Be Nobody
by Ayya Khema

Being happy also means being peaceful, but quite often people don’t really want to direct their attention to that. There is the connotation of “not interesting” about it, or “not enough happening.” Obviously there would be no proliferations (papañca) or excitement. Peace is thought of as an absolute in this world, from a political, social and personal angle.

Yet peace is very hard to find anywhere. One of the reasons must be, not only that it’s difficult to attain, but also that very few people work for such an achievement. It seems as if it were a negation of life, of one’s own supremacy. Only those who practice a spiritual discipline would care to direct their minds towards peace.

A natural tendency is to cultivate one’s own superiority which also often falls into the other extreme, one’s own inferiority. When one has one’s own superiority in mind, it’s impossible to find peace. The only thing that one can find is a power game, “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Or, at times, when it’s quite obvious that this isn’t so then “anything you can do I can’t do as well.” There are moments of truth in everyone’s life, when one sees quite clearly that one can’t do everything as well as the next person, whether it’s sweeping a path or writing a book.

This kind of stance, which is very common, is the opposite of peacefulness. A display of either one’s own abilities or the lack of them, will produce restlessness rather than peace. There’s always the reaching out, the craving for a result in the form of other people’s admittance of one’s own superiority or their denial of it. When they deny it, there is warfare. When they admit it, there is victory.

Victory over other people has as its underlying cause a battle. In war there is never a winner, there are only losers. No matter who signs the peace-treaty first, both sides lose. The same applies to this kind of attitude. There are only losers, even though one may have a momentary victory, having been accepted as the one who knows better, or is stronger or cleverer. Battle and peace do not go well together.

One wonders in the end, does anybody really want peace? Nobody seems to have it. Is anybody really trying to get it? One does get in life what one strongly determines. It is important to inquire into our innermost heart whether peace is really what we want. The inquiry into one’s heart is a difficult thing to do. Most people have a steel door of thick dimensions which is covering the opening of their heart. They can’t get in to find out what’s going on inside. But everyone needs to try to get in as far as possible and check one’s priorities.

In moments of turmoil, when one is either not getting the supremacy one wants or one feels really inferior, then all one desires is peace. Let it all subside again and neither the superiority nor the inferiority is very distinct, then what happens? Is it really peace one wants? Or does one want to be somebody special, somebody important or lovable?

A “somebody” never has peace. There is an interesting simile about a mango tree: a king went riding in the forest and encountered a mango tree laden with fruit. He said to his servants: “Go back in the evening and collect the mangoes,” because he wanted them for the royal dinner table. The servants went back to the forest and returned to the palace empty-handed and told the king: “Sorry, sir, the mangoes were all gone, there wasn’t a single mango left on the tree.” the king thought the servants had been too lazy to go back to the forest, so he rode out himself. What he saw instead of the beautiful mango tree laden with fruit, was a pitiful, bedraggled tree, that had been beaten and robbed of its fruit and leaves. Someone, unable to reach all the branches, had broken them and had taken all the fruit. As the king rode a little farther, he came upon another mango tree, beautiful in all its green splendour, but not a single fruit on it. Nobody had wanted to go near it, since there were no fruits, and so it was left in peace. The king went back to his palace, gave his royal crown and sceptre to his ministers and said: “You may now have the kingdom, I am going to live in a hut in the forest.”

When one is nobody and has nothing, then there is no danger of warfare or attack, then there’s peace. The mango tree laden with fruit didn’t have a moment’s peace: everybody wanted its fruit. If we really want peace, we have to be nobody. Neither important, nor clever, nor beautiful, nor famous, nor right, nor in charge of anything. We need to be unobtrusive and with as few attributes as possible. The mango tree which didn’t have any fruit was standing peacefully in all its splendour giving shade. To be nobody doesn’t mean never to do anything again. It just means to act without self-display and without craving for results. The mango tree had shade to give, but it didn’t display its wares or fret whether anyone wanted its shade. This kind of ability allows for inner peace. It is a rare ability, because most people vacillate from one extreme to another, either doing nothing and thinking “let them see how they get along without me” or being in charge and projecting their views and ideas.

