Good Morning everyone! This is the Dharma Espresso for today.
Hopefully you had a good night sleep, since it was Ullambana (Vu-Lan), the moon was full and beautiful. Yesterday was also the day I went to Santa Barbara. I took a walk through the park and saw very beautiful pine trees. One special feature of those pine trees was that their branches were all intertwined, presenting a conflicting image. Similar to people with inner-conflicting ideas, these trees could not grow taller because of their beautifully intertwining branches. If those intertwining branches were cut off, those pine trees would grow much taller, wider, more beautiful than they are.
People sometimes create inner conflicts called self-tying knots. These knots are the main reason for our failure in our path for self-improvement. Therefore, the first and foremost step in the path for self-improvement is to untie ourselves from these inner-conflicts. In order to achieve this, we need to forgive ourselves. It is very important to understand this concept. Sometimes we say we forgive ourselves too hastily, without truly understanding our mistakes in order to change them. Forgiveness requires taking steps to change. Self-forgiveness means self-improvement. We should not let ourselves stuck in the stage of repentance. We should not think that we are always right, nor should we tie ourselves to the feeling of guilt. We need to find ways to improve ourselves as well as to change our viewpoints about others. It is our viewpoint about others that defines our self-assessment. If we hate everybody, we define
ourselves as their “enemy”. If we are always defensive, cautious, we define ourselves as “guilty”.
Therefore, self-liberation is the most important step to take. We need to know how to untie our knots correctly and at the right time in order to live comfortably and freely. Untying our knots incorrectly or at the wrong time might cause misery for us and for others. The more we contemplate about our self-improvement, the more we realize that samadhi (concentration power) is a form of opening up the stagnation in our way of thinking. The stagnation is our prejudice, not a psychological condition. We do not need to pour our hearts out to psychologists before we can start our path of self-improvement. Our hurt feelings are caused by our self-righteousness, our egos, our prejudice.
To improve ourselves, we need to understand the cause of our miseries, our stagnation, and change our prejudice as well as our self-righteous attitude. We see psychologists to lighten our emotions and our hurt feelings without realizing that these negative feelings will only disappear if we let go of our egos. Without our selfishness, we do not feel the need for self-defense, our generosity will surface, and our miseries will disappear. You can go to sessions of emotional improvement, but you should also go to spiritual retreats to study the roots of our troubles. Our miseries are due to our strong prejudice and self-righteousness.
It has been a long talk, now let me tell you a story. There was a man on a boat ride, holding a precious jade cup in his hand. Suddenly, the cup fell into the river. The man took out a knife and carved a mark on the boat. Asked why he did that, he answered that he marked where he lost his precious cup in order to look for it. Of course, you would laugh at the story because the cup fell into the river, why did he make a mark on the boat? This is an example of the inner-conflict that we create for ourselves. In short, we need to understand our mistakes correctly in order to correct them.
Another story: A couple, husband and wife, went to the park and bought some ice cream. The sign said ice cream, but the store sold sorbet instead. This upset the man, who asked for his money back. When his request was not honored, the man made a big scene. He finally concluded that he would forever remember the date (9/5), the name of the park and the ice
cream salesman, and would never come back to this park…. His wife remarked, ”Why do
you bother yourself with all those details? When you come back in the future, there is no certainty that the same salesman will be there”. The wife in the story was right.We do not carve on the boat, but we carve in our mind all the events that pass by pretty quickly.
Unknowingly, we create our inner conflicts and do not understand that we ourselves can untie the knots that make us miserable if we forget our self-righteousness and our egos.
I wish you all a beautiful day! Thank you for listening.
Dharma Master Heng Chang (Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)