Having afflictions is having the affliction-ice of ignorance; having no afflictions is having the Bodhi-water of wisdom
When the Buddha saw that all living beings undergo four great sufferings – birth, old age, sickness and death – he resolved to leave the home-life, to cultivate and find the way to escape from these four great sufferings.
Without our knowing it, our afflictions manifest themselves. Sometimes they show in our appearance; sometimes they are hidden in our minds. Once ignorance is stirred up, we are totally lost. When ignorance plays its tricks on us, we become muddled. Afflictions are stumbling blocks to cultivating the Way.
On the other hand, we cannot do without afflictions. Why not? Because “affliction is Bodhi.” If you know how to use it, affliction is Bodhi; if you don’t know how to use it, then Bodhi becomes affliction. Bodhi is analogous to water, and affliction to ice. Ice and water are of the same substance; there is no difference. In freezing weather, water will freeze into ice, and in hot weather, ice will melt into water. When there are afflictions, water freezes into ice; and when the afflictions are gone, ice melts into water. This principle is very easy to understand. In other words, having afflictions is having the affliction-ice of ignorance; having no afflictions is having the Bodhi-water of wisdom. Please remember this! We shouldn’t cultivate for eighty thousand great kalpas and still have afflictions, day after day living to eat afflictions, and starving to death if there aren’t any. That would be truly pathetic.
Where do our sickness come from? They come from the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. If people didn’t have these three poisons, there wouldn’t be any illnesses. In the Buddhadharma, precepts, Samadhi, and wisdom are the antidote to greed, anger and stupidity. They have the magical effect of eradicating sickness immediately upon being taken.
When the mind is clear,
The moon is reflected in the water;
When thoughts are settled, there are no clouds in the sky.
In this state, there are no afflictions.
When the mind is still and thoughts are gone,
That is true wealth and honor.
When selfish desires are totally cut off,
That is the true field of blessings.
When deluded thoughts are stilled and the exploitation of conditions comes to an end, that is true wealth and honour. In short, to not to be greedy is to be wealthy and honoured. People are greedy because they aren’t content; they feel they don’t have enough. Being without selfish desires is called a field of blessings. If the desires are totally cut off, that is the true field of blessings. You should pay special attention to this.
If your mind is at peace,
A hundred difficulties will be dispelled.
If thoughts are settled,
All things will be auspicious.
This is a famous saying. Use it as a motto, and you will receive limitless benefits throughout your whole life.
What is affliction? Having an afflicted body and an annoyed mind. In this state, there is no self-mastery. What is worry? Distress and vexation, and being in low spirits. What are sudden misfortunes? Accidents and unfortunate events. These things bind you and oppress you, like the lock of ignorance which locks you up, like the rope of affliction which ties you up. They are also like a huge rock pinning you down and suffocating you, so that you cannot breathe. The Buddha wanted all living beings to part with afflictions and attain peace and happiness; to escape from all oppression and gain liberation, and this is why he taught all living beings to bring forth the great Bodhi mind, and to learn and cultivate the Buddha’s meritorious, virtuous conduct. Therefore, we living beings should listen to, accept, believe in and practice the Buddha’s teachings.
Living beings’ afflictions are limitless and boundless. They are just like a mirage. The Bodhisattvas see how deluded living beings are: living beings reverse the straight and the crooked, black and white, good and evil. No matter how one tries to teach them, they just cannot change their habits. They have countless layers of obstacles. If you point out their faults, they’ll get upset and try to justify them; they don’t want to correct them and change for the better. They’ll even display great ignorance and become terribly afflicted.
The Bodhisattvas bring forth a kind, compassionate, and sympathetic mind for these living beings. Again and again, they remind living beings not to gossip or become afflicted, and tell them that if they don’t lose their tempers or let jealousy obstruct them, they’ll be able to leave the sea of suffering.
This human body is illusory. Don’t always protect this stinking skin bag as if it were a precious jewel, afraid to let it suffer and wanting it to enjoy blessings. In spite of all this coddling, your body only gives you a lot of trouble.
A talk given on May 3, 1983