Going at Our Own Pace on the Path of Meditation
by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

The Buddhist teachings are as vast as you can possibly imagine — and beyond that. At some point you might think you understand, but the reality is that the teachings are infinite. Even if you’re a bodhisattva on the fifth level, the person on the eighth level knows more. The dharma is like a huge mountain that we climb very slowly, taking little steps. But each step is profound; each step is amazing.

Practicing the dharma is traditionally said to be like walking through a heavy mist. It slowly, slowly enters into our bones; it slowly enters into who we are. People think of enlightenment as sudden transformation, like a light bulb that’s off one second and on the next: Prince Siddhartha is under the tree, you turn on the light, and he wakes up as the Buddha. But his enlightenment was not a sudden thing; he went through a process. He actually purified and transformed himself.

Many people have the idea that meditation means not thinking: the less we think, the better our meditation is. But meditation is really about changing our perception of the world. That is a scary idea, because we would like to follow the path to buddhahood but end up more or less the same person. We think, “I’m going to be enlightened and I’m going to be me. I’m gonna get all the goodies.” None of us thinks, “Maybe I’m going to be totally different. Maybe my process of engaging the world will be so different I won’t even recognise myself.”

Meditation helps us to do one particular thing: to change. Meditation changes how we relate to the world — that’s why we do contemplative practice. In a sense, we are re-educating ourselves — not in some esoteric spiritual sense, but just as human beings. Meditation is a practice through which we really become human. We become decent and workable. We have caught ourselves, our habitual selves, and we begin to change the way we look at things.

In meditation, we begin to learn about ourselves as basic human beings, and when we learn about ourselves, we learn how to change. Our mind is like hard ground that has not seen water for a long time. That ground is not capable of giving nourishment to anything. Whatever is planted in it dies. Nothing grows. As meditation practitioners, we begin to till our mind so that we can grow something, the mind of enlightenment. We’re trying to change.

The mind of enlightenment manifests as bodhicitta, which means that one is constantly and naturally thinking of the benefit of others. We could ask whether our own mind is like that. When we get up in the morning, is our immediate feeling one of warmth toward others and how we can benefit them? It could happen. But generally we think about ourselves. So how do we get from here to there?

Mindfulness, or shamatha meditation produces a mind that is able to settle. When we are doing spiritual practice, we have to have a mind that is able to stay in the moment, stay in the situation, long enough to absorb and understand. If we say, for example, “May the suffering of all sentient beings cease and may they enjoy happiness,” the mind that contemplates this has to be able to remain in the space of compassion long enough to be truly changed. If it can’t stay there, then bodhicitta will never develop; it will never take root.

There are said to be five aspects of the mind that are always present, no matter what we are doing. One of these aspects is mindfulness. Mindfulness is the aspect of conventional mind — the mind we have right now — that holds on to something. It is the ability of the mind to rest on a cup long enough to allow our hand to pick it up. It is the ability to hold an image in our mind or to stay on a spot long enough to understand what is going on.

In mindfulness practice, we are learning to extend this very basic quality of our mind. The project of training the mind in this way is much like the way we relate to children: when we’re teaching them what to do, we have to remind them again and again. We are training the mind in a similar way — bringing it back, bringing it back, bringing it back.

At this point, we aren’t even talking about Buddhism, really. The original texts that talk about mindfulness come from a meditative tradition that existed in India prior to the time of the Buddha. These teachings were incorporated into Buddhism because it was understood that if you wanted to train spiritually, you first needed to do this practice to stabilise the mind.

What is it that hinders mindfulness and the development of stable mind? In the course of meditation we begin to see that the mind is perpetually in motion. If we watch our mind, we realise it is always in turmoil — not necessarily in a dramatic way, but always moving, like waves on the ocean. We see this movement as thoughts.

When we do mindfulness practice, we learn to recognise this movement of mind and to separate out the many levels of thought. We do this by using the breath or other object of meditation to get some perspective on what is going on. When mindfulness is stabilised with the breath, we are in the immediate moment and awareness is right there, just seeing. As soon as we go off and start thinking about something, awareness will bring us back.

According to a famous Zen saying, bringing Buddhism to a new culture is like taking a flower and holding it next to a rock. Hopefully the flower will take root, but it takes a long time. Our minds are like the rock, and the dharma is a beautiful flower. How long is it going to take for this flower to take root in us?

