Reflections on Life: An Open Mind as Calm as Still Water

Guan Ming

PureInsight | June 10, 2009

[] In daily life, I have seen many hotheaded people who easily get upset over trivial things or verbally abuse others if their words are not pleasant—some even resort to using force. Sometimes I meet cultivators with high xinxing. In their everyday lives, they always handle things calmly and kindly—in the face of being dishonored or disgraced they are just as calm as still water.

Once, I asked a cultivator curiously: “How can I achieve forbearance when insulted? How can I be as calm as still water?” He smiled and said: “In order to be as calm as still water, the key is to discard all attachments and abandon emotion and desire. So you have to learn how to let go of yourself.” I see! In the human world, the reason why there are endless disputes and why so many people’s minds are not at ease and feel restless is because they care too much about themselves.

As a middle-aged man, I like peace of mind and taking things lightly more and more. I know taking things lightly results in happiness, an open mind, and is a manifestation of a noble realm of thought. Since it is normal to have birth, old age, illness, and death, why do we bother mentioning the ups and downs in life? Only after a person completely understands the significance of life can he have a clear and clean mind like still water.

The happiness that success can bring is like turbulent waves—after the tide comes in it eventually goes out. Thus, for a person, the highest realm naturally is taking things lightly. If you think about it carefully, being as calm as still water would be the highest realm in life. Have a calm state of mind, which is not affected by happiness or sadness. When being insulted, one wouldn’t get angry; when running into issues, one wouldn’t panic. In the face of radical ups and downs, in the face of extreme happiness and sadness, one would still remain unruffled and take them calmly. How open-minded and lofty that is!

Taking things calmly is also a manifestation of wisdom. In the book, Romance of the Three Kindoms, General Sima Yi of the attacking army lead 150,000 soldiers against Xicheng county. Whereas, Zhuge Liang on the defensive side only had 2500 soldiers. But Zhuge Liang didn’t panic. With two kids standing nearby, he sat down on the city wall playing the zither calmly. The peaceful music scared Sima Yi away. This laudable tolerant spirit, “not being scared when Mount Tai collapses before ones eyes; not being frightened when the thunder claps nearby,” couldn’t be achieved by an average person.

Sometimes when I look at the brook running all the way down from the mountain to the ocean, I find the character of the brook so admirable: it is like being indifferent to fame and wealth, discarding self-interests, and standing aloof from worldly success! Someone once said: “Plainness is truthful; peacefulness is good fortune.” I think the true calmness is that the mind is as calm as still water.

The trifles in life are caused by presumptuous desires. People’s minds are covered by dust, laden by the temptations in the material world. In ancient China, there were quite a few scholars whose minds were as calm as still water. Tao Qian planted chrysanthemum and lotus flowers; Li Bai drank wine and appreciated the moonlight; Shu Shi took a nap on a rattan bed. In the turmoil of this world, calm minds coexist with impetuous minds.

An ordinary person gets disappointed when running into hardship; he feels pain when hurt; he suffers when slandered; he gets angry when betrayed; he gets scared when facing the test of life and death. In fact, it just shows that the person’s ability of concentration is not adequate and he has not accomplished himself through cultivation. An enlightened being wouldn’t be puzzled by worldly trifles; he wouldn’t panic when running into issues; he wouldn’t get scared in the face of danger; he faces slanders with smiles; he faces betrayals with compassion. Under any circumstance, he always stays calm like still water.

Lao Zi said: “The greatest compassion is like water.” Confucius said: “Wise people are like water; benevolent people are like mountains.” Ordinary people can learn a lot from the profound nature of water. When a cultivator’s mind can be as calm as still water, it indicates that he is on the path of reaching consummation. When being calm like still water, the mind reaches cleanness; when being calm like still water, one’s moral standing becomes high and sacred; when being calm like still water, one’s rays of compassion radiate out on all sentient beings in the universe; when being calm like still water, the holy and pure lotus flower will bloom in heart!

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