Talking about love, it's common that we love our parents, spouse, children,
and siblings...Nobody can disagree that they are the primary people that we love.
But, why do I ask "who do we love the most?" Who would be the important person that
we love the most?
In Agama suttra, there is a section about King Pesenadi and Queen Mallika. One day,
King Pasenadi of Kosala asked Queen Mallika:
- "Who do you love the most in this world?"
- "Of course, you are the one that I love the most."
- "I'd figured that you were going to say so."
- "Your Highness. If you allow me, I will have a different answer, but more truthful."
The Queen smiled.
- "Tell me." The King said.
- "Your Highness, the person that I love the most is myself."
The King was astonished:
- "What? How could you love yourself? I don't understand what you just said."
- "Your Highness. Because I love myself, I love you. You are the person who has brought
the happiness to this self."
- "I know that...But still don't get what you're trying to say."
The Queen cautiously asked:
- "Your Highness. May I ask who do you love most in this life?"
- "You are the one." The King laughed.
- "Let say that I love another man, what will you do?"
- "Um..I will...I will...." The King was puzzled.
- "You will be furious and will order to behead me right away. Is that true?"
She continued asking.
- "You are so tricky..!" The King dodged her question.
- "Isn't true, Your Highness?"
- "It's true, rightMy Lord." The Queen was pushing with the question.
After a moment of silence, the King replied:
- "Perhaps, you are right."
- "So, you have answered my question!"
He claims that he loves her, but if she loves someone else, he would behead her. So,
does he love her the most? If he loves her the most, then he will love her even if
she loves someone else. But in this case, he would behead her. Thus, he only loves
himself! In this world, we love other people because we love ourselves.
On the next day, King Pasenadi made a visit to the Buddha at Jetavana monastery and
described the conversation between him and Queen Mallika. The Buddha confirmed her
answer through following verse:
Travels all directions
Could not find
One dearer than oneself
Searching all directions
Still could not find
One dearer than oneself
So, one loves oneself
Should not hurt others
That is the Buddha's confirmation: Sentient beings love themselves
A majority of people don't know that they love themselves the most. They often think
that they love this person or that person with all their heart. Even if they know
that they love themselves, they don't have a courage to tell others the truth. They
lie to others that they love all beings, but in fact, they love themselves the most.
Let say there is a true Buddhist, who practices exertively, has always been criticized
by other people. They criticize him/her when he/she talks a bit much, doesn't behave
seriously, or is lazy to do meditation. Because they bother him/her too much, he/she
could not love them. Most of us love or like someone because he/she loves us, cares
for us, or brings us the benefits or peace. Otherwise, we cannot love him/her. Thus,
this love is the love for the self.
The most painful thing that mankind has is to conceit themselves at a supreme level,
therefore, they always think of themselves; however, they have lost themselves without
knowing. Everything is for the self, but the true self has been forgotten. Every day,
we nurture the false self to make it grow. But when it decays, what should we do?
Thus, we say that we love ourselves, but the fact is, we have lost ourselves without
knowing. This is a pitiful matter that not so many people aware.
May I ask that what do we love about ourselves? Is it the body? This body is comprised
of earth, water, air, and fire. Their characteristic is to oppose each other. At certain
time, the body is disintegrated. When everything is seperated, what part of us that
we love? If we don't love this body, then what do we love? Our mind? Our mind is always
thinking and assessing. Once a thought arises, we perceive it as real. If someone
disagrees with us, we could argue or fight to defend our thought. We defend it means
we love it, right? But thinking is unreal because it thinks about this and about that,
but when we find it, it disappears. It appears and vanishes unexpectedly therefore,
it doesn't have a real form. Thus, how could it be real? What unreal is perceived
to be us is illogical, isn't it? In addition, sometimes it thinks of positive thoughts
like saints and other times, it thinks of evil thoughts like animals. Thus, are we
saints or animals? Another way to look at it is when it thinks of positive thoughts,
it awares of the thought. Right at that moment, if a negative thought arises, it immediately
awares that the thought is negative. Thus, the one that has been awared of is the
guess, not our master. We devote our mind to take care ourselves, but since the body
and the mind are not us, what do we love? Can you tell me?
Everyone has misperceived that there's a self without realizing that it's just a union
of the four aggregates and the thoughts are subjected to birth and death. People attach
to them to perceive that they are themselves. In the Complete Enlightenment suttra,
the Buddha said, "By obstinating that the body (four aggregates) is ourselves and
the thinking of differentiation is ourselves is an ignorance." Thus, whoever loves
the body and the thinking of differentiation is ignorant. The more we love them, the
deeper we drown in birth and death. In order words, the more we loose ourselves.
Even though we say that we love ourselves the most, but the truth is we love Six Sensual
Objects the most. Why my answer is so different? It's because during the moment of
meditation, when we should focus on the tamed mind, we still can't let go the objects
as once in a while, we think of an image...We keep remember them! So, what else do
we love more than six sensual objects? In Suramgama suttra, the Buddha said, "Sentient
beings have forgotten themselves to attach to sensual objects." This means that when
eyes see forms, they attach to the beautiness or ugliness. When ears hear sounds,
they attach to the good or bad sounds. We have forgotten the nature of seeing and
hearing, therefore, we attach to external forms and sounds to forget what the truth
is within ourselves. In each day, each hour, and each minute, are we going back to
our true self (the nature of seeing and hearing) or are we running after Six Sensual
objects? Obviously, we are running after the objects. Sitting in meditation, our eyes
are looking down. Even though we don't see things around us, our mind still runs after
the objects. After the meditation session, the eyes continue to run after the forms
and the ears run after the sounds... without stopping. If we don't love Six Sensual
objects so much to run after them, who do we love? If we don't love them, why do we
run after them? Obviously, we love the Six Sensual objects to run after them to forget
ourselves or loose ourselves. Isn't the life of forgetting ourselves to attach to
As true practitioners, we should know clearly the focus of the practice. Its focus
is to return to our true nature. When we do that, we truly love ourselves. Otherwise,
how can we love ourselves when we are forgetting ourselves? I would like to use the
following stories in Theravada and Mahayana suttras, and the sayings of Zen masters
to prove to you that we are forgetting ourselves, instead of loving ourselves.
One day, Reverend Punna asked the Buddha to teach him a simple method so that he could
practice in a seclude place. The Buddha said, "When eyes see forms without attaching
to them, is close to Nirvana. When ears hear sounds without attaching to them, is
close to Nirvana. When the nose smells scents, the tongue tastes flavors, the body
is in contact with objects, and the mind is in contact with phenomenons without attaching
to any of them, is close to Nirvana. That's a returning to our true nature. In three
months, Reverend Punna attained the Fruition of Arahant. Thus, when the Six Sensual
Organs are not attached to the Six Sensual Objects, we are returning to our true self
or close to Nirvana. Otherwise, we are far away from Nirvana. In Diamond suttra, Reverend
Subhuti asked the Buddha, "If there are good men or good women set their hearts on
the supreme enlightenment, how can they appease their mind? How can they conquer their
mind?" The Buddha replied, "they should not arise their mind to attach to forms, sounds,
scents, tastes, touch, and mental objects. No attachment causes their hearts on the
supreme enlightenment." Hearing this, the Sixth Patriarch enlightened. Not only he
was enlightened by discerning the phrase "No attachment to forms, sounds, scents,
tastes, touch, mental objects," but much more. He discerned that our true nature is
always tranquil, permanent (not subjected to birth and death), and always complete.
Through the concept of "no attachment between Six Sensual Organs and Six Sensual Objects
is the focus of the people who set their heart to Supreme Enlightenment," he had discerned
his true nature, which in Zen, it is called "the true identity." The reason that we
are unable to discern our true identity is because we keep running after the sensual
objects. Contrarily, not running after sensual objects is the existence of our true
identity. The following is the conversation between Master Kuei Xing and his assistant.
On one raining day, there was a disturbed noise of a frog that had been captured by
a snake. He asked his assistant:
- "What kind of a sound is it?"
- "It's the sound of a frog." He honestly replied.
- "Sentient being is suffering, but there's suffering of sentient being."
The master exclaimed.