Change is not going to happen instantly; it is a natural evolution that takes time. The more you learn about the so-called high level teachings, the more you understand the importance of patience. Patience means dealing very literally with every kind of situation in our lives. As each thought and situation arises, we can slow down and begin to train ourselves, little by little. Ironically, the quickest way to understand the great nature of mind is to have this mundane patience. We are not content with our neurosis, but we are content that we will go at our own pace.

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The appearances of this life — all the various appearances of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and bodily sensations we perceive — seem to truly exist. But life’s appearances do not say to us, “I am real.” They only seem to be real from our confused thoughts’ perspective when we think, “Those things really exist out there.” That is like what we do in a dream when we do not know we are dreaming.

Similarly, we mistakenly believe that aging, sickness, and death are truly existent… but this is just confused consciousness at work. The Buddhas’ perfect wisdom does not view this life, or the aging, sickness, and death that occur within it, as truly existent. The noble Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with wisdom that sees genuine reality do not see these events as real. Training in the view of the Mind-Only school that all phenomena are mind, and in the Middle Way view that all phenomena are emptiness, helps us transform our confused consciousness into perfect wisdom.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche

佛在心中、口中、行为中
圣严法师

“佛在心中、佛在口中、佛在我们的行为中,”也就是佛在我们的起心动念、举手投足、一言一行的生活中。

佛在心中

许多人学禅,目的为了要明心见性、开悟成佛。而佛在哪里呢?佛在每一个人的自性中,佛在每一个人的自心中,所谓:“佛在心中坐,不要蹉跎过。”既然知道佛存在于我们的心中,便不能浪费时间、生命、光阴,不要糊里糊涂地,浑浑噩噩地,过一辈子,那样太可惜了。因此,每一个今天,我们都要好好用功。

有一些人只知道希求明心见性、开悟成佛,却不知道如何来修行?认为一旦明心见性、开悟成佛之后,便可万事具足,得大自在,有大福慧了,所以老是期待著、梦想著:早一点开悟成佛吧!还有一些人,知道想求得开悟,但在开悟前,应该做些什么呢?以为大概是拼命地打坐吧!只要坐出名堂来,就能够明心见性,开悟成佛了!这话是没有错,释迦牟尼佛在成佛之前,也花了蛮长的一段时间,在苦行林、在雪山、在菩提树下打坐,那时因为佛法还没有现前,没有人给他说出佛法的道理,所以释尊要花那么长的时间去摸索,因为没人告诉他:“人人心中有佛。”也没有人告诉他:“无常就是无我,人生有苦,是因为不知道诸行无常、诸法无我,不能警觉到无常、无我,所以贪生怕死、瞋恨嫉妒,因此无法明心见性。”但是今天我们已经知道了佛法,释尊花了那么长时间的代价,开发了苦、空、无常、无我的真理,已知道一切众生都有佛性,我们就不必再花那么多的时间。因为现成的佛法,已经告诉我们,我们只要相信佛所说的话,照著来用在生活里就好。所以禅宗非常重视在平常日用生活之中,体验佛法和实践佛法。

当我们皈依三宝,当我们学著用佛法,我们就已经开始走上圆满的菩提大道了。此时已经知道修行佛道的方法和观念,只差自己实践的功夫不够,那我们更要如法修行,依教奉行,就是要受持佛法,继续努力。所以在禅宗的修行者们,就没有像释尊未成道之前那样,要不断地打坐六年的功夫,才能明心见性。禅宗认为只要你遵照著佛法去做,随时放下自我的执著,当下就能明心见性。

“佛在自心中”,这是佛祖告诉我们的。因为我们的自心就是佛心,只是因为有烦恼,所以佛性不现前,佛心被烦恼心所遮盖,所以只见烦恼不见菩提。但是我们已经皈依了三宝,已经知道了佛法,心中常念三宝,即与佛法相应。

