I sit here alone in an empty house made for a family. It creaks and moans its displeasure so I keep music playing to pacify its incontinent mood. My loved ones have vanished; some have scattered to the four winds; others lie sleeping beneath the good earth. I sit here typing away night after night these words few people will ever understand, not caring whether anyone reads them or not.
When I sit here too long my legs begin to ache so on murky summer nights I arise to go out walking deserted streets past homes with windows featuring flickering television shows lighting up the darkness; I walk the walk of a forsaken man circling back on himself. People drive past me in shiny new cars. I wave and they wave back. But I don’t know these people. They are but slumbering phantoms floating through a life of desire while I am awake to harsh realities that sharpen my senses and deaden my yearnings.
I have heard it said that the world is made of suffering. It isn’t the kind of suffering one will notice right away; rather it is insidious in its relentlessness. Suffering is a tiny thorn wedged in the sole of my shoe. It doesn’t really hurt, not enough I should sit down to remove my shoe to pluck out the thorn. Still, it irritates each step I take until I can think of nothing else.
Though I seek to avoid suffering it has a way of finding me anyway. I make careful plans but before they can come to fruition my hopes are dashed on the rocks of how things really are.
I notice there is a limit to life but there seems no limit to knowledge. By pursuing what is unlimited with what is limited I put myself in peril; knowing this and still doing it I am sure to find danger. Rather than doing good in order to discover fame or shunning evil to avoid punishment I do what is natural to preserve my health.
There was a time when I journeyed deep into the mountains to forget myself and my troubles. All I found there turned out to be me, however, and my troubles followed along. There was a time when I attended month-long Buddhist retreats in an effort to discover my true nature. All I found, though, was me. There was a time when I read many books to gain the knowledge of others. All I found was a singular knowledge of me. I burned the books page by page to keep warm on snowy mountain nights.
Tired of the cold and privation I left the mountains behind. Coming home I discovered my dwelling vacant, my lover gone, my children grown. The chill of the high plateau had followed me home unseen; the loneliness I found on the rocky peaks seeped into my bones to become my nature.
Sitting here in the middle of all these shiny baubles I am a cheated man in the midst of plenty. I am a presumptuous pretender in the heart of knowing. I am a misfit in the center of conformance. Since I cannot alter the world I am myself and the world changes with me.
Complete enjoyment is found in attainment of one’s aim. This doesn’t mean accumulating wealth and fame; it simply means nothing more is needed for one’s contentment. These days most people desire riches and fame; if these things come they cannot be stopped and their going cannot be obstructed. Therefore it is best neither to indulge in the aim of these things nor to resort to vulgar acts to gain them.
If the departure of what is transient nullifies one’s enjoyment this merely shows what enjoyment they afforded was worthless. Those who lose themselves in the pursuit of their desires and put aside their true nature to the study of learning and thinking are people who have turned themselves upside down.
I avoid the desire to make a show of my knowledge; people seeing my simple lifestyle say they want to be more like me. They don’t understand. They can only be what they are. They are not ready to be like I am. So whenever someone asks my secret I simply shake my head as I walk away without a word.
When I stand upon my tiptoes seeking to grab that which is beyond my reach I am unsteady. When I walk with great strides I cannot maintain the pace. When I make a show of my knowledge I am not enlightened. In my self-righteousness I find no respect. My boasts achieve nothing. My bragging only serves to bring me down.
These are extra provisions and needless baggage. They never bring me happiness. Therefore I avoid them.