Even the shortest path
requires some diligence
to complete walking it.
One day a fellow was strolling through the marketplace when he came to a stall that said, “For Sale: First Class Devils.” Of course, the man was intrigued. Wouldn’t you be? I would. “Let me see one of these devils,” he said to the merchant. The devil was a strange little creature… rather like a monkey. “He’s really quite intelligent,” said the merchant. “And all you have to do is tell him each morning what you want him to accomplish that day, and he will do it.” “Anything?” asked the man. “Yes,” said the merchant, “Anything. All your household chores will be finished by the time you get home from work.”
Now the man happened to be a bachelor and so the devil sounded like a pretty good investment. “I’ll take it,” he said. And he paid the merchant. “There’s just one little thing,” said the merchant – there’s always just one little thing, isn’t there? – “You must be faithful in telling him what to do each day. Never omit this! Give him his instructions every morning and all will be well. Remember to keep to this routine!” The man agreed and took his devil home and every morning he told him to do the dishes and the laundry and to clean the house and prepare the dinner; and by the time he returned from work, everything was accomplished in the most wonderful manner.
But then the man’s birthday came and his friends at work decided to give him a party. He got very drunk and stayed in town overnight at a friend’s house and went directly to work the following morning. He never returned home to tell his devil what to do. And when he returned home that night he discovered that his devil had burned down his house and was dancing around the smoking ruins. And isn’t this what always happens? When we take up a practice we vow with our blood that we will hold to it faithfully. But then the first time we set it down and neglect it, we bring disaster to it. It’s as though we never had a practice at all.
So, regardless of whether you choose the path of Mantra, or Breath Counting, or a Hua Tou, or repeating the Buddha’s name (Nianfo), stay with your method! If it doesn’t deliver you today, try again tomorrow. Tell yourself that you will be so determined that if you have to continue your practice in the next life, you will do so in order to succeed… I know it’s easy to become discouraged when we think we’re not making progress. We try and try but when enlightenment doesn’t come we want to give up the struggle. Perseverance is itself an accomplishment. Be steadfast and patient. You’re not alone in your struggle. According to ancient wisdom, “We train for dreary eons – for enlightenment that occurs in a flashing instant.” [Note: Buddhahood is most swiftly attained via seeking birth in Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land via the practice of Nianfo.]
Empty Cloud: The Teachings of Xu Yun
A Remembrance of the Great Chinese Zen Master
Compiled from notes and recollections of Jy Din Shakya
and related to Chuan Yuan Shakya & Upasaka Richard Cheung