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The Attitude for Practicing Chan ( I )

There is Nothing That Must Be Done

While Chan practitioners and non-practitioners share a common humanity, they have some fundamentally different attitudes. Something that appears to be of utmost importance to a non-practitioner may also be important to one who practices Chan, but not critical.

In other words, from the standpoint of responsibility and conscience, if something should be done, but causes and conditions do not allow it, then not doing it may be the wiser course. The meaning of "not critical”is that there is nothing in this world that must be done, and nothing that one must do. How can there be nothing that is critical? It is because causes and conditions are inconceivable; success and failure cannot be decided by subjective conditions alone. As soon as objective conditions or factors change, the subjective conditions are also affected.
There is a saying: “A flowering plant that is carefully looked after fails to blossom; a willow branch that is carelessly planted grows into shade.” Sometimes even with careful tending to, flowering plants will fail to blossom. Perhaps the soil is unsuitable or the season is not right for growing flowers. If the weather is unsuitable, then the environment is also unsuitable for flowers to blossom. On the other hand, sometimes a carelessly planted willow branch will grow into a tree and flourish. It is not because of us that the willow tree lives, but because the environment and weather were suitable for it to survive and grow.
We should be everything wholeheartedly and with full effort, but success or failure does not depend on our personal involvement alone. If the environment and timing are not favorable, yet one insists that something must be accomplished, then that could be a dead end. Even if you work yourself to death, become very angry, or are ready to die, it still may not be doable, so why must it be done?
When I was young, I knew a young man in his twenties, very talented and handsome, and popular with the girls.  However, he became very choosy and said: “The woman I marry will not be an ordinary person; I am not that easy to get.” Therefore, the days passed by one after another, and he waited and searched, and still couldn't find a suitable wife when he was already in his thirties. After a few years, he only lowered his requirements for marriage a little bit, but his standards were still very high. He said, “She must be a National Taiwan University graduate, ten years younger than me, and also talented. Otherwise, it would be like casting pearls before swine. I would rather not get married! Marriage would be very dull and boring.” Therefore, he still wasn't married when he was forty. As a result, he lowered his requirements again and said, “As long as she graduated from a university and is five years younger than me.” However, still nobody wanted to marry him. He still wasn't married when he was fifty. Later he came to see me.
I said: “Anyone who marries you must be out of luck! You are unsuitable for marriage.”

He asked: “Why?’

I said: “Your requirements are unreasonable.”

He said: “Master, what do you suggest?”

I said: “Always adapt to conditions. If you try to use such high standards to choose a wife, you'll probably end up not finding one. The same is true for girls; if they are so picky, they won't be able to get married. “


Liberated in Stillness and Motion, The Attitude for Practicing Chan, p. 147

Master Sheng Yen's Talks Given at Nung Chan Monastery, 1995.

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