It seems to be so much more ingrained in us and so much more important to be “somebody,” than to have peace. So we need to inquire with great care what we are truly looking for. What is it that we want out of life? If we want to be important, appreciated, loved, then we have to take their opposites in stride also. Every positive brings with it a negative, just as the sun throws shadows. If we want one, we must accept the other, without moaning about it.

But if we really want a peaceful heart and mind, inner security and solidity, then we have to give up wanting to be somebody, anybody at all. Body and mind will not disappear because of that, what disappears is the urge and the reaching out and the affirmation of the importance and supremacy of this particular person, called “me.”

Every human being considers himself or herself important. There are billions of people on this globe, how many will mourn us? Count them for a moment. Six, or eight, or twelve or fifteen out of all these billions? This consideration may show us that we have a vastly exaggerated idea of our own importance. The more we can get that into the proper perspective, the easier life is.

Wanting to be somebody is dangerous. It’s like playing with a burning fire into which one puts one’s hands all the time and it hurts constantly. Nobody will play that game according to our own rules. People who really manage to be somebody, like heads of state, invariably need a solid bodyguard around them because they are in danger of their lives. Nobody likes to admit that someone else is more important. One of the major deterrents to peace of mind is the “somebody” of our own creation.

In the world we live in, we can find people, animals, nature and man-made things. Within all that, if we want to be in charge of anything, the only thing we have any jurisdiction over, is our own heart and mind. If we really want to be somebody, we could try to be that rare person, the one who is in charge of his own heart and mind. To be somebody like that is not only very rare, but also brings with it the most beneficial results. Such a person does not fall into the trap of the defilements. Although the defilements may not be uprooted yet, he won’t commit the error of displaying them and getting involved with them.

There is a story about Tan Achaan Chah, a famous meditation master in North-East Thailand. He was accused by someone of having a lot of hatred. Tan Achaan Chah replied: “That may be so but I don’t make any use of it.” An answer like this comes from a deep understanding of one’s own nature, that’s why we are impressed with such a reply. It’s a rare person who will not allow himself to be defiled by thought, speech or action. That one is really somebody, and doesn’t have to prove it to anyone else, mainly because it is quite obvious. In any case, such a person has no desire to prove anything. There’s only one abiding interest and that’s one’s own peace of mind.

When we have peace of mind as our priority, everything that is in the mind and comes out in speech or action is directed towards it. Anything that does not create peace of mind is discarded, yet we must not confuse this with being right or having the last word. Others need not agree. Peace of mind is one’s own, everyone has to find his through his own efforts.

生命无限 希望无穷
学诚法师

学习与改善就是生命的依靠,要学习到什么程度呢?要学到像佛一样,能够任运给众生带来无限的利益和希望,任何人都因我们的存在而欢喜,这就是我们生命的价值和意义,也是生命无限带给我们最大的启示。

生死似乎是不可触及的事情,虽然一般人都很避讳谈生死的问题,但他并不因为我们避讳,他就不会降临在我们的身上,我们从小到大很多事情都会提前预测,比如我们读小学的时候,就能预测将来还会读中学,乃至大学。这是我们可以预测的,但死亡却不会让你预测,虽然我们知道人一定会死,但何年、何月会来,我们很难知晓,他会悄悄的来,就像晴天霹雳,不可预测。

人的一生,很快就过去,尤其是人到了中老年,更觉得时光快速,过去的几十年,犹如就在昨天,我们还没有老年时,都会买养老保险,作种种养老的依靠和准备,没下雨时,就买雨伞,肚子没有饿时,就储备粮食,作下雨及饥饿时的准备,那面对死亡,我们要做什么准备?什么才是我们的依靠?

