The Mind of Detachment Is Not a Temporary Emotion

Genuinely seeing through the red dusts of sensory experience means getting rid of your former blind infatuation with the world of the senses. When you are no longer blindly infatuated with everything in the world, a huge sense of being fed up with it will be produced in your mind, and you will feel that none of it has any great meaning, and then you will want to escape from this empty illusory unreal world. At this time, you will generate a great mind of detachment.


In the Lotus Sutra they tell a story: There was a wealthy man, and he possessed a large house, but this big house only had a single door. One day, the house caught fire, but the rich man’s children looked upon it with a superior attitude and kept playing games, totally unaware of the imminent danger to themselves. The rich man got alarmed, and called out to his children: “Come out quickly. Outside the house there is a sheep cart, a donkey cart, and an ox cart, and you can play with them!” Once the children heard there were things outside to play with, they finally rushed out of the burning house as fast as they could.


What does this story mean? What it is saying is that, in the eyes of the children having fun while surrounded by the fire, playing games was all there was. Most of us are like these children, because in our eyes desire is all there is, and we do not know that the basic substance of enjoying pleasure is actually suffering. Some people know well how to make a living, how to get the things they want, like money, profit, reputation, social status, and so on, so they seldom encounter setbacks. Some people have great karmic rewards, and their luck is very good, and so they seldom meet with adversity. But it is precisely because it is like this, that these people will sink into delusion while enjoying pleasure, and be ignorant without knowing it themselves. They do not know that, in fact, human life is full of suffering. What kinds of suffering? Birth, old age, sickness, and death are very painful. Seeking things without getting them is very painful. Being often apart from loved ones and rarely with them is very painful. Being constantly together with people you loathe is very painful. It is also very painful when the poisonous fires of greed and hatred and ignorance and arrogance and jealousy engulf your mind and spirit. If people have not yet awakened, they will sooner or later taste these eight kinds of suffering. The sad thing is that some people, even if they become aware of suffering, still are not willing to be liberated from suffering. Why is this? Because they feel that human life basically must be like this, and they cannot see any other possibilities. They think that lasting happiness is pure nonsense. In order to lead such people toward enlightenment, the Buddha sometimes used some ingenious methods – just as the rich man in the story used the prospect of new playthings to lure his children out of the burning house. First he attracted their attention, and then slowly he opened up their wisdom. This is what is meant by “First he lured them with desires, then he made them enter into the Buddha’s wisdom.”


People who discover the true characteristic of the world as constantly changing illusion are like children who see the conflagration around them: they are indeed frightened, but they cannot give up the games they like to play. That is to say, when you want to be liberated from suffering and realize what is really valuable, then you will discover that human nature is all desire, and all the empty illusions of the world are enticing you. They are like ferocious beasts surrounding you, looking for an opportunity to devour you. What’s more, what surrounds you on all sides is like a secret forest, and you have absolutely placed yourself in a strange territory, and it is impossible to assess anything. But as your fear of the unknown slowly intensifies, the pull of desire on you fades away bit by bit. One day, the fierce flames of fear swallow up the whole world of desire, and everything gets burned away, and the sky is filled with dust and smoke, and everywhere there are images of destruction and decay, and it is a total mess devoid of signs of life. You can no longer feel the least bit of attraction, and you feel that nothing in the world has any meaning, and it no longer has any way to attract you. At this time you are finally reckoned to have genuinely seen through the red dusts.


Genuinely seeing through the red dusts of sensory experience means getting rid of your former blind infatuation with the world of the senses. When you are no longer blindly infatuated with everything in the world, a huge sense of being fed up with it will be produced in your mind, and you will feel that none of it has any great meaning, and then you will want to escape from this empty illusory unreal world. At this time, you will generate a great mind of detachment.


But the mind of detachment is definitely not an emotional feeling. It is a mind of genuine detachment produced after getting a clear view of the ever-changingfundamental substance of things. Some people feel that they have become sick and tired of all the pursuit of glory and profit in the world of the senses, and they do not want to be involved in anything in it, but they cannot endure its attractions and stimulations, so this feeling of aversion is only a temporary emotion. For example, many of my friends say today that they will not invest in the stock market, but tomorrow when they see other people making money by investing in stocks, they cannot hold back, and go invest again. They do not understand that whether stocks go up or go down has no real meaning. Even great wealth in the end will always be lost for various reasons. This is the truth expressed in the classical verse: “Where are the generals and high officials ancient and modern? Abandoned graves without even a pile of grass [to mark them].” Only if we have genuinely understood this point can we produce a solid, genuine mind of detachment.


A student of mine told me that he had worked for many years in an environment of people conniving against each other, and all the people around him did not hesitate to use methods that hurt others to benefit themselves in order to climb higher, and that he too was like this. But as he pushed along following the time day by day, he gradually discovered that this kind of life seemed utterly meaningless, and that he did not know what he was ultimately looking for. Everything he had once possessed seemed like bubbles that had burst, and sooner or later disappeared from his life, and it was even more like this with the happiness built upon these things. What’s more, he discovered that because he had been lost in this game for such a long time, it was no longer possible for him to trust anyone, and he had even begun to be on guard with his spouse, and be suspicious and calculating toward her. He could not find any place that would let him take off his armor, and he lived every minute of every hour in solitude, feeling lost and in fear of the unknown. What was even more tragic was that, even though all those who took part in this game were like this, every one of them considered this pain and suffering to be inevitable, or blamed the external world for it. He had tried many methods to reduce this pain and suffering, but other thanfacing his own mind and spirit, none of these methods helped the situation. So he came to understand that unlessa person dares to admit to his previous ignorance, and dares to doubt the whole entrenchedsystemof thought and behavioral norms, and dares to pursue wisdom and truth by a method that is not necessarily accepted by the conventional world, then he will have to keep on suffering.


After you have clearly understood this point, you will gradually feel tired of everything, as if you no longer cared about any of it. Elegant clothes and delicious food will no longer attract you, and titles like general manager and CEO will no longer attract you, and you will lose the desire to pursue fame and fortune. You will only want to get the wisdom of liberation, and you will only want to establish something comparatively eternal in this empty illusory world. You will begin to inquire into your own mind, and to pursue your dreams, and seek the meaning of life. You will be willing to spend your whole spirit and life for the sake of this meaning. Even if there is no way to get other people to understand you, it will not matter. Because of this, you will give rise to a strong mind of detachment, and begin the look for the path that leads people to liberation. After this, you will begin to cultivate practice, and your mind will begin to struggle. We certainly have to struggle with and cast off this mind of suffering and affliction.


Because you have the mind of detachment, your desires will gradually dissolve away. Your eyes will observe all the forms, your ears will hear all the sounds, but you will not be greedy for them. Your nose will smell all the scents, your tongue will taste all the flavors, but you will not cling to them. All the information that is received by the sense organs will no longer disturb your mind, because your entire body and mind are seeking complete awakening. The objects of your greedy desires will change from pleasures, to ways of going beyond the ordinary and entering into the holy. The objects of your anger will change from the external world, to your own clingings and attachments. You will clearly understand that everything is empty and illusory, but you try in vain to build something relatively eternal. Your pride will be changed into the kind of “confidence in buddhahood” that firmly believes that sentient beings are buddhas. … The various kinds of clingings and attachments will all be softened by your firm mind, and slowly will melt into the light of the true mind. And you, yearning for the light, will finally gain an unconditional happiness.

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