Leaving the home-life is something that rarely happens in the world, and it is also something most people find hard to understand. Why does leaving the home-life mean you have to take suffering, and cannot enjoy the pleasures between men and women, or go dancing, or have an orgy? It's because if you want to become a pre-eminent individual, one who stands out from the crowd, you must bear the things that others cannot bear and take the suffering that others cannot take. Only through this kind of discipline can you achieve a Vajra-indestructible body. As the saying goes,
If the plum tree did not endure cold,that chills to the bone,How could the fragrance of its,blossoms be so sweet?
When you leave the home-life, you must be psychologically prepared. You leave home in order to be eternally liberated from birth and death and to be free of the suffering of transmigration forever. Therefore, you cannot be afraid to face any kind of hardship. The more you suffer, the better. Don't give in to suffering, lose your initial sincerity, and retreat. A great hero must have the spirit of firm, unshakable perseverance to conquer every kind of suffering. So leaving the home-life is not something ordinary people are able to do. Even generals and prime ministers are unable to do it. That's why leaving the home-life is said to be the work of sages and is not at all what most people ridicule as "being parasites of society." As it is said,To endure suffering puts an end to suffering.To enjoy blessings uses up blessings.
Take a look at the noble Sanghans and great worthies of old: it was through bitter cultivation that they reached the state of enlightenment. None of the patriarchs became enlightened through relaxation and enjoyment. You can read through the whole Tripitaka (Buddhist Canon) but you won't find a single one.
We must have endurance before we can gain the benefit of being filled with Dharma bliss. We must suffer hardship before we can obtain the wisdom of enlightenment. Don't work in opposition to the Buddha Way. Apply effort with a concentrated and focused mind. Gather in the mind, and don't indulge in idle thoughts. Restrain the capricious monkey-mind, and don't let it run outside.
In leaving home to cultivate the Way, we must first get rid of greed, eliminate anger, and extinguish delusion. When these three poisons are cleaned out, wisdom will naturally come forth. How can we sweep them clean? Use the three studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom as tools. Precepts can counteract greed; samadhi can counteract anger; and wisdom can counteract delusion. Therefore, left-home people are called Shramanas. "Shramana" means "diligent" and "putting to rest," that is, they diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and put to rest greed, anger and delusion. When all people are free of greed, anger and delusion, the world will be at peace.
A talk given on November 18, 1983