Those who pursue money are always rushed, always busy with urgent matters. Those who pursue the Dharma, go slow and easy. “Boring” you say? Maybe. Maybe it’s downright dreary to stop and smell a flower or listen to a bird. Maybe a glint of gold is really more dazzling than the sight of one’s Original Face. Maybe what we need is a better definition of “treasure”.
Han Shan is talking about money.
Our jobs sure do own us sometimes. The accumulation of wealth is a big motivator in the modern world. That being said, this is problematic. We have to work. And the truth is that a lot of us are struggling to make ends meet and we have to work as much as we possibly can just to almost get by without falling into debt. The modern world is probably not something Han Shan could have imagined.
But this isn’t about making enough money to get by. We have to meet our basic needs and that just is the way it is. This is about the obsession we might have with getting more and more. This isn’t about needs, but about wants. I remember seeing a T-shirt many years ago that said, “He who dies with the most toys…still dies.” And I think that’s really relevant here. You can’t take it with you. There’s an old saying: “There are no pockets in burial shrouds.” Again, you can’t take it with you.
So, it’s easy for Han Shan to say “Those who pursue the Dharma, go slow and easy.” But often that doesn’t seem to match reality for us in the modern world. That being said, though, I like what he says about stopping to take in the wondrous things around us.
There is tremendous wonder in our lives that we miss out on. The scent of a flower, the songs of birds, even just looking up at the sky can engage a sense of awe. We just have to learn to slow down. These things aren’t boring if we learn to pay attention to them. The world is an amazing place full of wonder and we can be full of wonder too. It reminds me of the Lojong teachings where the text says, “Be a child of illusion.”
We can cultivate that childlike sense of wonder.
In the 8th century a student went to visit the great master Ma-tsu.
The master asked, “Why have you come here?”
And the student replied, “I seek enlightenement.”
The master said, “Why go out to see it and forget that you have the treasure already? I have nothing to give you.”
The student said, “But what is my treasure?” The master answered, “It contains everything and lacks nothing. There is nothing to seek outside of yourself.”
There are actually a few similar stories about Master Ma-tsu. I really like this one. The student has come asking for some kind of secret to be revealed, a key to Enlightenment.
Ma-tsu is telling him there is no secret. We all have the treasure inside and it’s our true nature. Enlightenment is not something to seek outside of ourselves.
That is the message.
You already have a priceless treasure. You’ve had it this whole time. Just pay attention to it.
Daniel Scharpenburg is a meditation instructor and dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project, the largest virtual mindfulness community in the world.
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