Dao in Daily Life

This is where I will post my thoughts on Dao in daily life, how current events relate to Dao, etc.

Live in the Moment (part 2)

posted May 19, 2012, 8:37 AM by Tai Jin   [ updated May 19, 2012, 8:57 AM ]

Previously, we talked about living in the moment, and how we tend to put things off until later what we can actually do today. Perhaps it is human nature to be selective about these things. We tend to want instant gratification, yet when it comes to doing things for others we tend to put it off for later. So on the one hand, we prefer to live in the moment of instant gratification, and on the other hand we procrastinate into the future what we probably should be doing today. Therefore, it's reasonable to say that we tend to live in the moment for ourselves and not for others. In other words, we tend to be selfish.

So given that we tend to be selfish, then it stands to reason that our behavior changes based on selfish motivations. Have we ever considered the possibility that we may not live until tomorrow? Sometimes even the threat of this happening may not be enough to change our ways. However, in some cases it does awaken us from our stupor, and we realize that there are more important matters in life than the ones we are currently emphasizing or pursuing. The short talk in this video is one man's experience that changed his view on what really matters in life:
When faced with the harsh reality that we may die soon, we tend to reflect on our lives and wonder about all the things that we could have done but didn't do (or did but should not have done), or all the things that we wanted to do and apparently won't have the chance to do. These are regrets. Why do we regret? It is because we've spent our lives doing the things that are not really important and meaningful while neglecting to do the things that really matter.

Fortunately for him and the other passengers, they all lived through the harrowing experience. But what is most important is that the experience changed this man's life (and we hope that it changed all the other peoples' lives as well).

The first thing he learned was that everything can change in an instant: all the things he wanted to do, the experiences he wanted to have, the people he wanted to reach out to, the fences he wanted to mend--all of these things would go unfulfilled. From this, he realized that he can no longer postpone anything in life, that he has a sense of urgency and purpose in life.

The second thing he learned was regretting that he let his ego get into the way of his humanity, in wasting all that time on things that really didn't matter with the people that really did matter. In reflecting on the relationships with his family and friends, he decided to let go of all the negative energy in his life, to stop arguing and fighting with his wife, by not wanting to be right, but choosing to be happy.

The third thing he learned was that he didn't really fear dying, but rather he felt sadness and sorrow that he would never be able to see his children grow up. Later on he realized that above all, he wanted to be a great parent to his children. He was grateful for having been given the gift of life that day, of being able to see into the future and then to return and live his life differently as a result.

He challenges all of us to ponder how we would change our lives if we were faced with a similar situation. Most people do not change unless they are faced with such an event, but must we always be faced with impending loss or death before we realize the true meaning of life? Why wait until we are in a life and death situation before we realize what is important, what really matters in life? Why not do that now, before it is too late? If we weren't so selfish, if we didn't let our ego get in the way then we wouldn't need such an event to change our lives.

The people on that plane were fortunate, but there are many other examples of people who may have had the same awakening but never got the chance to change their lives. So we should be grateful that we are not faced with impending death, that we can still change our lives for the better because we want to. We must let go of our ego and selfishness, let go of all the things that do not matter, and do all the things that really matter. We must manifest our true heart, be true to our humanity, our conscience, and our Buddha Nature. If we can make this change in our lives then rather than being selfish and unhappy, we can be selfless and happy. But don't wait until tomorrow, do it now, live in the moment.

Live in the Moment

posted May 18, 2012, 9:09 AM by Tai Jin   [ updated Nov 10, 2014, 6:48 PM by Tai Jin ]

We hear it said that we should live in the moment. What does that mean? It is the same as the old adage, "seize the day." Sometimes we say, "I'll get around to doing it tomorrow." Perhaps 99% of the time, this may turn out to be fine, but for that 1% of the time, tomorrow may never come. For all the planning that we do, both our karma and Nature can ruin our plans. Sometimes these setbacks are only temporary, and we can adjust our plans accordingly. But many times, these setbacks are permanent and no matter what, we will never be able to achieve what we had planned to do. Here is a short video that very poignantly illustrates this outcome:
Although the boy is sometimes ungrateful to and unappreciative of his mother, he does wish that some day he can do something for her. The mother asks when she might be able to eat a meal that her son has cooked for her. The son tells his mother that he will cook for her when she is older. Just as we were saying before, sometimes tomorrow may never come and the opportunity has never come to pass. This is one of those times.

A common human fallacy is that we do not cherish the moment. Instead, we spend way too much time either living in the past or dreaming of/in the future, or both. The past has been lost forever, and it is counterproductive to dwell in it (however, we should definitely learn from the past). The future is uncertain and unpredictable, especially as it relates to life. What has not yet transpired is always subject to change (sometimes tragic and permanent change). Therefore, we should not dwell in the future either.

That being said, we do, however, want to set goals and aspirations for ourselves. Such goals and aspirations are for things that we may not be able to do or achieve right away. However, in the case of the boy in the video, he did not have to wait until his mother was older for him to show his love by cooking for her. He could have started doing that right away.

