If We Can’t Bear It, We Can’t Put an End to It 

A talk given on May 5, 1984   


As Buddhists, we have to be able to bear things. What kinds of things? The things that other people cannot bear. Sometimes people say, “I really can’t bear it.” If you can’t bear it, then you won’t be able to put an end to it. Put an end to what? To karmic obstacles. If you can’t get rid of your karmic obstacles and empty your emotions, then you have to undergo birth and death. As it’s said, “If one’s karma weren’t heavy, one wouldn’t be born in the Saha world. If love is not ended, one cannot be born in the Pure Land.” When you have exhausted your karma and emptied your emotions, you will have ended birth and death and will be truly liberated.


Cultivators should cultivate endurance. They should be able to endure hunger, thirst, wind, rain, heat, and coldness, as well as beatings and scoldings. All these states are tests. I often say,


Everything’s a test

To see what you will do.

If you don’t recognize the state,

You’ll have to start anew.


No matter how bad the situation is, we should have the spirit of being able to smile at our troubles and accept them. We shouldn’t let adverse conditions perturb us, nor should we bow our heads and surrender to them. There’s an ancient saying, “If one cannot be patient with small issues, one will ruin a great plan.” Patience is a priceless jewel.


            Be patient for a moment, and the storm and waves will subside.

            Take a step back, and you’ll see the vastness of the sea and sky.


When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, one day he walked by a river and saw a wolf trying to eat a turtle. However, the turtle withdrew its head and legs into its shell and remained motionless for a long time. Eventually the impatient wolf gave up and left, and the patient turtle’s life was saved. The Buddha said to the Venerable Ananda, "That’s the way a cultivator should be." A virtuous man once said, "Recently I learned the turtle’s trick, which is to withdraw one’s head when it’s time to do so."


If you can be patient through a moment of anger, you’ll avoid a hundred days of sorrow. If people scold you, just imagine that they’re singing a popular song for your enjoyment. If they beat you, just pretend you weren’t careful when walking and bumped into the door. If you can contemplate in this way, you’ll naturally be able to transform a hostile situation into a peaceful one. Otherwise, if the fire of ignorance is allowed to blaze up and tempers explode, there will be a war with the consequence that both sides are hurt, the relationship is ruined, your integrity is sabotaged, and you get criticized for lacking self-composure. As it’s said,


Having taken flak from everyone,

One discovers a joyful vitality of heart.


This can serve as a motto. It’s a valuable piece of advice.


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