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38614.07.13 : Reluctance | How A Great Beauty Realised Greater Beauty | It Depends On Your Determination

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  • NamoAmituofo
    Jul 13, 2013
      The Daily Enlightenment
       Quote: Reluctance

      If we are somewhat reluctant
      to observe even the five precepts,
      we are somewhat reluctant
      to become better people and
      we are somewhat ‘bad’ people.

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       Realisation: How A Great Beauty Realised Greater Beauty

      Fleeting in nature
      is the false beauty of forms
      selfishly clung by the deluded.

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      Khema, the chief consort of King Bimbisara, was said to be extremely beautiful. Revelling in her own exquisite beauty, she was ‘naturally’ uninterested in meeting Sakyamuni Buddha, as he was known for teaching that external beauty is impermanent – a truth she rejected. However, as the King was a devoted follower of the Buddha, he wanted her to learn from him. Using a skilful means to trick her to visit the monastery the Buddha was residing in, he got musicians to sing praises of the natural beauty of the grove the monastery was in. Being attracted to attractions sung, Khema decided to experience the grove in person. Seeing Khema approaching while teaching to a large assembly, the Buddha used his supernormal powers to manifest a beautiful maiden fanning him by his side. While engrossed in the beauty of the trees and flowers, Khema drew closer to the assembly. When she caught sight of the maiden, she was intrigued by her beauty, as it greatly surpassed hers. The Buddha then made the maiden age gradually, yet swiftly enough for her to see. Her skin wrinkled, her hair turned grey and her body collapsed in death, leaving a corpse that decayed into bones.

      Finally recognising that conditioned forms were transient, Khema realised that the same would happen to hers. If even a form deemed more beautiful and precious than hers comes to pass, how could she retain hers? Her focus now shifted to the Buddha, he taught on the danger of lust for sense pleasures (as they breed spiritual complacency), and invited her to renounce them as they are fleeting in nature. Reflecting thus, she soon attained liberation as an Arhat, and became his first female chief monastic disciple, respected for her skills in explaining advanced teachings. Beyond the remarkableness of the Buddha’s means and Khema’s ability to awaken through it, this story also warns us of the possibility of spiritually backsliding in future lives. In her past lives, Khema already met and studied the Dharma from many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Pratyekabuddhas. She also made sincere offerings, once by selling her beautiful hair, for getting alms to offer to a Buddha, and made the aspiration to be a future Buddha’s chief female disciple. Despite these and more great efforts, she almost forgot the greater preciousness and beauty of the Dharma due to vanity before meeting Sakyamuni Buddha!

      Although with the near miss of neglecting the Dharma, she was fortunate to have had forged strong enough affinity with it, to be able to reconnectfirmly in time. What about the rest of us? If we have learnt and practised the Dharma for some time already, we should roughly know the strength of our connections with the Dharma. Seemingly far from possible sudden enlightenment, we differ from Khema, who needed only an appropriate nudge from the Buddha. This is a compelling reason for us to aspire for birth in a Buddha’s Pure Land, where we can always learn from a Buddha and be mindful of the Dharma until liberation is attained – without the interruption of death when reborn, which causes forgetfulness of the Dharma and distractions by merits manifesting as beauty, wealth, status, power and such. As Dharma practitioners of average spiritual capacity, we are liable to repeatedly backslide, making it difficult for most to smoothly advance towards enlightenment in this life. This is why, as emphasised in the Amitabha Sutra by Sakyamuni Buddha, all Buddhas, including himself, highly urge beings of their worlds to seek refuge in Amitabha Buddha’s (Amituofo) Pure Land.

      Enduring in nature
      is the true beauty of truth
      selflessly shared by the wise.

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       Excerpt: It Depends On Your Determination

      As long as you are determined
      towards a clearly worthy goal,
      even much effort needed is no concern.

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      Long ago, in T’ang China, there was an old monk going on a pilgrimage to Mount Wu-t’ai, the abode of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. Aged and weak, he was treading the long dusty road alone, seeking alms along the way. After many long months, one morning he gazed upward and saw the majestic mountain in the distance. By the roadside, there was an old woman working the field. “Please tell me,” he asked, “how much longer I must proceed before reaching Mount Wu-t’ai?” The woman just looked at him, uttered a guttural sound and returned to her hoeing. He repeated the question a second and third time, but still there was no answer.

      Thinking that the woman must be deaf, he decided to push on. After he had taken a few dozen steps, he heard the woman call out to him, “Two more days, it will take you two more days.” Somewhat annoyed, the monk responded, “I thought you were deaf. Why didn’t you answer my question earlier?” The woman replied, “You asked the question while you were standing put, Master. I had to see how fast your pace was, how determined your walk!”

      A cultivator is in the same position as the old monk in this story. As he practices the Dharma, seeking to help himself and others, he sometimes wonders why no one comes to his assistance. However, others may simply be trying to assess him, to gauge his strength and determination. This process can take five years, twenty years, or even a lifetime. Therefore, seekers of the Way, do not be discouraged, but forge ahead!

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