佛在口中

佛在口中,就是佛的语言,即是智慧的语言、慈悲的语言、柔软的语言、安慰的语言、鼓励的语言、赞欢的语言、教化教育的语言、感动的语言。而我们究竟用的是什么语言呢?如果是学佛法,虽然内心中还没除烦恼、证菩提,可是我们已经知道经典里告诉我们,佛的语言,就是佛与他人讲话所用的方式,现在既然我们已经知道了,就应该照著去做。可是很多人有很多的推托,会说因为自己的烦恼多、业障重,因为自己的心还没有明,智慧之眼尚未开,所以没有办法像释尊以及大菩萨们那样,用智慧的语言、慈悲的语言、柔软的语言、安慰的语言、鼓励的语言、赞欢的语言、教化教育的语言、感动的语言、感恩的语言。实际上,这都是自己在替自己开释、脱罪;我们是应该可以做得到的,但自己就是不想做,也没有意愿做,所以随口而出的,多是粗恶语、挑拔语、妄语、绮语,很少是佛法的语言,这是违背了“佛在口中”的原则。

佛在我们的行为中

佛在心中,佛在口中,同时佛也在我们的生活行为中。不论是不是已以开悟了,或已经明心见性了,我们学习佛的行为是应该的,所以学佛应该是学他的心理行为、语方行为、身体的行为,经常学习佛的这三种行为,才是真正的学佛。否则只是学佛打坐,那是学坐,不是学佛,跟佛法不相应。

若要身体的行为合乎佛法的原则,就是要将佛法在我们平常日用生活中表现出来,我们的生活行为,要以四摄六度为准则,全心全力,做到自利利他、利益众生的目的,这才是学佛行、学菩萨行。如果我们的生活行为不检点,身口意三业没有一定的标准,不仅对自己造成的后果不堪设想,对他人也造成许多不方便的困扰和烦恼,并已远离学佛的生活了。

我们的身体每天从早到晚,究竟是轻举妄动呢?还是每一个动作都在自利、利他呢?或者是仅仅自利而不利他呢?事实上,如能做到真正的自利,一定也直接或间接地在利他。有一些行动,当下是为了自利,但是影响所及的后续发展,都能使环境中跟我们共同生活的人,乃至于在我们之后生活在这样环境里的人,也得到利益。

在禅宗丛林里,每天打坐的时间是不多的,只有早晚各一炷香,工作的时间倒是相当多,每天起早待晚,也就是早上起得早,晚上睡得晚,只睡中夜时分四到六小时。这种“日出而作,日落而息”,过著农耕的生活,是禅宗自中唐时代百丈大师以后的生活方式。当时禅宗的寺院是在山间,每天是到山上耕作,所以叫做“出坡”;每一个人都应该出坡,上从一寺之主的方丈和尚,下至所有的常住大众乃至沙弥、行者,全体出动,都得工作,没有例外,故称为“普请”。白天在工作之中,也就是在过著自利利他的修行和生活,因为工作是为了僧团道粮的自给自足,同时培养互相支援、彼此合作、大家付出、共同分享的和合精神,更为了维持道场、住持三宝,让正法住世、佛日增辉,所以需要劳务的工作,来作为禅修的生活。

我们看到直今天日本及韩国的禅宗寺院生活方式,平日的工作时间也是蛮多的,在禅堂里打坐的时间并不多。但于一年之中,会打几个禅七,称为“禅期”,又称为“接心”和“摄心”,用来精进打坐,克期取证。

这样的时段,在中国大陆则有两个“一是在冰冻三尺厚的隆冬,田里的泥土也冻得像石头,这时不能耕作,所以关门打坐,称为冬的安居,又称为结冬。二是在炎热的夏天,火伞高张,太阳强烈,可下田上山工作的时间非常短,要做也只有早上及傍晚做一点点,加上夏季多雷雨阵雨,土中也多虫蚁出没,耕作很不方便,禅众们就有仿佛世古规结夏安居的禅修方式。在印度有雨安居,因自四月十六日至七月十五日之间,为印度的雨季,天天下大雨,依方俗出家人不能到外面游化。而今天我们的生活环境,已从农业社会进入工商业社会,不论冬夏,照样可以在暖气房及冷气房内工作,并且可以日以继夜的工作。

成就众生、成就道场、成就菩提道业

现代禅寺的环境条件,现代禅修者的生活方式,都跟以前不一样了。为了顺应现代社会的生活型态,为了接引成就大部份在家居士,多半利用周末的休假日来禅寺修行,所以农禅寺有周日的禅坐共修。至于我们“禅七”,不论在台湾或美国,都是配合学校有寒暑假的假期,以及国定假日与周末相接的连休长周末;工商业从业人员虽然没有寒暑假,但他们有自己的年度休假制度,所以鼓励他们将假期用来参加禅七。

