PureInsight | October 31, 2005
[PureInsight.org] During cultivation, no matter how much hardship he goes through, a cultivator still does not have any excuse to take a rest in the middle of his journey before reaching the end. It is because the final destination will slip away even further once he starts to relax himself. Even if he can see the destination clearly in front of him, nobody can actually calculate the distance to the final destination.
In ancient times, once a person entered the door to cultivation, he was required to be far away from ordinary people, give up human desires, and cut himself off from the human world. Sakyamuni once urged his disciples to be strict with themselves, and to be as resolute and valiant as lions in their efforts to cultivate themselves.
When Jian Zheng, a monk from Tang dynasty, first entered a Buddhist temple to start his cultivation, the abbot of the temple asked him to temper himself by taking on the most difficult task – walking many miles every day begging for alms. About a year later, one day Jian Zheng did not get up in the morning. The abbot went to Jian Zheng's room to check. When the abbot entered the room, he noticed that Jian Zheng was still asleep and there was a pile of tattered straw sandals on the ground. He waked up Jian Zheng and said, "Why didn't you get up this morning and go out to beg for alms? What's this pile of broken straw sandal for?" Jian Zheng yawned and said, "These are straw sandals. Each pair of sandals was so strong that a normal person could wear it for a year before it wore out. Now I have only become a monk for a year and I have worn out all these pairs of straw sandals walking. Today I want to save some money for our temple by not going out and wearing out my sandals."
The abbot did not agree with what Jian Zheng said. He smiled and said: "It rained last night. Just get up quickly and accompany me on a walk in front of temple." They slowly walked out of the temple. The rain had made the road very muddy. Suddenly, the abbot touched Jian Zheng on his shoulder and talked to him seriously, "Do you want to become the monk who tries to get by every day by doing nothing other than helping the temple ring the bell in the morning or become a famous monk who can bring honor to the Buddhist doctrine?" Jian Zheng replied without any hesitation, "Of course I want to be a famous monk who brings honor to the Buddhist doctrine!" The abbot smiled and continued, "Did you walk on this road yesterday?" Jian Zheng said, "Yes, I did." The abbot asked:" Can you find your footprints from yesterday here today?" Jian Zheng replied, "Yesterday this road was smooth and hard. I didn't leave behind footprints. Today the road is so muddy. How can I find my footprints from yesterday?" The Abbot smiled again and said, "Since we walked on this road today, can you find your footprints from today?" Jian Zheng said very confidently, "I certainly can." The Abbot smiled again. He put his hands on Jian Zheng's shoulders and said, "Yes! One can only leave footprints on a muddy road. When things are smooth and easy, you don't leave any trail behind. Only after you climb over difficult mountains and cross turbulent rivers, do you leave behind traces of your journey. Today, we walked on this muddy road. No matter how far you walk today, you will leave behind deep footprints, which are testaments to your journey. A cultivator should not stop his cultivation to save straw sandals."
Jian Zheng had good inborn quality. He truly understood what the abbot said. From then on, he became very diligent in his cultivation. He never relaxed himself or stopped in the middle to take a break. In the end, he became a very famous monk. He traveled to Japan and became the founder of Japanese Buddhism.
What the abbot said also applies in the human world. When walking on the muddy road, you have to make more efforts to pull your feet from the mud. If you stop in the middle, you will sink deeper into the mud. Only after you overcome the hardship, do you get to see the achievements you have made because of your hard work.
Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2005/10/10/34163.html