Thoughts Penned by Teacher - Assume the Stillness of a Tree

There are times when one will flare up without reason or kick a fuss about something trivial; even retrogress so much as to become hysterical and have their emotions spin out of control.

At the ignition point, suffering surges and becomes difficult to suppress. At the time when everyone finds the situation unexpected and puzzling, we should first find ways to let him/her calm down.  Do share with that person that things are not as severe in actuality. It is not worth the extensive anguish and one should concede to bring a halt to such misery!  Never let a wounded heart bleed profusely by playing recursive thoughts of a particular incident, fall into irrational thinking and suffer unbearably.

In fact at this time, it would be inappropriate to remonstrate against the situation.  Instead, one should immediately treat the painful injury. Just as the Buddha said in the Parable of the Arrow, if one has been shot by an arrow, he should not waste time analyzing if it was made of wood, iron, steel or if it was smeared with poison.  Rather, he should pull it out straightaway.  When we are struck by the arrow of suffering, the important thing is to get rid of the arrow, let ourselves calm down and “assume the stillness of a tree”.

So, how does one pull out the arrow of suffering? If fortunate to be in the company of people who understand the situation and who know Dharma, then, listen to their advice and do not follow after our emotions too deeply.  It is best to “listen to the teachings and engage in substantive practice”, for you will be released with little difficulty from the fortress of afflictions.

If unaccompanied, one should fervently focus one’s mind on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, with the earnest wish to gradually settle and quieten within.  It is necessary to adjust one’s breathing; put effort to breathe in deeply and supplicate.

Why let a single small matter brings us to an abrupt collapse?  Although the reasons are possibly aplenty like grass, on closer examination, underlying sources can be generally attributed as follows: -

1.     Recurrent buildup of irrational thoughts that go according to sentiments of self-centered despondency, injustice, resentment, non-forgiveness and other negative thinking —— afflictions that were not promptly addressed and had culminated in a disaster.  Perhaps, whilst others may feel that the above statements are unfair, my objective opinion is that the fairest thing is people should not suffer.

So, in order to achieve happiness and peace; to distance oneself from hurt, hate and resentment, non- forgiveness and so on; in order to become happier, give oneself the right to happiness, and even bravely pursue a life of happiness; to achieve these, we should specifically contemplate on the faults of afflictions and remedy them accordingly.

The Lamrim states in the chapter of The Origin of Suffering,

"The faults of the afflictions.   When an affliction arises, at first it completely afflicts your mind, causing you to err with regard to what you are observing, reinforcing your latent proclivities, and causing the same sort of affliction to recur.  It may harm you, others, or both; it leads to misdeeds in this life, in future lives, or in both.  It creates experiences of pain and anguish, as well as the sufferings of birth, and the like.  It takes you far from nirvana, your virtue is destroyed and your resources are depleted.   In society you feel apprehensive, joyless, and devoid of confidence, while your notoriety spreads in all directions and excellent persons such as teachers and protectors rebuke you.  You die with regret, your aims unfulfilled, and after death you are reborn into a miserable realm.

Furthermore, as the Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras says:

Through afflictions, you destroy yourself, destroy other beings, and destroy your ethical discipline.

After you have ruined your joy, you are shunned; your protectors and teachers rebuke you.

Disreputable, you will be reborn in a leisureless condition.

You suffer great anguish in losing the virtue you had or have yet to attain.”

2.     Perhaps, the body may be too tired and the four elements are out of balance.
3.     Failure to set a strong positive motivation first thing in the morning, an inadequate inner strength to protect our mind, or even a negative dream state will affect the day.  The residual influence of afflictions from our troubled dreams should also be treated accordingly.  If one is not yet proficient in the cultivation of one’s mind and is embroiled in a state of repetitive failure in every battle, this is not the occasion to retreat but to take on the attitude of a constantly defeated general! It is necessary to persistently learn from teachers, seniors and virtuous friends in order to align ourselves with the Dharma and thereby develop the habit of not immersing oneself in suffering nor stirring afflictions.  It would be best if at the first onset of afflictive thoughts, one right away uses the spear of correct view to strike and pierce through this assailant numerous times. This “spear” specifically cures the sphere of suffering.  It is imperative to put in long term effort, a lifetime of persistence, infinite lifetimes of relentless cultivation till one is skilled in subduing afflictions.

4.     If you are capable [of helping] and often come across people like this in your social circle, would you be compassionate and give him guidance as well as look out for him?  Presuppose the situation befalls on us instead. Firstly, do not be afraid, then, accumulate experience with each and every breakdown, and over time, find yourself a quicker way to exit the agony.  After all, grief and so forth will harm one’s health and waste one’s life away.  One should have the resolve to thoroughly crush, entirely destroy all self-cherishing thoughts, non-empathy towards others’ suffering and the failure to acknowledge the reasons to be grateful (for these are the causes of suffering and devastation). Put in effort to learn and diligently practice constant recollection of ethical discipline as well as the kindness of others.  Remember the immeasurable kindness of the Guru, Buddha, Dharma, the monastery where the Sangha resides, the kindness of our parents, all sentient beings, trees, flora, water sources, Mother Earth and so on, innumerable kindness. Through this cultivation, we will cause the strength of our grateful heart to become insurmountable akin to a torrential river. Even when we meet with unfavourable conditions, this precious sword of ours becomes further honed to cut off all our thoughts that deviate from remembering others’ kindness.
I have witnessed many people in such a situation and have given some help.  When they improve, I am really happy. However, at night, when in solitary quiet contemplation, the thought of many others who are undergoing such suffering in this world, struggling to escape with difficulty, coils my heart with agony and thus, prompted me to write this article.  I hope these words can fly to the side of those who are suffering. Just as fireflies emit some degree of light albeit so modestly, likewise, I merely wish my light can accompany and light up your lonesome journey in the darkness of the night, especially during the times when you are helpless and miserable.