农禅寺的法师门是什么时候禅修呢?是配合大家的假期进入禅七,偶尔也举办出家众的“菩萨营”,但是平常只有早上、晚上各一小时的禅坐。白天我们都在上课、办公、开会,在为道场、为信众、为国家社会奉献而做自利利他、弘法护法的工作,我们也没有一天到晚都在打坐。出家众就是在这样的生活环境下,把禅法的准则用在日常生活之中,用“佛在心中、佛在口中、佛在行为中”的生活态度,进行禅修。譬如我们的出家众也在做拣切菜、洗碗筷、搬碗盘、摆桌椅、扫庭院、开车、擦车、洗车、操作电脑、打计算机、写文章、上课、出版书刊等等工作,工作之时,体验身心一致、体验三业清净、体验佛的悲智愿行。所以虽然跟社会上的一般工作几乎一样,可是我们的存心,不是为了名利物欲的追求,而是为了学佛修法,奉献我们的时间,来做这些工作。我们用这样的修行方式,以成就众生、成就道场,也就是在成就我们自己的菩提道业。

成就众生、成就道场、成就菩提道业,将这三点加起来,就是佛在我们“平常日用中”,这是禅宗常用的一句成语。因为佛在平常生活中,虽然你还没有见性明心,还没有开悟成佛,但已经听到了佛法,就该应用佛法,并且将佛法做为我们身口意三业行为的依准,这就是“佛在心中、佛在口中、佛在行为中”了。如果身口意的行为,跟佛法不相应时,必须起大惭愧,至诚忏悔。

禅宗的禅与佛的意义,应该是相同的。禅既是让我们明心见性、开悟成佛的观念及方法,也正是修行的目标,因此禅心等于佛心。古代禅宗祖师们所指的“达摩西来意”,就是平常生活里的佛心、佛言、佛行;一举一动,起心动念都是表露著佛的悲智,便是真正的修行。

请问诸位,当你与人家吵架的时候,佛在哪里?你在生闷气时,佛在哪里?你在与人交谈时,佛在哪里?你在工作时,佛在哪里?你在休息睡觉时,佛在哪里?那时的佛,是被你蒙在鼓里了呢?还是清楚地跟你生活在一起?请诸位不断地品味:“禅在哪里?佛在哪里?”

Whenever you hear that someone has been successful, rejoice. Always practise rejoicing for others — whether your friend or enemy. if you cannot practise rejoicing, no matter how long you live, you will not be happy.

— Lama Zopa Rinpoche

The Man Who Told the Future
by Pico Iyer

Kristin and I were scuffling around the back streets of Kathmandu on a lazy November afternoon. We’d already gone to the zoo that day, and been unsettled to see a brown bear clutching at the bars of his cage, wailing piteously. We’d trudged around the National Museum, where every artifact of the King’s life was recorded, with particular reference to “The Royal Babyhood.” We’d passed an early evening amongst the spires of Durbar Square, watching bright-eyed boys play Carom while their elder brothers brushed against us in their jackets, muttering, “Brown sugar, white sugar, coke, smack, dope.”

But now the afternoon was yawning ahead of us and we didn’t know what to do. It was a rare opportunity for shared sight-seeing: Kristin was accustomed to heading out every night at 10 p.m., reeling through the pubs and bars of the old city, being chatted up by self-styled mystics before fumbling back to our tiny room in the Hotel Eden as the light was coming through the frosty windows. I’d take off, a little later, into the heavy mist, notebook in hand, to record the bearded sages who sat along the streets peddling every brand of cross-cultural wisdom. She was collecting experience, we liked to think, I was collecting evidence.

We’d met in New York City eight months before and, on a wild impulse, had decided that Kristin should join me on the last stop of a four-month tour through Asia that I was planning to take. She had a charming boyfriend back on East 3rd Street, and I was romancing my notebook, so it felt more than safe as we settled into our sixth-floor room on Freak Street.

I opened my Lonely Planet guide — my companion through all the countries I’d visited — and pointed out to her one item that had long intrigued me. There, tucked among long lists of trekking agencies and meditation centers, explanations of living goddesses, and reviews of apple-pie emporia, was the single most startling entry I had seen in such a work: “The Royal Astrologer.” For a price, the write-up said, this mage who consulted with the palace on even its most important decisions — When was the right day to pass some edict? Which time boded well for a royal birth? — was available to anyone who wished to see him.

