Workers carrying heavy loads feel lighter when they put down their burden. People shouldering heavy responsibilities sigh in relief upon completion of their task.
In our daily lives, we often feel pressured because we do not know how to let go of things. We are unwilling to let go of money, love, reputation, and power. Consequently, they become burdens for us to carry, crushing us with their weight.
If we are unable to let go of fame, wealth, and high status, our moral integrity and dignity will be dragged down by them. If we are too attached to our desires and cravings, they will dominate our lives. If we cannot look beyond our vexations and problems, we will live in misery. If we cannot be put aside gains and losses, we will always be under their influence.
It is not easy being human. We are by nature easily swayed. There are many reasons we refuse to let go. But if we do not let go when we should, we will find ourselves forever bound by worldly matters. Furthermore, wealth and social position are not the only things that we need to learn to let go of. We must also practice detaching ourselves from matters concerning life and death.
Once, a young lady was meditating in the meditation hall when she was informed that she had obtained a scholarship for a prestigious college overseas. Instead of being overjoyed, she thought of a Chan practitioner’s advice to “let go” and “not be bothered,” and promptly attained enlightenment.
The famous scholar and poet, Su Dongpo, thought he had a good understanding of Chan. However, when Chan Master Foyin tested him, Su Dongpo lost his calm and failed to hold his ground against the “eight winds” of profit and loss, defamation and fame, praise and blame, and suffering and joy. He could not let go, and because of this, he was unable to truly realize the Dharma.
Many people are unable to let go due to their notion of self. Chan practitioners often teach that, “we actually go through every day carrying our own corpse.” Our refusal to let go is tiring. Therefore, we should live life like we carry a suitcase. We take it with us when we need to and put it down when we don’t. We can only be at ease when we let go. The following is a verse Buddhists use to describe Maitreya Bodhisattva:
A big stomach can bear any matter the world offers;
A laughing face can laugh off sorrow anytime, anywhere.
If we could be like Maitreya Bodhisattva, able to bear any matter, we need not worry about not being able to let go. We can be at ease in life!