A stormy nightin Hong Kong.
A young man who asked his girlfriend out on adate canceled the date and stayed at home because of the bad weather. Meanwhile, in the same apartment building, a pregnant lady who was lying in bed already, suddenly decided to drive out to grab some food. As she was driving back in the heavy rain, the lightning struck her building. And she saw the whole building collapsing in front of her in the storm.All the residents of that building, including the young man, lost their lives in that accident. Yet the pregnant lady survived.
This is a story of fate by author, Kuang Ni from Hong Kong. Dead oralive, all depended on that one thought. Is this a made-up story, or a true reflection of our lives?
You have probably also experienced how one decision potentially leads to adramatic and different result. So is it accidental, or inevitable? Does destiny exist? If so, how is it formed? Can it be changed? How do we change it?
My dad published a book titled Enlightenment in 2012. It’s a book about Buddhism and its wisdom that may help you in life. I say “A life-changing book” here because first of all, it is what the Chinese characters on the cover mean; secondly it is my own father’s book and of course I want to sell it; but thirdly, it indeed is “Alife-changing book.”
我父亲于2012年出版了《觉悟》一书。这是一本关于用佛教智慧改变我们生命的书。我说“This is a life-changing book（一本足以改写你生命的书）”，因为首先，这本书的封面上的确写着这些中文字；其次，这是我父亲的书，我当然想推销它；（笑声）第三，这的确是一本足以改写你生命的书。
Ever since he published book, he has wanted me to translate his book when I grow more proficient in English. I doubt that I have the ability to translate his book yet, but I’d like to take this opportunity to share some bits and parts of his insights on Buddhism; especially those on Zen Buddhism that have helped me in my life. This speech will partially be a rough translation of the first chapter of his book, as he wishes, and partially my personal experience with Zen.
Since the day we’re born, we’ve stepped into a huge maze with only one exit. The exit leads to the tranquil middle path that Buddhism is looking for. And only by finding the right road can we exit the maze that is full of suffering. Different thing shappen to different people in our lives, but you should know that every hardship or impasse you face comes from the seeds of your past ignorance and presumptuous acts. There’s nothing we could do with things that already happened, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop searching for the way out. In fact, according to Buddhist teaching, if we wake up from the ignorance, we can definitely leave the maze.
There is a kind of dandelion in Canada that cangrow out of the ground again even if it’s been pulled out by its roots. Some specialists latter found out that this kind of dandelion has roots that are eight meters down into the earth, and at the end of the roots, there’s a seed. Even if the roots are taken out, the dandelion can grow out again because of its seed.
Deep down in our hearts, there’s aseed as well. Without us noticing, the seed has been developing roots, blooming flowers, and even bearing bitter fruits. Although we hate these bitter fruits, we have no idea where they come from. So after trying and failing every time,the fruits remain. They remain because we have only tried to solve the problems on the surface, like taking out the roots of the dandelion but not the seed.
The seed that is deep down in our hearts is called “ego,” – the source of all of our troubles and pain. Our hearts should be spacious and open, capable of taking in anything. We are the universe, and the universe is us. We are allone. But when the “ego” starts to develop, we start to separate ourselves from the whole.
Then based on our preferences and experience, our hearts start to have limited capacity. Our hearts are no longer big enough to accommodate everything.The more specific preferences we develop, the smaller our hearts become. After a certain time, we start to hang on to the ego and develop different feelings because of it. We experience love and happiness, but also pain and suffering.The ego is a doubled-edged-sword. Is there a way to use it only for good without any bad effects?
The ultimate goal is to get rid of the separation between us and the whole. And to do that, Buddhism divides the cultivation of this life style into three steps: Discipline, Meditation, and Wisdom. Our hearts are like candles, swaying in the breeze of desire. Discipline is like adding a glass jar around the candle, separating the breeze so it no longer affects the candle light. Meditation is the process the flame takes to stop swaying. And Wisdom is the growing light as the flame comes to stillness.
I’ve been going to boarding schools since I was seven. Once after a stressful week, I went home with a grumpy look. Noticing my anxiousness, my dad asked me to take a walk with him. Along the narrow path were numerous streetlights; some were luminous and some were dusky. He pointed at one tha twas covered in dust and asked me, “Remember your happiest moments? Right now your brightness is covered by the dust of doubts and fears just like this streetlight. But the light is in you, you just need clear the dust off.” I realized that any situation is controllable with the right attitude.
