Cultivators should be clean and pure, like our eyes, which cannot stand even a grain of sand. If a grain of sand gets into your eye, it causes immediate discomfort and you have to remove it or you cannot be at ease. Cultivation is the same way. What does the grain of sand represent? Greed. Once greed arises, everything changes. Originally there was purity, but when greed arises, it triggers a “chemical reaction” that makes clean water turbid. The greedy mind cannot benefit others; on the contrary, it even harms one’s own self.
For every bit of sincerity, a cultivator gains a corresponding bit of attainment and responses. With a full share of sincerity, one will have a full share of attainment and responses. When we have some attainment and responses, we shouldn’t become attached and dwell on them continually. We should forget about them and not have anything on our minds. The main purpose of our cultivation is to end birth and death, not to seek responses. We shouldn’t have any ulterior motives in our cultivation; it’s a great mistake to seek any sort of achievement or response. Everyone should be very clear about this. If you concentrate single-mindedly on your cultivation, you will naturally have some attainment and responses when your skill is sufficient. But if you hope to gain something from your cultivation, you’ll never have any attainment or responses. As it’s said, “If something happens because you think about it, it’s merely a product of false thinking. If something happens without your thinking about it, it’s a response.” You may hope to have responses, but you must not seek them.
Cultivators should “concern themselves only with tilling and weeding, not with reaping a harvest.” In everything we do, we should try our best and not worry about the outcome. We should be open and aboveboard, work for public rather than private gain, have unselfish intentions, and not worry about whether we succeed or fail. We should also be like this when working for the public. We shouldn’t be afraid, as if there were a wolf facing us and a tiger behind us. It shouldn’t be that when problems come up, no one dares to come out and take care of them and everyone tries to evade responsibility. If we act like this with petty matters, imagine what will happen when it comes to big issues.
Don’t indulge in foolish fantasies, thinking you can receive a Ph.D. without studying, reap a harvest without planting, or win first prize at the horse races without buying a ticket. There are no free lunches. You have to sow in the spring, then till, weed, irrigate, and fertilize the fields, before you can expect to reap a harvest in the fall. As it’s said, “For every share of tilling, you reap a share of harvest.” This is a principle of nature.
Everyone, pay attention! Don’t be greedy or seek for anything. If you’re greedy for attainments and responses, you’re just dreaming within a dream－it’s nothing but fantasy. Don’t fool yourself. If you don’t see your goal clearly and lose the substance for the shadow, then you’ll have wasted all your time and have nothing to show for it.
A talk given on May 17, 1984