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Letting Go or Not Letting Go

I remember last year a veteran volunteer of Care Service Group asked the Dharma teacher to shed light on a question: “How can we urge and advise devotees afflicted by troubles to ‘let go’?” The monastic replied, “We don’t advise others to ‘let go’ when we ourselves haven’t really experienced and realized ‘letting go’.” Not long ago, I heard a long-time devoted supporter of ours claim: “I’ve achieved letting go.” So, I deeply feel that many people have actually misunderstood and misapplied the Buddhist expression, “letting go” (放下), when they haven’t deeply delved into practice and attained thorough enlightenment. This is why ancient patriarchs and masters seldom used this expression in teaching the Dharma. After all, in our short life of cultivation, understanding our self is already as hard as looking for a needle in a haystack, not to mention entering the stage of letting go of what is “mine,” which is an even longer journey to go.

In Ven. Ji Cheng’s (繼程) book, he wrote, “When you haven’t even understood your ‘self’, what do you expect yourself to ‘let go’?” In the same way, Master Sheng Yen taught us to first affirm ourselves and develop ourselves, and then go on to dissolve ourselves. In a lecture, Ven. Guo Xing (果醒) also encouraged us to “let go and take up.” What exactly is that which those Dharma teachers want us to practice and realize through their patient guidance? To put it clearly, it is all our attachment, conceptual ideas, discrimination, grasping and rejection. But is it easy to let go, just like that? Without applying the methods of Chan practice that feature pointing directly to the mind, it will be extremely difficult to transform and resolve our ignorance and karmic consciousness deeply attached to the self since time without beginning. If we can really let go, what is next then? I guess it is to manifest compassion and loving-kindness, as well as to take up the responsibility.

Have I let go or not let go? I ponder.



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