Even though you don't notice a tree growing, day by day it imperceptibly gets bigger. After ten years or a hundred years, it can be made into good lumber. People who cultivate the Way are also like this. Don't be in a rush, thinking that you can cultivate today and become enlightened tomorrow. It's not that easy. You must train and cultivate every day.
Don't worry about how much progress you're making. As long as you don't retreat, you're making progress. If you have fewer random thoughts each day, then you're making progress.
One who makes rapid progress
will also beat a hasty retreat.
If you advance quickly, you will also be quick to retreat. Instead, you should cultivate with a constant and steadfast resolve. Each day, strive to repent, correct your errors, and turn over a new leaf. As it's said,
A day of having corrected no faults
Is a day of having created no merit.
We are cultivating to eliminate our bad habits and faults, cast out our defiled thoughts, and reveal our inherent clarity and wisdom. The wisdom and clarity are there, but they have been covered up by ignorance, so we cannot make good use of them. When we are obscured by ignorance, we tend to become petty and mean. If our wisdom comes forth, we will become more noble and go against the common flow. Cultivation is not a one-day affair. Rather, we must cultivate in thought after thought, from morning to night, year after year and month after month, with unchanging perseverance. Eventually our Prajna wisdom will mature. Don't "sun it for one day and freeze it for ten"－you'll never accomplish anything that way. We should cultivate sincerely every day, just as a tree grows slowly but surely.
As we practice, we should remain calm whether we encounter demonic obstacles, adverse situations, or even favorable situations. Both in adversity and smooth situations, we should maintain our vigor. If we can recognize all things as proclaiming the wonderful Dharma, we will see ineffable wonders. By cultivating the transcendental Dharma right within worldly affairs, we can take the road home and discover our true identity.
At that point nothing will confuse us. When states arise, we will be able solve the problems easily. No situation will obstruct us. Eventually, our wisdom will come forth. It hasn't come forth yet because we aren't able to see through things and let go of them. Thus we cannot be free and at ease. We have been backsliding instead of advancing. When we encounter good conditions, we hesitate and feel unsure of ourselves. Meeting evil conditions, we follow right along and drift aimlessly in the six paths, sinking deeper and deeper, unable to escape. We linger on, thinking it's a lot of fun, so we go through birth, death, and rebirth. We are born muddled, die confused, and don't know what we're doing in between. We can't figure out what life is all about.
We lived muddled lives, thinking we have achieved fame, fortune, and success. Sages see our worldly success as failure. We should carefully look into what we have done, examine our accounts, and truly understand the situation. Once we understand, we can be true heroes and leap out from the endless cycle of birth and death.
A talk given on June 6, 1982
at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas