Section 14: Cultivating amidst the Ordinary World
As children, we often hear stories about great monks and masters who live in seclusion in the mountains, attaining high levels of spiritual cultivation. However, true spiritual practice lies within the hustle and bustle of the secular world.
The intricate relationships we have with our parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, and lovers are at the heart of all our troubles. To respond with ease and experience a simple and joyful life, consistent cultivation is necessary. Coping is not a matter of employing clever tactics but rather developing a habitual attitude towards life.
Firstly, we must cultivate the habit of being grateful for everything. Gratitude is a catalyst for turning negative emotions into positive energy, and it lubricates all human relationships. There are no inherently worst people or situations in the world, only those that are comparatively worse. Whatever happens, we can always find a space to be grateful.
Individuals who express gratitude tend to be more content and resilient in the face of life's challenges. They possess a greater sense of happiness and are more inclined to share their positive attributes, which can attract additional support.
Secondly, we must recognize that the concept of "fairness" is nothing but a mere wish that can never be fully realized in the real world. There is no fairness in human society, and even the ideal of communism has proven to be a failure. Nature also does not operate based on fairness. "Equality" represents stagnation, while energy flow represents growth. If everything were equal, the universe would be silent and lifeless.
By accepting this reality and refraining from pursuing an illusory sense of fairness, we can start our lives from a position of inequality and achieve greater security and happiness.
In addition, I have created a motto to remind myself: "Do not pursue rewards or recognition, prioritize the issues to tackle, and live in the present." The fundamental idea behind this motto is to "take responsibility and take charge of the situation with courage." Only through this approach can we attain true happiness and freedom.
Let us discuss "not seeking rewards" first. "Giving" and "receiving" are inevitable aspects of human interaction and are also important channels for emotional communication. If you constantly keep thinking about helping others without receiving anything in return and feel down, then hand over the key to happiness to someone else. Therefore, when doing something for others, we must find our own rewards within the act itself. After completing the task, we should let go of any attachment to it, or we should not help at all.
For instance, inviting friends to dinner is a way to "strengthen friendship" and "enjoy time together." If we keep thinking about whether we will be invited back, we will not be happy. Raising children provides "family happiness in the process of their growth" and the "satisfaction of giving love." If we only expect our children to take care of us in old age, we may end up feeling lonely.
Before helping others, make sure to take care of yourself first. Otherwise, the act of sacrificing for others can turn into a demand for rewards, which can damage relationships.
Moving on to the concept of not seeking recognition, we spend our whole lives trying to meet the expectations of others, our parents', teachers', bosses', and even our children's expectations. We always seek approval and care about how others see us, and in the end, we end up living someone else's life. Besides seeking approval, we also live in fear of "ruining relationships" and tend to live for others even more.
To get out of these predicaments and live a good life, it's not about trying to change others but changing ourselves. We must have the courage not to care about what others think of us because that's their business.
Now, let's delve into the concept of "prioritizing the issues to tackle." One practice that I frequently engage in is categorizing life's affairs into three groups: my own business, other people's business, and God's business. The reason people often worry is that they are reluctant to confront their own issues and instead choose to interfere in other people's affairs or fret about God's plan. In fact, one cannot hide from their own affairs, cannot control other people's affairs, and worrying about the affairs of the heavens cannot change them either.
No matter how big or small the matter is, we can eliminate most unnecessary worries by first defining "our own business." In our own business, we must deal with the most challenging issues first, without procrastination or evasion. Venerable Master Sheng Yen taught us: "Face it, accept it, handle it, and let it go," which is the best way to break free from difficulties.
Most disputes between people arise from meddling in other people's business or letting others meddle in our business. To distinguish whose business it is, just think about who will ultimately bear the consequences.
Lastly, let's talk about "living in the present." We divide our lives into "the past," "the present," and "the future" according to the timeline. Life is composed of fragments of "the present," and we should not regard "the present" as "the current moment." By the time you think of "the present," it has already become the past. "Living in the present" is about enjoying the feeling of every fragment of life. When climbing a mountain, don't just focus on reaching the summit. While overcoming the difficulties along the way, don't forget to appreciate the surrounding scenery. Enjoying the process of climbing is more important than reaching the summit.
Do not squander the precious "present" on regrets such as "If only I had done this or that, then this or that would not have happened," followed by blaming others. Instead, we should utilize the present moment to learn from our experiences and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Furthermore, we should not expend "the present" worrying about "the future." The "cause" of the future is uncertain, and the "effect" is unknown. If we live well in the present, the future will naturally fall into place.
We are often bound by the past, such as being born poor, having a low education level, or not being good-looking, etc. In fact, the past has no influence on the future. What determines our life is the determination we make "in the present."
If the above motto has inspired you and you want to delve deeper, you can study Adler's philosophy. It is a difficult practice material, but it is also the secret to turning your destiny around. You can start by reading the book "The Courage to Be Disliked."
Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychologist, and philosopher from a century ago, is the founder of the "Individual Psychology" school of thought. He encouraged people not to strive for perfection but to accept their imperfections and have the courage to be disliked.
Adler believed that everything depends on one's perspective, and it is not important to possess things but to make the most of what one has. If you are unhappy now, it is because you have chosen to be unhappy, not because you were born into unfortunate circumstances.
He also believed that the meaning of life is something that individuals give to themselves, and no single meaning applies to everyone. When he saw many children lose their lives in natural disasters and human calamities, he remarked, "Life has no meaning in general."
Adler is a psychologist and philosopher whom I admire. He explored the human consciousness, or the "soul," but confined his thinking to the four-dimensional material spacetime. To study the "spirit" without entering the "spiritual realm" is like studying fish without entering the water, and it is difficult to understand the whole picture.
Adler passed away at the age of 67 from a heart attack while traveling to Scotland to give a lecture in 1937. I am curious whether his views on the meaning of life would change when he enters the spiritual world.
More than 20 years after Adler's passing, a large amount of information from the spiritual realm was transmitted continuously in New York City. I see this as an extended version of "Adler's philosophy" across time and space.