UNIVERSAL DHARMA

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WE KNOW WE LACK certain qualities, and would like to be other than we are. All the good qualities we would like come from seeing things clearly. This is why the first stage of the Noble Eight-fold Path— Sammaditthi— Right Understanding, Right View or Vision— is so important we must have a vision of how things are in order to walk the Way with any confidence, or we might just stumble along in the dark. Things are Impermanent, Unsatisfactory, and Empty of Self-being. But although this is how things are, we must see behind appearances, beyond the rising and falling, coming and going. Amidst all the pain and horror of life, we might find wonder, and a cause to rejoice. If Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, and Voidness-of-Self were the totality of things, it would really be a sad state, and we might well give up in despair. But, as the Buddha said: "There is an Unborn, an Unoriginated, an Uncreated, an Unformed. Were there not this Unborn, this Unoriginated, this Uncreated, this Unformed, there would be no escape from the realm of the Born, the Originated, the Created, the Formed."

So little is said about what lies behind and beyond Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta— Impermanence, Suffering, and No-Self— because we do not know it, and if we talked too much about it, people would grasp at the words— for- getting that words are not the things they refer to— and get stuck at that level, instead of using them as far as they can take us, and going beyond. But the other side of Anicca is ‘Nicca’ (Permanence), behind Dukkha lies ‘Sukha’ (Happiness, or Bliss), and behind Anatta (No-Self), lies our true identity, or Suchness, though we must be very careful not to call it ‘Atta’ (Self or Soul), for the reason given above: that people would become attached to the word or idea, and fail to see that it is not that.

These things however, must be realized intuitively; understanding them intellectually is not enough. Intellectual understanding may be transmitted from one to another; it can be taught, but intuitive understanding cannot. The Dharma is to be realized by the wise, each for himself.

What might be communicated, however, is the fact that we depend. We do not live alone, by and for ourselves; it is simply not possible to do so. We depend not only upon air, water, food and other such supports, but upon other people, so much so that almost everything we have has come from others— including the bulk of our knowledge. And, day-by-day, we get deeper and deeper into debt to others, regardless of the fact that we pay, in money, for their goods and services. If, for example, you were a multi-millionaire, but cars, TVs, refrigerators, and so on, had not yet been invented, you could not buy them, with all your money. And such things are available only because people cooperate to make them; it is not just a matter of being able to pay for them. We should look beyond the price of things, to see what is involved in their manufacture.

It would be impossible— impossible— to discover how many people are involved in the production of the food we eat daily, for no sooner would we identify some of them, than we would find others behind them, in never-ending concentric circles. If we were patient and determined enough to follow it up, we would finally be forced to admit that the whole universe is involved in all the food we eat— and in everything else, too. Nobody and nothing exists in and by itself; everything is interconnected.

Humbled by realizing this, instead of trying to get more from life than we already have— and we have so much already, so how dare we even think of getting anything else?— we might begin to ask: "What can I put back? What can I give?— with hearts full of gratitude, joy and wonder.

And, when we can do this, we might find that we have things to put back, give and share that we didn’t even know we had. We will stop exploiting life for everything we can get out of it, and learn to live with it, rather than against it. First, we must have the heart to give— the willingness to give— and then, within this willing heart, as it begins to open, we will find treasures that have always been there, unrecognized and unused.

Each of us is like a link in the middle of a chain that stretches out to infinity on either side. On one side of us, there are people who are more advanced and evolved than we are, who are wiser and know more than us, and from whom we can benefit and receive help. On the other side are people— countless millions of them— who are less evolved than we are, who do not know even the little that we know, who are living in spiritual darkness, some of whom might benefit and receive help from us.

With one hand, we reach out to receive help from others more advanced than we are— just as they receive help from others more advanced than they— and we stretch out the other hand to render help to others behind us. Those who have helped us do not expect us to repay them— what could we could give them, anyway?— but to pass on what we have received. So, we take in, and give out, and thereby create space in us to go on receiving; if we were only to take in and not give out, we would soon be filled up and unable to receive any more. It is not from the thought or desire of getting more that we give out, however, but because it's natural to do so, and because we see that what we have received, in whatever measure— the Dharma — is of inestimable value to the world, and is what the world greatly needs. Giving is not hard; what is hard is finding people to give to, for few people, it seems, are ready to receive Dharma. They need it— everyone needs it— but not everyone wants it; and it must be wanted in order to be received and appreciated. When people do not understand and appreciate the Dharma, we cannot expect them to rejoice over it and use it in their lives. A dog would appreciate a bone, but it would be a waste to give it a diamond.

Yet there are some who can and do understand, and it is for the sake of them that we must continue scattering our seeds, even though we know as we do so, that many, or even most, will never grow. But if only five percent or even two or one— grow, our efforts will not have been in vain.

On our way, we must learn to take
The rough with the smooth,
The bad with the good,
The ugly with the beautiful,
The old with the young,
The bitter with the sweet,
The hard with the easy,
The pain with the pleasure,
The sorrow with the joy,
The black with the white,
The rain with the shine,
The wrong with the right,
The blame with the praise,
The low with the high,
The poor with the rich,
The failure with the success,
The loss with the gain,
The defeat with the victory,

because if we always look for easy ways and short cuts, we might eventually find that they are wrong ways. Some pain and hardship must be expected and endured if we are to complete our journey.

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