He said, “I had real power once”

He said, “I had real power once”

(… continued from ‘The Gospel of Peace According to Lord Buddha’)

Then the monk said, “I had real power once, and that was when I first came in. It was my second or third year at the temple.” He said, “The jobs in a temple are rotated.”  He was down for the cook that year.  He said his mother had often been ill at home in the village, so he’d had to learn how to cook and he was an expert. So, he cooked very well and their food was pretty good that year. When the cook is bad the food is terrible, but the food in the monastery was good that year. Then, a new boy (they’re just kids from the country) came in as a novice and he was made the assistant in the kitchen.  Old Takashina said, “I gave him hell. Of course, I thought I was playing, but I gave him absolute hell. Nobody knew and he was too frightened to tell anybody. Then I had real power.” Finally the boy got paler and paler and the head monk realised there was something wrong and transferred him to the garden.  He said, “Then I had real power and I didn’t do very well.  That made me especially careful afterwards.” 

We have to find out what’s in our own heart, otherwise the talk of peace to reorganise passionate men “is like shuffling the pack of cards in the hope of getting more aces, but you don’t.  It’s the same.” said one teacher.   As a matter of fact the anarchist Bakunin saw that. He said, “If the peasants were in the seats of the aristocrats, they’d behave just the same.”

So, the Buddhist, he must practise the inner pacification. It doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t try for peace externally, but the main thing is that he should practice inner pacification. One can say, “Well, yes, very good.  And that will mean that there’s a man and he’s quieter and he’s calmer.  He’s kindly, just in the little circle of a few people who know him.  He will be a little bit better in that tiny, little circle – but apart from that it won’t make any difference.”

This is an important part of the Buddhist teaching. It’s called ‘The Sermon of No Words’. In the monsoon in India the rain comes down absolutely.  You see it coming up and it’s like a wall of water. Then it gets you, and you’re going to have to simply endure that if you’re out in it. If they’re caught by this downpour, and it doesn’t last long necessarily, people rush to the nearest eaves of their houses and they huddle under them. Of course, the water comes down and you get sopping anyway, and you’re trying desperately to keep a little bit dry.

Well, I have seen a Zen monk in this downpour. He simply walked down the middle of the street and he knew he was going to get wet through.  As a matter of fact, even if you huddle under these little shelters you’re still wet through. What you can do is, you wrap up any paper money in a purse or something and you tuck it in. The rest of you, it’s like having a shower in your clothes. He just walked down the centre of the street.

One of the examples that is given is of a man who was engaged in public service and who was unselfish and able.  This man was a figure in the local council and he was doing it unselfishly and working very hard – but a torrent of spite and venom and spittle was descending on him all the time. He said, “I can’t stand it.” All his motives were misconstrued and false rumours were circulated about him.  

He says that one day he was caught in a monsoon and was taking shelter. He looked out and he saw this man walking down the middle of the road in this downpour, walking calmly down the road. It’s an impressive sight. He said afterwards, it kept coming back to him – and then he said it began to change his life. He said he began to feel something in himself which could calmly go on with what he was doing. He found ‘the sermon with no words’ coming alive in himself.  You get a very eloquent sermon and it impresses people, and they say, “Oh, it was marvellous.” They go away and their life is just the same as it was. Like going to the opera – “Wonderful show,” and then you go.

There’s the gift of money, which means wealth and material facilities and so on – the gift of money. Second is the gift of courage, and third – what do you think is third? The third is greater than courage: it’s the gift of wisdom.  Here we’ve got a feeling that if you give money everything will be solved, it’ll all be alright. This is one of the things Confucius said, “Kindness and benevolence, without courage, become merely sentimentality. Without wisdom it defeats its own purpose.”

You can be very kind to people.  The children can’t do their homework.  Well, you go up and you help them, don’t you? You tell the boy the answer. It’s no good to him, he can’t do the next sum. It’s a gift, but it’s the wrong gift – there’s no wisdom. He must wrestle with it and then find out. That will be a real gift because it will come from wisdom, but we don’t know how to go about getting it.


© Trevor Leggett

(Continued in ‘Throw away the thoughts as they come up’)

Titles in this series are:

Part 1: Gospel of Peace According to Lord Buddha

Part 2: He said, “I had real power once

Part 3: Throw away the thoughts as they come up

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