Question: Besides the meditation practice we’re doing here in this retreat, is there any other way we can save the world?
Zen Master Dae Kwang: Yes, do something. The practice of meditation isn’t special: it means, whenever you do something, do it. If somebody appears in front of you who needs help, then help them. That is meditation. We all know the story of the good Samaritan from the Bible. Two different religious functionaries hurriedly walk right by a man who has been beaten and robbed lying beside the road. They ignore him and go on about their business. Then a Samaritan, a foreigner, comes by, helps the man and takes him to an inn. The meaning of that is: when somebody needs help, you help them. If you are attached to the thought, “well, they’re not like us, we’re not going to help them,” you are already dead. But, if you just help, you’ve awakened from the dream of this and that, like and dislike. Then your mind is like a mirror. When somebody comes who needs help, help them. Red comes red, white comes white, your mind just reflects.
Meditation is not special. It means whenever you do something, just do it. Our practice is the Great Way–just do it! When we eat, just eat. When we sleep, just sleep. When someone needs help, help them. That has a direction to it. It isn’t aimless just doing it. It’s “just do it” to help our world. That’s true meditation. We don’t practice to put ourselves into a special state of mind but to make our minds clear, the original mind. Then we are in harmony with any situation.
Several hundred years ago there was a Taoist master in Korea who had attained many special powers. He had been alive for hundreds of years and could even fly–very high class. Even though his attainment was high, still every hundred years or so he had to drink a few drops of dew or he’d run out of gas and die.
Living in the same area was a bodhisattva. She knew that every hundred years the Taoist master would fly down to one special pine tree and drink a few drops of dew from its needles. She waited for the day. She put some salt in her pocket and climbed the tree. Taking a few grains of salt she sprinkled them on the dew; slowly they dissolved. She then climbed back down the tree and hid. Soon the Taoist master appeared soaring high in the sky. He circled the tree once and landed to drink the dew. But this time when he sipped the dew he tasted salt. A momentary desire for the good taste passed through his mind… then BAAAM! he fell to the ground, crumpled. Slowly he stirred, somewhat dazed; the bodhisattva crouching nearby pointed to him and said, “See! That’s human suffering. So now you have to wake up to your true self. You’ve been flying around here for hundreds of years–what for? What did you ever do to help anybody? You too will die. Now you understand human beings’ suffering.” By tasting the salt, human desire and suffering had become truly palatable to the master.
We all suffer too. Out of this suffering our compassion grows, if we have direction. Suffering is just the result of cause and effect. Suffering is a kind of compost out of which compassion grows if we practice. In Buddhism it is said: no suffering, no Buddha. That’s why Buddhism uses the lotus flower as a symbol. The lotus flower grows out of a stinky, icky mess–the swamp–which is human suffering. At any moment a wonderful pure and clear thing can emerge from the slime, the flower of compassion. That flower is your original mind, the seed of which everybody has inside. Perhaps a little salt has appeared in the dew of your life–use that! If you practice, then you make the seed grow and grow. That’s how you help the world when you’re practicing. Just now, do it!