Take a look at this piece of wood: two tree trunks which have grown together. The upper and lower parts are stuck together. What is the reason for this? Countless eons ago, there was a man and a woman who were very much in love. Together they made these vows, "In heaven may we be like two birds tied together to the same wing, and on earth may our roots intertwine." For this man and woman, it was love at first sight, and they got married. They had the same hobby: money. The man did whatever he could to earn the money, and the woman did her best to spend it, and they busied themselves with the game of making money and spending it.
But they were so much in love, and the offenses they created were so serious, that in life after life they sank lower and lower, falling into the realm of the animals, then into the realm of the hungry ghosts, and then into the hells. Now they have already turned into plants. This piece of wood was originally two separate tree trunks, but they have grown together and become hopelessly intertwined. You see? The left trunk is stretching out a branch to embrace the right trunk, and the right trunk is extending a branch to grasp the left one. It's just like a man and woman holding out their arms and hugging each other. From this, one can see that even in the form of trees, they cannot renounce the habit of infatuation carried over from their former lives! In addition, there is a little stone lodged between the two trunks, and they cherish it as a precious gem. What is it? It's their bank account book from past lives!
One day several years ago, we went to speak the Dharma by the creek in the City, and we found this piece of wood. Look at it: the top of these tree trunks have been chopped off and the roots have also been severed. Only the exposed, dried up branches are left, and yet they are still stuck together like glue. Wouldn't you say this is pitiful?
This shows how dangerous it is to love too deeply. It's not all fun and games. Someone might be thinking, "Dharma Master, I simply cannot believe the Dharma you speak. You have no proof to back it up, and there's no logic behind it. Probably you're just putting us on as if we were children. It's just dream talk." Whether you believe or not is up to you, because I have no way to make you believe it. This Dharma is very difficult to speak. When people are confused by love, no matter how you try to wake them up, they cannot accept it. The thing that harms people most in the world is deep love and heavy emotion, and the most exalted thing is cultivating the way of purity. It's not that people don't know this. They know it, yet deliberately go against it, unable to extricate themselves from habits accumulated throughout countless eons.
There's a Chinese proverb: "He holds on to a piece of dung; and if you try to give him a delicious doughnut, he won't relinquish the dung for the doughnut." That's like a person who hangs on tightly to his love. You tell him, "Throw away that dirty thing. Cultivation is worth a lot more!" But he obstinately holds on and refuses to turn around. So it's said,
Although the rain from the heavens is vast,It's difficult to nourish grass that has no roots.Although the gate of Buddhism is wide,It's difficult to save people who have no faith.
I have kept this piece of wood for a long time, and I don't show it to most people, because if I spoke this dharma, they wouldn't believe it. I had to wait until the time and conditions were ripe. On October 24, when all of you came from afar to visit, I brought this piece of wood to the Buddha-hall, but didn't talk about it for about three weeks. If I didn't tell you today, maybe there wouldn't be any more time. So I don't care whether you believe or not; I have explained to you the causes and conditions behind this piece of wood.
A talk given on the evening of November 12, 1982,at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas