Later, to progress even more, I decided to engage in ascetic practice and fasting in a cave. Why would one want to do such a thing? It is all to find our true, essential nature. When I was in the cave, very weakened from the fast, at the point of almost dying, I suddenly realized the impermanence of life, and at the same time, I realized that which never dies: our true enlightened nature. And with that experience I was able to get a hold of my true, essential Self.
Each and every one of us has this true, essential self. All we need to do is to dig deep to find it. What is the way to dig deep? It is learning Buddhism, and developing right views. My own ascetic practice of Chan, the suffering I went through and the contemplation of the body I engaged in, all helped me understand where life comes from and where it goes. I realized that this body of ours is a composite of the four elements – earth, water, fire and wind - that it is permanently changing, that it is illusory and perishable. But our True Self is neither born nor perishes, it has no form or shape, it never dies. It is our body that is goes through rebirth in the world of life and death, but our spiritual essential nature never even moves. Death is no other than life, and life is no other than death. This is the right way of looking at things, and the basic teaching of the Buddha.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
(Translated by Maria Reis Habito)