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Written by Venerable Master Hsing Yun
Recorded by Fabian Yu
The world is full of wonders, but everything comes in half and half. For instance, half of the people are men and the other half women; half of them are good and the other half not so good; and half the time is day and the other half night. Living in this "half-and-half" world, it is almost impossible or very difficult for us to achieve one hundred percent perfection. Therefore, we can only make use of this "half" of life to influence the other half, like trying to affect the bad half with the good. The following views explain the half-and-half life we live.
1. Life is filled with half joy and half sorrow. Laozi once said, "Fortune rides on calamity, and calamity is hidden behind fortune." There is no one in the world who is forever happy or sad. Our life is sometimes joyful and other times sorrowful. They are like day and night taking turns after one another. Only people who can adapt to situations can make good use of both the light and the dark, happiness and sorrow. The ancients said, "How can all matters under the heavens be according to people's wishes. It is only when our minds are at peace that we can deal with self and others. We can then follow circumstances and live at ease." Most people are focused on the gains and losses of life, and become happy or sad as the impermanence of worldly matters dictates. Consequently, they are never able to find peace. If we are content with our lot in life, we will be able to face all adversity. We will be like Confucius, whose "happiness led him to forget his worries," and our minds will be liberated from the fetters of sorrow and pain.
2. Gains and losses of fame and fortune are half and half. It is not easy for people to gain both fame and fortune at the same time, given that such worldly matters are half and half and are relative to one another. If we are inextricably caught in the net of fighting for fame and fortune, we may indeed lose more than we gain. Some entrepreneurs may have built an empire with their corporate enterprises, but lost the love of their family and their own health in exchange. The ruler of a country may keep waging war in order to gain more territory, yet end up losing the support of his citizens as well as his precious character and moral standards. Laozi asked, "What is dearer, fame or our body? What is more, our body or goods? What is worse, gain or death?" The value of life depends on how we evaluate it. Between the gains and losses over fame and fortune, we must be wise in how we assess them.
3. The gathering and dispersing of wealth is half and half. We are often witness to the major ups and downs in people's lives. So too does their wealth come and go: in the blink of an eye, they could be living with immense wealth, indulging themselves in every luxury; then just as suddenly, they could be completely broke, living in the dire straits of abject poverty. According to the saying, "Wealth does not last for more than three generations." The Connected Discourses of the Buddha also points out, that "all phenomena are impermanent;" And over the centuries, few of the imperial dynasties of China lasted for more than six emperors. Moreover, the wealthy nobility under the many dynasties all ended in downfall. And on the other hand, many of the very wealthy people and learned scholars came from very poor families. Therefore, the honor, disgrace, wealth, and poverty in this world are all impermanent. Though we may be down and out for the moment, as long as we are willing to work hard and persevere, we will surely succeed one day.
4. In cultivation, the Buddha and our demons are half and half. This is the world where the Buddha and our demons are present together and where misfortune and fortune exist at the same time. Living in this half-and half world, there is the world of the Buddha and that of our demons. In reality, they exist between our thoughts, for when we can turn our thinking around, we can change ignorance into enlightenment, sorrow into joy, stupidity into wisdom, and harmful thoughts into compassion. As the saying goes, "Put down the butcher's knife and become a Buddha right here and now." Therefore, within the half-and-half world of the Buddha and our demons, we can transform the demonic into the Buddha, enabling us to become virtuous and wise.
The world is divided in half between good and bad. Most people can only accept the good half and not the bad. As a result, they can only achieve half of what they have set out to do. We can possess a complete life only when we can accept the good half and tolerate the bad half as well. Therefore, we need to understand clearly this half-and-half life of ours.
A closed window or door
will cut one off from the outside;
a closed mind
will confine the space of thoughts.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun grants voices to the objects of daily monastic life to tell their stories in this collection of first-person narratives.
The Medicine Buddha SutraMedicine Buddha, the Buddha of healing in Chinese Buddhism, is believed to cure all suffering (both physical and mental) of sentient beings. The Medicine Buddha Sutra is commonly chanted and recited in Buddhist monasteries, and the Medicine Buddha’s twelve great vows are widely praised.
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