How could either of us resist?

I had grown up in England, among little boys at boarding school who defined ourselves by everything we imagined we could see through. By day, we committed to memory the lines of Xenophon and Caesar; by night, we proved ourselves “superior” to everyone around us with cascades of fluency and quasi-sophisticated airs we’d borrowed from our books.

Three times a year, I left my all-male internment camp and flew back to my parents’ home in California. There, in a blindingly yellow house perched above the clouds, my father was reading the palm of every stranger who visited, talking of Aquarian precessions and the “Ascended Masters of the Himalayas.” His students, graduates of the Summer of Love, were attuned to psychic vibrations, auras, and verses from the Bhagavad Gita, but I wasn’t sure they’d recognise real life if it punched them in the face.

What better environment for producing someone who loudly announced he believed in nothing?

Kristin, however, had never given up on magic. She was five years younger than I — twenty-three to my twenty-eight — and she had a powerful belief in herself (or some parts of herself), matched only by her conviction that life would reward that faith.

One time, she’d come to my office, on the twenty-fifth floor of Rockefeller Center, and I’d pulled out a backgammon set. I was one throw from victory, and the only way she could defeat me was by throwing a double six. She closed her eyes, she shook the dice again and again between her hot palms, she muttered something nonsensical, and then she sent the dice clattering across the board.

One stopped rolling, and disclosed a six. The other came at last to rest: another six.

Now, as we tried to follow the runic instructions to the Astrologer — what true sage would allow himself to be listed in a Lonely Planet guide, I wondered? — we found ourselves passing through empty courtyards and along a scribble of narrow lanes. We were directed toward a golden temple, and then through another maze of darkened backstreets, and then led out into an open space where a ladder brought us up to a second-floor redoubt.

When the Royal Astrologer greeted us with a business card listing his doctorate and his work for NASA, my every doubt was confirmed.

Still, I was sure I could get a good story out of this, so we agreed on neither the priciest of his readings, nor the cheapest. We padded off to while away the hours before he could give us his verdicts, and settled into one of those Kathmandu cafés that might have doubled as Ali Baba’s cave.

Nepal in those days was budget time-travel to all the revolutions we were too young to have experienced firsthand. Pillows and cushions were scattered across the floor of this (as of many a) café, and a swirl of peasant-skirt bedspreads turned the space into a kind of magic tent. A creaky cassette of “The Golden Road of Unlimited Devotion” unspooled blearily on the sound system, and any number of mushroom enchiladas and “secret recipe” lasagnas on the menu promised transport of a more mysterious kind.

Travel, for me, had always been a testing of the waters. Every journey is a leap of faith, of course, a venture, ideally, into the unknown. But for me a large part of the point of encountering the Other was to see what and how much to believe in. Every stranger approaching me with a smile posed a challenge of trust — and asked, silently, how much I could be trusted, too. Something was at stake in nearly every transaction, I felt, and it was as essential as whether you believed the world made sense or not.

Kristin and I had met when she, a former student of my father’s, had read a cover story I’d written on the Colombian drug trade. She dreamed of being a writer, though for now, just out of college, she was working as a temp in a succession of Manhattan offices, deploying her capacity for typing at a furious speed. I had similar dreams, though for the time being I was cranking out long articles every week on world affairs for Time magazine, drawn from the reports of colleagues in the field. The explosion of demonstrations that was convulsing apartheid-stricken South Africa, the manoeuverings preceding the Mexican election, the gas leak in Bhopal: I covered them all with the assurance of one who had never seen the places I was describing.

In the warm summer evenings, the two of us met often in the gardens of tiny cafés in the East Village, and she showed me the story she’d just written about Desirée, an Indonesian bride arriving in America. I told her of the book I was going to write on Asia. We swapped our latest discoveries from James Salter or Don De Lillo, and she told me of her girlhood adventures growing up in India and Japan and Spain (her father a spy under deepest cover).

By the time we headed out into the streets again, dusk was beginning to fall over the Nepali capital, turning it into fairy-tale enchantment once more. Oil lamps and flickering candles came on in the disheveled storefronts and faces peered out at us, almost invisible save for their eyes. We slipped and lurched across the uneven, potholed paths, the silhouetted spires of temples all around us. The noise and the crowds of the big city seemed to fade away, and we were in a medieval kingdom at its prime.

