In my green years I took refuge in Buddhism the way a
young tree regards its place in the external landscape. I looked at the
world and the world looked back at me; and I thought that the way that I
and the world appeared, each to the other, was all that mattered.
until my years had ripened did I understand that beneath appearances
lies that necessary root which supported my life even as it probed the
depths of life itself. Following this unseen root into a sacred
interior, I became a monk called Shi Yin Cheng.
As a monk I wear
a patchwork robe. The patches are both a symbol of material poverty and
of the impoverishment of wrong knowledge that formed my previous
assumptions. I had equated conditions with existence: I had a physical
body and a personality that interacted with the world through the
senses, and to the information these senses brought, I reacted with
feelings and emotions, with the thoughts and ideas of consciousness. And
I decided that all this constituted my "self."
This "self" was
the one I served. Everything I thought and said and wrote belonged to
him; and everything that this "self" demanded, I gave to him without
scruples or reservation. He was the best and wisest of masters, and
naturally I sought to fulfil his every wish. Anyone who seemed to
threaten him became my enemy, and for him I suffered many injuries. He
was an expert in philosophy and could quote philosophers, and I did not
object when he decided what was ethical and what was not. I understood
that as long as the appearance of living ethically was maintained, that
was sufficient. Although I did not truly understand what it was that he
described, I blindly followed. I believed that this "self" would lead me
After years of interacting with the world in
this external and superficial way, I began to realize that my services
and injuries were useless, that nothing had changed, that I was roaming
pointlessly in confusion.
And gradually I became aware of an
interior attraction that was like a small light, a little flame that we
are drawn to when we are in darkness. Ardently I followed this light,
and it led me to the teachings of the great masters. Then the light
blazed and I could clearly see the errors I had made. I discovered the
Buddha Dharma's Way of Honesty in Thinking and in Living.
in Thinking does not mean that we channel our thoughts towards the
philosophical constructs of the Ground of all Being and the Nature of
Reality, but instead that we think about the cause of human suffering
and the way to alleviate that suffering. What had induced me to regard
my personality as my "self"? What had made me see the world in terms of
"my" and "mine" and had led me into the delusions that provoked such
conflict. What had created the recklessness, brooding, belligerence, and
all the errors in judgment that led me to value things that were
worthless and to ignore or discard things that were priceless? What ego
in me caused me to place a veil over my eyes so that for many years I
could not see even the simple truths of the Buddha's teachings?
by discovering the Way of Honesty in Thinking I recognized the source
of suffering: it was in hating and in seeking harm to come to those who
are hated, for such hatred of others soon becomes self-loathing. It was
in craving something so much that lying and cheating would be used to
gain it; for suffering then tainted the object and it brought boredom
and dissatisfaction with what had been obtained; or, if it had not been
obtained, in being disappointed and resentful by the failure. Suffering
was caused by being charmed by vices and in foolishly believing that the
corruption of the vice would not envelop those who were charmed by it.
The same suffering awaits the one who slanders and lies and who becomes
intoxicated by drink and drugs and who behaves licentiously. Each
harmful act increases the burden that he must carry in an ever darkening
Honesty in Thinking removes the veil from our eyes and
lets us see that we are responsible for ourselves and that we are the
cause of our own misery.
Honesty in Living is experienced when we
choose to live by the simple truths of the Dharma and divest ourselves
of ego and all the desires that serve the ego's whims. Then we love
instead of hate; we help instead of harm; we give instead of take; we
preserve what is chaste and shun what is corrupt; and we so appreciate
the beauty of the world that we never seek to obliterate it with
intoxicants or other poisons.
And when I embraced the simple Way
of Honesty in thought and in life, I began to view philosophical
concepts differently. What was it that was called "the world"? Before,
when I occupied myself with this topic, I was always led to the same
conclusion: that the universe was comprised of concrete entities that I
apprehended with other entities called my senses and that I analyzed
with yet another entity, my own conscious mind. I reasoned that whatever
is an entity has an existence, one that has coordinates in space and
time. I looked at the stars and the things of the earth and saw them as
separate, discrete, and distinct from myself, but in reality it was my
mind that was imbuing them with shape and time and location. It was as a
silk worm that spins a cocoon, surrounding itself in a web of many
layers and directions but does not realize that all it sees came from a
single line which emanated from itself. And more, it was as a silk worm
that does not even imagine a butterfly in its future.
Buddha Dharma unravels this illusion.
When I finally found
myself alone, opposite the whole world that I had created from my wrong
ways of thinking, I knew that it would be hard to close my eyes and let
it all disappear. The habit of seeing what is illusionary is difficult
But I knew that just as I had been deceived by old
traditional thinking habits, with self-discipline I would cultivate the
Buddha's Honest Way of Thinking and that my strength would increase in
spite of any obstacles and ill-will I might encounter. My happiness also
would increase because I knew to a certainty that this was the Buddha's
Honest Way of Living.
Hermitage in Bamboo Grove, 2008 March
Xue Feng Chan-ju
thank you very much for your last mail. I hope you are in good health
and everything are in good work. Now many Germans know now your Homepage
and some of them gave me a feedback. There like it and did not know,
that there is so much Buddhism in China. I think the people here has no
idea about all this things.
Last days I did send some offers with CV to different school in China to
teach the German language there. I hope it will work. A German-Chinese
Office made the contacts. If it works I will see to stay for longer time
in China. I have to learn so much from your culture.
I send you my new articles. Maybe you will like it. All three the same. I
hope you can open one of them.
In the hope to see you soon, best regards, Your German Friend Xue Feng