Chan Master Sheng Yen

We practice to lessen vexation and gradually illuminate the mind. But the road to that end, where the environment no longer gives rise to vexation, is marked with obstacles. When you scale a mountain, there is rarely a straight path to the top. More likely, you will encounter twists and turns, rises and dips, objects to get around and over. As you overcome these obstacles, you may get closer, but it is not a straight walk to the summit. As practitioners, we have an ordinary being’s body and mind. We can tire mentally and physically. When this happens, it is very difficult to make progress even if you want to keep going forward, making breakthrough after breakthrough.

Therefore, if you are constantly motivated to accumulate positive experiences, the opposite—negative experiences—is likely to happen. Under these conditions, one is likely to feel frustration. This leads to negative feelings and thoughts like, “This is not for me. I’m not the kind of person who can practice well.” When you try to move forward you meet an obstacle, or find yourself going in circles, or even going backwards. There comes a temptation to give up and leave practice to others.

We need to remind ourselves that the purpose of practice is gradually to leave behind self-clinging and to illuminate one’s mind. Its aim is to slow down and eventually end our struggles to satisfy our cravings and to find complete security. Craving happiness, we make sacrifices to attain it, and this sacrificing causes suffering. The quest for happiness causes our suffering, and to escape suffering we seek happiness. This cycle of happiness and suffering constitutes the ego-centered self.’ 

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