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Volume 6 no 2

It's A Blissful Life - Encounters of Buddhism in life by Jen Chen Buddhism practitioners

The Buddha's teachings are in deed without end. If we think that we should practise what the Buddha taught only after we have thoroughly investigated and researched the theories of Buddhism, the sheer volume would make it difficult to cope. Of course, we become very knowledgeable in Buddhism, but it does not necessarily make us any wiser; in fact, we effectively become a 'bookshelf'. Putting the teachings into practise is an entirely different matter... Here Jen Chen Buddhism practitioners share their experiences with Living and Cultivating.
Sowing seeds of melon and harvesting beans?

The Chinese proverb "Plant seeds of melon to harvest melons, plant seeds of bean to harvest beans" aptly summarises the universal law that where there are causes, there will be effects. Not only will there be effects, but the kind of consequence is also predetermined. Although we may not be sowing seeds of melons or beans, we are constantly engaging in activities that are likened to sowing seeds, for example, through what we do, what we say and what goes on in our mind. By the universal law of cause and effect, all our activities have consequences. Some of these will bear results immediately, but others will take time. In the same way that seeds need favourable conditions such as air, water, sunlight, soil and the planter to sprout, so does the fruition of our actions. What is certain is that we reap what we sowed.

I had a little experience about sowing seeds that I would like to share with you. I had sown seeds of the petunia flower and but got chilli plants instead. It sounds like sowing seeds of melon and but harvesting beans. However, it turned out that when I was tilling the soil to sow the petunia seeds, I had dug out the chilli seeds that were planted previously but had not sprouted. In so doing, I had unwittingly provided favourable conditions for the chilli seeds to sprout and grow. Although the act of sowing was committed long ago, the conditions were previously not favourable for sprouting. I ended up with a mixture of petunia and chilli plants. Of course, this was not my intention!

This trivial experience exemplifies the saying that, "Virtuous deeds shall beget virtuous rewards, while evil deeds shall beget evil; if they are yet to materialise, then it is because the time is not ripe." We may wonder why many events in life unfolded the way they did. Perhaps this experience that I had tells us about the mechanism by which this works. I remembered sowing the chilli seeds and so I know how it happened. But, it is not that we always remember or have the ability to know what we, or other people, had done in the past. However, the fact that where there is cause, there will be effects, is infallible. The phenomenon transcends from the past to the present and the future, stretching through our past, present and future lives, just like seeds sown in a previous season may sprout only in this season or even later. It is, therefore, only a matter of time.

All of us enjoy the freedom to sow whatever seeds we like. It would be quite unusual for people to deliberately plant seeds that they know will bear bitter or sour fruits. Similarly, it would be foolish of us to indulge in those activities that will cause us to suffer. The law of cause and effect is so real, so powerful and so wonderful at the same time. Knowing how it works gives us the wisdom to conduct ourselves in a way that we can derive peace, happiness and bliss in our life. Because of this, the Buddha advises us to, "avoid committing all that are evil and perform all that are good, to purify the mind." It is an advice that serves to help us keep sufferings or distresses at bay. We will do well to heed it.

Before we act, speak or begin to form an opinion, it would be wise for us to pause for a moment and think of what seeds we are about to sow and what fruits will we be harvesting. With this kind of awareness in our mind, life shall bear the kinds of fruits that we all like to have - sweet, juicy and fragrant.
Not having to work a single day of your life
Considering that we spend a good part of our life working for a living, it would be quite unfortunate if the very source of our life is also the source of our sufferings. People often take their work stress home and in turn cause people at home to be stressed and unhappy as well, and the problem snowballs into a vicious cycle. A colleague told me that when she got home from work, her children would greet her, asking, "Why do you come home so early?" What a home coming greeting! Remarks like this drive what is left of a stressful day at work to rock bottom. They would rather not have her at home because she would yell at everybody. I have noticed how some people leave the office after a day's work as fresh and cheerful as they come in, in the morning. They must have enjoyed the day's work.

We all know what stress can do to our health. But, what can we do to be happy at work? Liking what we do, or doing what we like would be a big help. When we truly enjoy our work and like it so much, then we don't feel as if we are working. We are 'not working and not-not working'. It also means that we don't have to work a single day of our life! 'Work' actually takes on a broader meaning for it covers every little task that we do, be it washing the car, mopping the floor, bringing up the children, etc. When we relieve ourselves from the notion of work as a burden, then we are truly happy doing them.

The state of 'not working and not-not working' is not a fantasy. We can derive it from the understanding of the natural phenomenon that all forms of resistance create stress. In work, stress arises when people resist or are reluctant to do what is required of the job. Such resistance include thoughts of "Why me?", "Why do I have to do it?", "Why can't somebody else do it?" etc. The moment such thoughts arise in the mind, stress starts building up. If the water flowing through a pipe is work, then any obstruction in the pipe builds up a pressure. That is stress. Worse still, if a train going through a tunnel is work, then any obstruction in the tunnel will be catastrophic.

If there is no 'emptiness' then it is neither possible for the water to pass through the pipe, nor the train to pass through the tunnel. If there is no 'emptiness' in the room we can never get in. If the chair is not empty then we cannot sit on it. If there is no 'emptiness' in the mind, then there is no room for anything else that is not already in there. Similarly, without 'emptiness' we cannot accommodate the many people and situations that we are bound to face in our daily routine.

The notion of 'emptiness' in Buddhism is very useful in helping us to cope with stress. We will do well to constantly inspect our 'pipe' and remove potential obstructions to the flow. In addition, using the principle of 'emptiness' to enlarge the flow channel will avoid obstructions and prevent a build up of pressure. The state of 'not working and not-not working' is a reality that is achieved by truly enjoying what we do. Then, we don't have to work a single day of our life!

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre