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Author of this essay:

Reverend Yin Cheng Shakya, OHY
(27 April 2008)

By Reverend Yin Cheng Shakya, OHY

In my green years I took refuge in Buddhism the way a young tree regards its place in the external landscape. I looked at the world and the world looked back at me; and I thought that the way that I and the world appeared, each to the other, was all that mattered.

Not until my years had ripened did I understand that beneath appearances lies that necessary root which supported my life even as it probed the depths of life itself. Following this unseen root into a sacred interior, I became a monk called Shi Yin Cheng.

As a monk I wear a patchwork robe. The patches are both a symbol of material poverty and of the impoverishment of wrong knowledge that formed my previous assumptions. I had equated conditions with existence: I had a physical body and a personality that interacted with the world through the senses, and to the information these senses brought, I reacted with feelings and emotions, with the thoughts and ideas of consciousness. And I decided that all this constituted my "self."

This "self" was the one I had served. Everything I thought and said and wrote belonged to him; and everything that this "self" demanded, I gave to him without scruples or reservation. He was the best and wisest of masters, and naturally I sought to fulfill his every wish. Anyone who seemed to threaten him became my enemy, and for him I suffered many injuries. He was an expert in philosophy and could quote philosophers, and I did not object when he decided what was ethical and what was not. I understood that as long as the appearance of living ethically was maintained, that was sufficient. Although I did not truly understand what it was that he described, I blindly followed. I believed that this "self" would lead me to Enlightenment.

After years of interacting with the world in this external and superficial way, I began to realize that my services and injuries were useless, that nothing had changed, that I was roaming pointlessly in confusion.

And gradually I became aware of an interior attraction that was like a small light, a little flame that we are drawn to when we are in darkness. Ardently I followed this light, and it led me to the teachings of the great masters. Then the light blazed and I could clearly see the errors I had made. I discovered the Buddha Dharma's Way of Honesty in Thinking and in Living.

Honesty in Thinking does not mean that we channel our thoughts towards the philosophical constructs of the Ground of all Being and the Nature of Reality, but instead that we think about the cause of human suffering and the way to alleviate that suffering. What had induced me to regard my personality as my "self"? What had made me see the world in terms of "my" and "mine" and had led me into the delusions that provoked such conflict. What had created the recklessness, brooding, belligerence, and all the errors in judgment that led me to value things that were worthless and to ignore or discard things that were priceless? What ego in me caused me to place a veil over my eyes so that for many years I could not see even the simple truths of the Buddha's teachings?

And by discovering the Way of Honesty in Thinking I recognized the source of suffering: it was in hating and in seeking harm to come to those who are hated, for such hatred of others soon becomes self-loathing. It was in craving something so much that lying and cheating would be used to gain it; for suffering then tainted the object and it brought boredom and dissatisfaction with what had been obtained; or, if it had not been obtained, in being disappointed and resentful by the failure. Suffering was caused by being charmed by vices and in foolishly believing that the corruption of the vice would not envelop those who were charmed by it. The same suffering awaits the one who slanders and lies and who becomes intoxicated by drink and drugs and who behaves licentiously. Each harmful act increases the burden that he must carry in an ever darkening land.

Honesty in Thinking removes the veil from our eyes and lets us see that we are responsible for ourselves and that we are the cause of our own misery.

Honesty in Living is experienced when we choose to live by the simple truths of the Dharma and divest ourselves of ego and all the desires that serve the ego's whims. Then we love instead of hate; we help instead of harm; we give instead of take; we preserve what is chaste and shun what is corrupt; and we so appreciate the beauty of the world that we never seek to obliterate it with intoxicants or other poisons.

And when I embraced the simple Way of Honesty in thought and in life, I began to view philosophical concepts differently. What was it that was called "the world"? Before, when I occupied myself with this topic, I was always led to the same conclusion: that the universe was comprised of concrete entities that I apprehended with other entities called my senses and that I analyzed with yet another entity, my own conscious mind. I reasoned that whatever is an entity has an existence, one that has coordinates in space and time. I looked at the stars and the things of the earth and saw them as separate, discrete, and distinct from myself, but in reality it was my mind that was imbuing them with shape and time and location. It was as a silk worm that spins a cocoon, surrounding itself in a web of many layers and directions but does not realize that all it sees came from a single line which emanated from itself. And more, it was as a silk worm that does not even imagine a butterfly in its future.

But the Buddha Dharma unravels this illusion.

When I finally found myself alone, opposite the whole world that I had created from my wrong ways of thinking, I knew that it would be hard to close my eyes and let it all disappear. The habit of seeing what is illusionary is difficult to break.

But I knew that just as I had been deceived by old traditional thinking habits, with self-discipline I would cultivate the Buddha's Honest Way of Thinking and that my strength would increase in spite of any obstacles and ill-will I might encounter. My happiness also would increase because I knew to a certainty that this was the Buddha's Honest Way of Living.

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