So another way of saying all this is: do not procrastinate, do not put off until tomorrow what we can do today. This is especially true for younger people who think that they have all the time in the world, that there will always be a tomorrow. Even if we are fortunate enough to live a long life, our loved ones may not be so fortunate. Certainly, when we are older, we have to face the reality that we will have less time left to do the things that are most important and meaningful. We can either attain fulfillment right now or put it off into the future, leaving the door open for disappointment and regret.

The story in the video uses filial piety (love and respect for our parents) to illustrate this point. Children and teenagers can learn to care for their parents and loved ones, just as these youth caregivers do. These youth, as a result of caring for their parents and loved ones, live a more gratifying, meaningful, and fulfilling life. So cherish the moment, seize the moment, and live in the moment. Don't think about the past, and don't worry about the future. All we have is right now, in the current moment.

Give and Take

posted Apr 10, 2012, 4:57 PM by Tai Jin

There was a story about two souls ready to be born into the world as humans. God told them to choose what kind of person they wanted to be: either a person with palms facing upward or a person with palms facing downward. The first soul decided that it would be better to be a person with palms facing upward, because that meant receiving things (fortune, etc.) without putting in much effort. The second soul decided that it would be better to be a person with palms facing downward, because that meant always giving to others. So after they were born, the first person became a beggar who was constantly begging for food, while the second person became a wealthy philanthropist who was always giving to those in need. Who do you think has the better life: the one who always took or the one who always gave?

Common people tend to equate gains with that of taking and receiving. Enlightened people take the opposite view that equates gains with that of giving. This is illustrated by the marvelous and profound construction of the Chinese characters 捨得 for "willingness to give or part with something." When taken separately, the first character means to give (as in charity), and the second character means to obtain or gain (as in getting something in return). So the profound meaning of the two characters taken together is that if we are willing to give then we will automatically gain something in return. What we gain in return is not necessarily material in nature: it could be something less tangible such as a feeling of happiness or contentment, or merit, etc.

The more we give, the more we get in return. This is a natural consequence of the law of cause and effect. People will generally reciprocate our smile, kindness, etc., and if people do not reciprocate, Heaven will reciprocate. This is because giving is an act of being selfless, whereas taking is a an act of selfishness. Selfish acts are not rewarded, because there is no need to. After all, we are already getting something for ourselves. On the other hand, selfless acts are rewarded, because we have benefited others. Therefore, it is only natural that we gain something in return. And the gains could be even greater than what we give. If we smile at a group of people, everyone smiles back at us. So have we not gained more smiles than we gave?

We should always give to benefit others, not to seek rewards. Even though we might give "selflessly," if we are seeking rewards then the act cannot be considered completely selfless and what we get in return will be limited by our own expectations. Therefore, we must realize that we should give naturally, without any kind of motivation or expectation other than that it is the "right" thing to do (this is called 無為, or we can say that we are just doing something out of the goodness of our heart). After all, to benefit others is to benefit ourselves, because as Buddha would say, I am you, and you are me. We are one and the same, linked by our Buddha Nature.

"Linsanity" - Just Be Like Water

posted Feb 20, 2012, 2:40 PM by Tai Jin   [ updated Feb 21, 2012, 1:46 PM by Tai Jin ]

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about "Linsanity" by now. All this media attention was brought about by an unknown Harvard graduate of Chinese descent who suddenly revived the New York Knicks basketball team over the past couple of weeks. Just do a search on Jeremy Lin and you'll find plenty of stories and commentary about his sudden rise to fame. But just to quickly summarize, he had been waived by two teams and his future with the Knicks was uncertain at best. That is, until he was given the opportunity to play. When opportunity knocks, one must be prepared. And he was certainly prepared.

There are many reasons why Mr. Lin is getting all this attention now: his abilities and talent (he is a good player and potentially a great player, but only time will tell), the fact that he has turned around a losing team into a winning team, the market that he is playing in, the novelty of being a Chinese American basketball player, and last but not least, his work ethic/demeanor/virtuous qualities. It is the last of these that strikes me as most revealing. Everyone sees how humble he is, always giving credit to his teammates and coach and to his faith in God.

It is said that pride comes before a fall (this applies not only to individual people but also to societies and nations). History is strewn with many such examples. So if Mr. Lin can remain humble despite his continuing success, then I have no doubt that he can become a great player.  Another of his virtuous qualities is how he responded to recent racial slurs. Those who used the terms have apologized and claimed that they were unintentional. Mr. Lin accepted their apologies and forgave, and he believed that they were in fact unintentional. To forgive and to forget is the way to move on and to not get trapped in a cycle of karmic consequence. A wise person can transform a negative situation into a positive one.

The motto of a true cultivator should be to become like water. Water is humble, always flowing downward. Water can take on any shape or form. Water is able to accommodate anything that's mixed into it, while remaining true to its original nature. The softness of water can overcome the hardness of rock. It is very refreshing to see a young person show some of these qualities. So if and when the current "Linsanity" fades away, I hope that these virtuous qualities remain and transform others in a positive way. And I hope that all cultivators can learn from this example, to be like water.

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