As we climbed the stairs back to the Royal Astrologer’s chamber, we might have been stumbling into an emergency room after an earthquake. Half of Nepal was there, so it seemed, shivering in the near-dark as everyone waited for his or her fortune. A family wondering when to take its newborn to the temple, and how to name him; a nervous couple thinking about auspicious marriage dates.

Quite often, a sudden thump at the door announced an urgent messenger — from the palace perhaps? The Royal Astrologer handed out futures as easily as a doctor might, and the people who left his room were seldom the same as when they came in.

Finally, he summoned us closer and pored over the charts he’d drawn up from our times and places of birth.

“So,” he said, turning to Kristin — she craned forward, taut with attention — “generally, I have found that you have a special talent.” She braced herself. “This gift you have is for social work.”

I’d never seen my friend look so crushed.

“Does it say anything about creative work, an imaginative life?”

He looked again at the circle with all the partitions and said, “Your talent is for social work.”

She didn’t say a word at first. “Nothing about writing, then?”

He shook his head.

When it came to my turn, I worried it might prove awkward once he confirmed my future as a ground-breaking writer after what he’d said to my friend.

“So,” he said, looking down, “generally I have found that your strength is diligence.”

“Diligence?”

He pointed out the calculations and quadrants that confirmed this.

“‘Diligence’ in the sense of doing one’s duty?”

“Yes,” he said, and began explaining every scribble, but to someone who was no longer listening.

I knew that diligence was the quality that the Buddha had urged on his disciples in his final breath. But the Royal Astrologer wasn’t a Buddhist, and nor was I. To me, the word smacked of Boy Scout badges and “to do” lists.

“I think,” he went on, perhaps sensing our disappointment, “that every month, on the day of the full moon, you should meditate for an hour. And eat no meat all day.”

This sounded like the kind of thing my father would say. He’d been a vegetarian all his life and was full of talk of the virtues of stilling the mind and fasting so as to access a deeper wisdom.

I negotiated the sage down to fifteen minutes a month and a day without meat, and we filed out.

My four months wandering amidst the conundrums of Asia changed my life more irreversibly than I could have imagined. I went to California to write up my adventures, and when my seven-month leave of absence was over, and I returned to New York City, I knew I could never survive in an office now that I had such a rich sense of how the world could stretch my sense of possibility in every direction. While writing up my droll account of the magicians of Kathmandu — and the others I’d met across the continent — I’d remembered to keep an eye out for the full moon and had sat still for a few minutes once a month, restricting myself for one day every thirty to Panang vegetable curries.

It hadn’t seemed to hurt.

So now I served notice to my bosses at Time, packed up my things in the elegant office overlooking another 50th Street high-rise, emptied my eleventh-floor apartment on Park Avenue South, and moved to a small room on the backstreets of Kyoto without toilet or telephone or, truth be told, visible bed.

As I was settling into my cell, on my twentieth week in Japan, I found a letter in my mailbox downstairs. It was from Kristin, in New York. Her father had died suddenly the previous year, she told me. She’d been distraught, hadn’t known where to turn or how to get her longing out, so she’d taken to her desk.

Every night, while everyone around her slept, she’d typed — and typed and typed. When her novel was finished, she’d sent it out to publishers. Within hours, Random House had signed her up for a six-figure sum, and by now rights had been sold in a dozen countries around the world; she and her friends were spinning a globe as the number mounted.

At twenty-six, she seemed assured of a glorious future. She’d rolled a double six again.

A few weeks later, I walked, as I did every Wednesday afternoon, to the little shop across from Kyoto University that stocked a few foreign magazines. It was my one tiny moment of connection with the world I had abandoned. I forked over 700 yen, collected the week’s edition of Time magazine and consulted it, as I always did, while ambling back through the quiet, sunlit lanes to my tiny room.

As I was paging through the magazine, from the back, something caught the edge of my gaze that looked like a misprint — or, more likely, a projection of an over-eager imagination. There, in the Books pages, was a picture of someone who looked a bit like me — or, rather, like me in my previous life, in button-down shirt and striped tie.

I knew the magazine was eager never to take notice of books written by its staff — even former members of the staff — but I looked again and there, among the eminences, was a small, friendly review of my book about whirlwinding across Asia, accompanied by a visa-sized picture. I had any number of other projects I’d been chafing to complete, and now, I felt, I could try to be a writer at last.