修学佛法后,我们知道,生命是无限的,并且心灵提升是我们所努力的方向。

假如生命只有一生,那也不必花太多时间去探索,找寻人生的意义,乃至会出现如《涅槃经》中说的那样:“不见后世,无恶不造”,但生命是无限的,就给我们非常多有价值,有意义的启发:

从古至今世界各地都出现过很多回忆前世的事例,在释迦牟尼佛住世期间,就出现过许多这种回忆前世的事例,很多经典中都有记载:如《毗奈耶经》中就记载了这么一个释迦牟尼佛住世时期发生的公案:“有一长者名更嘎本迦,曾于五百世中身堕恶趣,其后方转为人身。当其身为在家人时,因忙于家务,已不复能忆念前生往事。出家之后, 当世尊宣讲地狱之种种惨痛时,更嘎本迦忽而忆起前生经历。其后每每听闻地狱之痛,浑身汗毛即流出脓血,竟将法衣染成杂色。

近代还有依靠催眠试验,很多人都可清晰地回忆起平常状态下,根本想不起来的前生经历,这里所讲的催眠试验,是怎么一回事呢?催眠是依靠心理学及医学,提供的理论支持,再依靠睡眠体验,让接受试验者,进入浅层睡眠状态,并使他定住于这种非深度的睡眠状态下,再依靠心理医生的提问及接受试验者的如更回答,也就是在非常清醒又非睡眠的一种意识状态下,将今生,过去世的人生经历像作梦一般全部呈现出来。

随着接受催眠并以之回溯前生的人越来越多,并且还有许多亲见前生的接受催眠的人,把自己亲身经历写成文字、著作等,向社会广为传播,有关新闻媒体也对此事进行广泛报道,种种因缘促成下,借助催眠以回首往事的方法便逐渐流行于全球,据说已有一百余万人在催眠术的帮助下,回忆起了自己的前生。

还有一种现象,通常人们讲人死了就如灯灭了,什么都没有了,但很多事例证明了人死了还有心识的存在,可以离开身体远游他方,特别是人还存活于世时,心识脱出身中,到外界任意遨游,并清楚看到自身的事例,在东西方国家中都已屡见不鲜。

由以上所讲的实例,可以完全证明,生命是无限的这一事实,用生命无限这一概念来解释我们自身的问题,以及人与人之间的关系,就容易给我们许多启性的思考。由此更容易使我们趣入佛法,依佛法而行持。

有些人这一生来到这个世界上就有特别的习气。比如广化寺有一位法师,从小喜欢在穿衣服时露出一条手臂,也不知为什么,后来出家才知道,那是披袈裟时偏坦右臂的动作。有的人,第一次到寺院见到佛像、出家人,就感到特别亲切,有一种找到归宿的感觉。乃至有的人一见到出家人的袈裟、衣服、鞋子就莫名的喜欢。这都说明我们过去生有串习过这种行为,这一生遇到缘、潜藏在内心深处的感觉就启发了出来。

有的人,自己一见面就很高兴,看起来很顺自己的意,彼此共事很容易很默契地配合,有的人一见面,就有一种莫明的讨厌、嫌弃、排斥的感觉。

生命,他不像我们眼中所看到的,只是时间的增加或减少,生命实际上是一节节待学的课,生命的课程没有学完,就必须要补课,长期养成的贪念嗔毒、自私我慢、放逸执着等错误习性必须修改,知足少欲、调柔谦下、进退有度、爱他胜自等正确习性必须培养,不断改善与众生的关系,我们努力的目标就是学习,这才是我们来到这个世界上的真正目的,什么是我们真正应该学习的?佛法!生命无限就是永无止境的学习,学习就意味着一生比一生好,一年比一年好,一天比一天好,学习与改善就是生命的依靠,要学习到什么程度呢?要学到像佛一样,能够任运给众生带来无限的利益和希望,任何人都因我们的存在而欢喜,这就是我们生命的价值和意义,也是生命无限带给我们最大的启示。

If we ourselves and all the world wish for unsurpassed enlightenment, its basis is bodhicitta stable as the king of mountains, compassion reaching out in all directions, and wisdom that transcends duality.

— Nāgārjuna

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