That led to my Emotional Flow Chart. The X-axisindicates the date of the week. The Y-axis has a scale of 1-5, one meaning extreme negative emotion and five meaning extreme positive emotion.
In the beginning, the lines are shaky like astock market graph. I noticed that I might have a day of 1 right after a day of5. But as I pay more attention to my feelings, the lines start to get flatter,and tend to settle at 3 and 4. I’m not saying that I’m totally incontrol of my emotion now, but this chart has definitely helped me to be more aware of myself, and thus remain more logical when facing any situation.
An easier way to make yourself more aware of your emotional flow without this chart, is talking to yourself. When you’re lying in bed ready to go to sleep, instead of grabbing your phone, consider taking that half an hour, or even just five minutes, to have a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself, “How are you?” and let your subconscious talk to you.
Let’s try this. Please close your eyes, and go through everything that happened to you yesterday. How was your day? Where would you mark your day on a scale of 1-5? Obviously the fluctuations of a day’s emotion will be like a heart beat. But try to average out thehighs and lows and mark your dot. Did something or someone make you really happy? Did you make someone else’s day better? Was there a time when you could have been more kind? Or was there a time you lost control? And what caused your emotional flows? What do you want your day to be like today? I hope this mini meditation helps you recollect yourself on the anxious last day of school before break.
Now I’ll leave you with a formula–
1 *(past) + 2* (now) = variable (future)
You could not change your past circumstances, but by adjusting your present mindset, you have the capacity to dramatically alter your future.
1*（过去）+ 2*（现在）= 未知（未来）
–Audience reaction –
Ms. C (Religion teacher): Wen, you nailed it! Your speech—the delivery, the message was flawless. Several teachers mentioned to me how fine they thought your speech and poised presentation was! I noticed it was super quiet in the theatre—that kind of quiet when people are really paying attention. You’re helping turn the wheel of dharma in Dobbs!
Ms. R (Advisor): (tears streaming down her face) Wen, I just want to thank you for your speech. It reminded meth at the singing bowl in my house hasn’t chanted in so long. I’ll pick it up again. Thank you! You’re so special. Please tell your dad thanks for his wonderful work too.
Mr. W (Administrator): Thank you for sharing! Please let me know when you have actually translated your dad’s book! I’ll definitely go buy it. Both my wife and I are pretty into Buddhism. My wife is actually going to a --- conference on Buddhism this weekend. Can you send me a copy of your speech? I want to share it with her.
Several students I don’t know: Thank you for sharing! Great Speech! Among all Matters of Spirit speeches, your speech was the one that I actually stayed awake for.
我的朋友包括几个我不认识的同学在我演讲后感谢我的分享，他们说：“可能是每周Matters of Spirit系列主题演讲中我唯一全程醒着的一次演讲。”
Student friend: That was amazing. I wish I had recorded it so I could see it again. But probably everyone was so transfixed that no one recorded anything... So proud of you!
Ms. N (Dean of Students): Thanks for sharing! You’ve definitely helped me to “clean the dust off” of my mind. It’s very inspiring.
Mr. N (Language teacher): I really like your speech! Is that your dad’s book? I love it. I love reading spiritual book, and I don’t know when this book will come out in English, but I really want to read it! Please do your best to translate it!
Mr. B (History teacher, formerlawyer) emailed me: I just wanted to take a moment to say how thoughtful your speech was this morning. I always enjoy learning something new or gaining new insight. I look forward to sharing some of what I learned with my daughter, whom I think will really appreciate it. And I look forward to buying your father's book when you translate it into English. Send me the Amazon link when it's on the market!
Ms. G(English teacher) emailed me: I wanted to tell you how much I loved your presentation on Buddhism this morning. I found it very inspiring!
Dr. D (Class Dean of Seniors,Science teacher) emailed me: I just wanted to express my gratitude for sharing your Matters of Spirit talk this morning. Your thoughtful and mindful approach to your days is an example we all can learn from.
十二年级年级组主任Dr. D给我发邮件道：“我想告诉你我非常感谢你今早Matters of Spirit的演讲。你讲到的那种警醒、自知的生活方式是我们每个人都该学习的。”