“Diligence” and “social work” indeed! The Royal Astrologer didn’t know a thing.

That was half a lifetime ago, almost to the day, and more than a hundred seasons have passed. A few years after our visit, the palace in Kathmandu was torn apart by a crazy massacre and I had no doubt that the Royal Astrologer was no longer in service (if only because he would have been in trouble if he had predicted such a bloody coup — or if he hadn’t. Telling futures for the powerful has never been a reliable source of income).

As for Kristin, her path of double sixes had continued, almost impossibly, for quite a while. Her boyfriend in the Village, like so many, was a committed Star Trek fan and, like thousands of Trekkies, no doubt, had sent in a script on spec to the program’s showrunners in Hollywood.

Unlike most such fans, though, he’d seen his script accepted. He’d been flown out to L.A. and offered a full-time job with the program. He’d taken up a big house with Kristin in the Hollywood Hills, a chief architect of the universe he’d once worshipped from afar.

Few couples of my acquaintance had found such lustrous futures in their twenties. When I visited, Kristin and her beau seemed to have exceeded anything they might have hoped for, with their Spanish-style villa above the canyons, the red, open-top sports car, publishers and TV executives waiting to turn their words into pictures.

But Kristin had always had a restless soul — perhaps the same soul that had brought her to Nepal and sent her out into the streets every evening — and somewhere along the way, in flight from stability but not sure exactly of what she wanted instead, she’d burned the life she’d found and lost it all. Now, in her early fifties, she lives alone with a beloved cat, tending to every lost animal, still writing, but in a world that doesn’t seem very interested in novels, especially from the not so young.

Her strongest quality, though, remains her fierce attachment to her friends. She lives through them and with them, the centres of her universe, and keeps up with pals from high school in Tokyo and Delhi on a sometimes daily basis. She sends me warm and mischievous messages on my birthday and remembers every last detail of 1985. As the years have passed without bringing all the adventures that once seemed inevitable, she tells me that the trip to Kathmandu was one of the highlights of her life.

And me? A couple of years after my first book came out, I sat in a car just under the yellow house above the clouds and watched a wildfire take it apart, every inch of it, so that everything I and my parents owned — not least the notes and outlines I’d drawn up for my next three books — was reduced to ash.

In any case, I’d fallen under the spell of Japan and silence by then and decided to take on a wife and two kids, giving up my thoughts of becoming a writer, and simply turning out several articles a week to support an expanding household.

Writing, I’d seen, demands a ferocious, all-consuming commitment, a refusal to be distracted — or, sometimes, even to be responsible. That would never be my gift.

I smile when I hear people say that the young are too credulous, too open, too ready to be transformed. I and my school friends were so much the opposite. It was only travel — being propelled beyond the world we thought we knew and could anticipate — that stripped us of our petty certainties, our flimsy defences, our boyish confidence. It was only figures such as the Royal Astrologer who showed us that we didn’t know a thing.

We sit on opposite sides of the world now — Kristin essentially a model of social work, with the passionate attention she brings to her friends, while I steadily meet my daily deadlines, the very picture of diligence — and see that life has much wiser plans for us than we ever could have come up with. The only one who really was exercising a writer’s imagination, the kind that sees the future as easily as the past, was the well-meaning man I had mocked as he tried to nudge us toward a truer understanding of who we really are — and were.

If, like a cracked gong, you silence yourself, you have already attained Nirvana: no vindictiveness will be found in you.

— The Buddha

为何有些人积集善业到最后是痛苦的
净界法师

看看《法句经》的两段,把这个一切法正,一切法邪做个总结。

诸法意先导,意主意造作。若以染污意,或语或行业,是则苦随彼,如轮随兽足。
诸法意先导,意主意造作。若以清净意,或语或行业,是则乐随彼,如影不离形。

这个地方讲出了两种生命的结果,那么先讲一个道理说“诸法意先导,意主意造作”,我们在佛教里面花了很多的时间修了很多的法门,我们也布施,也持戒,也念佛,也持咒,那么谁来引导我这么多的善业呢?“意先导”,你心里的状态,你的思考模式引导着你所有的善业,由你的思想来做主也是由你的思想来引导它造业。那么假设你今天是“以染污意”,就是你追求世间的那种杂染的名利,那么或语或行业,是则苦随彼,你总有一天要尝到痛苦,“如轮随兽足”,就像这个轮子永远跟着前面的动物在走,这个轮子是不能决定的。

那么这个地方我们要解释一下,为什么他积集善业最后是痛苦呢?

