Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Freedom (自由)

There was a general who kept his pet parrot in a cage. Everyday the parrot kept screaming, “I want freedom! I want freedom!” A soldier felt sorry for the parrot and so he decided to free the bird one night. He opened the door of the cage to free the parrot. To his surprise, the parrot chose to remain in the cage. It continued to scream “I want freedom! I want freedom!” The soldier decided to take the parrot out from the cage and let it fly away. He was finally satisfied and went to bed. On the following day, he found out that the parrot had returned to the cage and it continued to scream, “I want freedom! I want freedom!”

I have always been advising you folks to go read books, because I want you to think about the teachings you learn from the books and apply them in your practice. There are many answers awaiting your own discovery. It is useless for me to tell you the answers. So what if I tell you about the Western Blissful Pure Land? You will continue to doubt what I said, for you have been so used to living in a cage! There is everything in the cage: food, shower, warmth, everything. You have been staying in a cage far too long that you simply cannot imagine what it is like outside the cage – you are too afraid of leaving your cage. Although you have been told that the world outside is free, you are still feeling afraid. So, you continue to yell, “I want freedom!” but you will not dare leave your cage, leaving your comfort zone.

Birds could be stranded in a cage for the rest of their life, so too are you stranded in the Six Realms for eons. You are just too comfortable. When you are a child, you have your parents protecting you, loving you and giving you all you need. When you are an adult, you have a family and a spouse who takes care of you when you are sick and shares your problems. When you are old, you have your children taking care of you. You are just too comfortable with what you have. You are just like a bird, living in a cage for your whole life; you have never experienced the world outside the cage, so you will be afraid of leaving. You will choose to remain in the cage and scream “I want freedom! I want freedom!” You would rather remain in the Three Realms and grumble everyday, grumbling to your spouse, your kids and your parents. You will merely complain in this world that “I want freedom! I want freedom!” But when you are actually given the freedom, you will feel too afraid to leave the world that you are familiar with behind. So, you will remain in this cage forever – this cage is the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence.

How is the world outside the cage? You will never be able to imagine how it is, no matter how hard I try to describe it to you, for you must experience it yourself. Birds ought to fly in the sky freely because the sky belongs to the birds. They should not be confined to such a small space in a cage. Similarly, the universe belongs to us but unfortunately we are too contended remaining in the cage of the Three Realms. Actually we all agree that a cage offers no freedom.

Sakyamuni Buddha told us that the world is full of sufferings. Whether you know it or not, the world is full of sufferings. But often you do not think that those are sufferings, instead you view them as fun and lovable. Sakyamuni Buddha told us that those things that you thought were fun and lovable do not last, they will be followed immediately by immeasurable pains. The problems of birth, aging, sickness and death are more than what you can deal with; no matter what you end up getting, you are just not able to solve these problems.

Dharma Sister Bik thought it was fun to join the kids in their rope skipping game, but she ended up hurting her leg. What does it tell you? You are old now! This is one of the problems in this world. There are numerous other problems: you have no big house, you have no sports car, you have no promotion, you have no appreciative bosses, and you just can’t get what you want… So, Sakyamuni Buddha told us that this world is, in fact, an ocean of sufferings.

Master Nan Huai Jin said that we pay to suffer when we go for a sauna bath. It is hot in the room and the massaging actually hurts. Somehow we enjoy such sufferings. There are numerous other problems in this world such as sickness, cancer, rebellious kids etc. But who among us can let go? None. Everyone clings to the cage, like the bird, and yell, “What a pain! What a pain! I want freedom!”

Grand Master has already told us about the most supreme teachings of enlightenment. But how many of us dare go out? None. Because no one knows what is the world out there. Everyone is afraid of loosing his current possessions, “If I let go of this and take that, what if that turns out to be not what I had wanted?” So, everyone clings to the cage firmly and continues to create his karma, and continue to live in the Three Realms of Cyclic Existence. What a pity!

This is indeed an interesting story. How many people are willing to let go of what they have in this world? Leave the cage and seek his freedom and happiness in the sky? None. So, you will continue to remain in this world then, and continue to live in the cyclic existence. What else can the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do? They can’t do anything. The decision is yours to remain in the cage or to leave the cage. The decision does not lie with me, nor Grand Master or the patriarchs; it lies in you.