Why did he say that? "Sentient being is suffering" means that the suffering of death
of the frog that has been captured by the snake. "Suffering of sentient being" implies
the assistant who forgot himself when he heard the shouting of the frog. Are we now
living with the "suffering of sentient being?" Most of us are running after Six Sensual
objects to forget our true self. We live as we are dead. Isn't it true that we are
carrying "suffering of sentient beings?"
On another raining day, he heard the sound the drops. The master then asked his assistant:
- "What kind of a sound is it?"
- "The raining sound."
- "A sentient being has forgotten himself to run after the object."
The assistant heard the raining sound, but never realized his nature of hearing. Therefore,
the master scolded as "he forgot his true nature to run after the object." If we were
asked, we probably gave the same answer. How should we answer to indicate that we
are not forgetting ourselves? The answer is "I am hearing." When hearing the raining
sound, we remember our nature of hearing. Therefore, we say "I am hearing."
Because we are practitioners, our focus is to find our true self or true nature. This
is how we love ourselves. When we say we love ourselves, but keep running after the
sensual objects, that love is a love for Six Sensual Objects or four aggregates (body),
not for ourselves. Therefore, we need to let go the Six Sensual objects in order to
return to ourselves, or else, we will loose ourselves. Do you have a courage to let
go the Six Sensual objects? They are the impermanent forms from outside, so once we
attach to them, we will forget our true self. After enlightened this matter, the Sixth
Patriarch often discussed about "discerning the true nature." And when we discern
our true nature, we are no longer attached to the Six Sensual objects.
During his free time, King Tran Thai Tong of Tran dynasty (Vietnam) read Diamond suttra
to contemplate the phrase " No attachment causes their hearts on the supreme enlightenment."
After he discerned this concept, he wrote in "Zen's Guide" a segment called the "Repentance
In Six Instances." In there, it instructs people to repent for the karmas of the eyes,
ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. In each instance, we repent an organ. The purpose
of repentance is to break our attachment with the Six Sensual objects. From his enlightenment,
he had created the method of repentance of six organs. This special trait has made
him become distinctive from other Zen masters or Chinese lecturers. Here is the verse
"Four Mountains" which describes his method of repentance:
The tongue attaches to good flavors, the ears attach to sounds
The eyes attach to forms, the nose attaches to scents
Drifting forever as a wanderer
When the day is over, thousand miles from home
It's hard to find a busy King who could discern the concept to remind
us how to practice. We are blessed to be able to ordain and live in Zen sect. However,
we keep attaching to the Six Sensual objects. When will we discern the Way? The Tran
era was the time of war, the time of the invasion of Yuan dysnaty. During this busy
time, the King could discern the Way to teach it to us. What about us? We are the
people who live in the temple, have less things to do, have no family attachment and
no worriness of hungriness or coldness; but we still can't detach from the Six Sensual
objects. What can I say? It's pitiful for us. This is what called "suffered sentient
being." How can we live with our true self when we keep attaching to Six Sensual objects?
For long, not only we have lost ourselves, most people in the world are the same.
Are practitioners selfish? People perceive that whoever finds himself and just worries
about himself is selfish. When we focus on finding our true self, in Zen is called
"Self Observation." It seems that observing ourselves is selfish, but it turns out
to be a immense benefit. If we are able to find our true nature, we can show others
how to find their true nature. This a great help to the mankind!
We are living without knowing that we are living. By saying "we," we don't know what
we are. So, are we alive or dead? When we practice, we need to exertively find "that
truth." In order to find it, we should never love Six Sensual objects. Do you still
love them? Do you have a courage to let them go? When we can let them go, we will
become saints even though we don't want to. On the other hand, if we still hold on
to them, they will lead us into the cycle of birth and death. The purpose of practice
is to extricate from birth and death. But in order to extricate, we need to discern
the true nature that always exists in us by letting go the Six Sensual objects. As
long as we still attach to them, we will never be able to discern the true nature.
Since the first day that I have taught you the practicing method, I have always reminded
you to let go the Six Sensual objects. Have you been willing to let them go? Probably,
"no." The attachment is still tight. I scolded but you still cannot let them go. So,
is it true that you love them the most? After we have learned the Way and understand
the way, we should find our true nature or turn our back to Six Sensual objects. I
hope that you will have a courage to detach from them to become sainthood.