这有两种可能,如果你学佛得很早,你很年轻学佛,你大概到中晚年你的福报就会现前,这是正常的,佛教就是不断地忏悔业障积集资粮嘛,所以你的生命就很快会改变,你会很快地出现快乐的果报。如果你发菩提心的人,面对这个果报他是不迷、不取、不动的,他继续会往前走,他不会住在这个福报,但是这个福报一定会出现,因为因果法尔如此。但如果你一开始的发心你就为了福报来修善业的,糟糕了,你这福报就通不过去了,你就住在上面了,然后你就开始享受了,就放逸了,那么你今生就开始放逸,你来生就直接堕落了,因为你善业提前起现行了,所以你在享受福报的时候你的烦恼就开始活动了,福报享尽,你第二生就堕落了,这是第一种情况,你学佛很早,你善业修得很多,到晚年福报现前,因为你发心不正,结果你陷入了福报的陷阱当中。

你不能够说福报害人,因为你自己的发心不对,因为很多人也是福报现前,他走得过去,他追求更好的东西。这个生命是这样,你要拒绝档次低的东西,你后面的东西才会出来,佛法修习是一层一层的,佛法会先给你比较低层的东西,你不要,你再往前走,它再给你更高层的,你再不要,它再给你更高层的,它是一层一层出现的。如果你学佛得早,你晚年就起现行,这个就考验你的发心了。你发心错了,你今生就直接陷进去了,你第二生就直接堕落了,这是第一种情况。

第二种人他比较晚学佛,他善业相对的修得比较少,他的福报到来生才起现行,那么这种人第三生堕落。来生你会很快乐,但是你跑不掉,这种快乐你跑不掉,你一定陷进去了。因为你第一生你在造善业的时候,你的心就住在这里了,所以第二生福报现前的时候,你一定会放逸,你绝对跑不掉的,然后你是第三生堕落。所以这个痛苦什么时候出现呢?不是马上出现,因为你积集善业怎么会有痛苦呢?它是在善业结束以后出现痛苦,可能是来生,也可能是第三生。当然要怪就怪自己,因为你的一开始的发心档次不高,所以你就容易陷进去。

第二个我们再看看“诸法意先导,意主意造作”,这个道理跟前面一样,就是说我们的生命所有的行为是由内心来主导的。假设我们以清净的菩提心来发动我们的口业——我们赞叹别人做很多的慈善事业,是则乐随彼,如影不离形。

诸位,如果你发心发的水准高一点,你还是会享受快乐的,但这个快乐不会障碍你,这个叫作自在的快乐,而不是带业的快乐。

你看有些人他人生活得很快乐,但是这个快乐不会让他堕落,他不为所动,他能够很快地从快乐走过去,得到后面更好的东西,他要的是摩尼宝珠,他不会在乎这种路边的生灭的小花。

那么为什么有些人他福报现前的时候他走了过去,有些人走不过去呢?就是你自己的发心不同。我们每一个人学佛一定要先修善,一定要断恶修善,你一定要先有人天乘的基础你才有所谓的出世的功德,所以学佛很矛盾在这里,我们都要修善,但是修善的结果就会出现福报,而出现福报就会让我们迷惑颠倒,这个地方是大问题,那么就跟你刚开始的发心有关系了,如果你发心的时候发得很高,你为了成佛为了求生净土,你很容易从快乐的果报里面轻轻地走过去,福报变成你一种增上,因为你有福报,你更专心的断恶修善度众生,所以福报为你所用,你是主动权,你掌握了福报,福报听你的。

如果你发心错误,你就被福报牵着走,福报牵着你走,你就堕三恶道去了,你要有心理准备,我们一定要经过福报这一关的,但是不是每一个人都过得了,就是看你的调伏力,引导力了。因为你一定要先断恶修善,一定要先修善业,然后才有所谓的修止观,所以说我们往生净土的人我们要知道阿弥陀佛的名号是很大的功德,无量光、无量寿,你在佛号里面操作你会创造广大的功德,但这个功德有很多种可能,你现在就是说你怎么样引导这个佛号趋向于净土,这是我们的关键。