A saying goes: "Enduring suffering puts an end to suffering; enjoying blessings exhausts blessings." Why do cultivators of the Way want to cultivate? We eat only one meal each day because we want to end suffering. Happiness remains once suffering is gone.
Blessings come in two varieties: those we should enjoy, and those we shouldn't enjoy. Blessings we should enjoy are those which come as rewards for work we ourselves have done. Such things as living in a nice house, wearing nice clothes, eating good food, and riding in nice cars are blessings we can enjoy. We should recognize, however, that once these blessings have been enjoyed to their fullest, they will be gone, and our bank account of blessings will be all out of capital.
Blessings we should not enjoy includes things gained by seeking beyond one's rightful share: blessings that come through scheming and trickery, such as money stolen from others. If we enjoy such blessings, then it's unrighteous pleasure, and the law will punish us. We will have overdrawn our bank account of blessings.
Once we enjoy all the blessings that are rightfully ours, our blessings will be used up. How much more is it so with blessings that are not rightfully ours? Should we demand to enjoy those as well? Not only will we burn up our blessings that way, we'll even go bankrupt. For that reason, we should not enjoy our blessings to their end, or else, we will have no blessings left. On the other hand, we can endure suffering to its end, for then there will be no more suffering. We should understand this principle, so that when we find ourselves in distressing circumstances, we happily accept the discomfort. In this way, we avoid all resentment and we don't become dissatisfied or discontent.
The thinking and behavior of people who study Buddhism is exactly the opposite of worldly people. Ordinary worldly people flow with birth and death as they create more karma. Cultivators of the Way oppose the flow of birth and death as they wipe out their karma. No matter what situations arise, they calmly endure them, resting securely in their knowledge of the principles; thus suffering does not seem painful to them. A saying goes, "Only one who has tasted bitterness to the ultimate degree can become an extraordinary person." How true it is!
I'll now tell you a story of one who endured suffering. The last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty was known as Congzhen ("Noble Portent"). Although he possessed the wisdom of an emperor, he lacked the blessings that an emperor needs. Why was this? Because his suffering had not come to an end. In an former life, he had been a novice monk, but he died before receiving complete ordination as a Bhikshu. Thus he remained a Shramanera (novice). As a novice monk, he had to perform all the menial jobs, such as gathering wood and toting water. He simply endured the toil and swallowed his resentment. Every day he engaged in these strenuous chores in service to the monastery.
One day, he climbed onto the roof of a building to patch tiles, carelessly slipped off, and fell to his death. His Dharma-brothers reported the mishap to the Abbot. Knowing the prior causes and later consequences involved, the Abbot wished to bring the novice to accomplishment and end his suffering. Thereupon, he announced publicly, "This novice was not cautious while working, and he fell to his death. He caused this Way-place a major loss. For this offense of incurring loss to the monastery, he deserves serious punishment. Tie his dead body behind a team of horses and drag him around until he is pulled to pieces! This way we can avoid the cost of buying him a coffin." When the monks heard the Abbot's pronouncement, they simply couldn't carry it out. They pitited their Dharma-brother and decided to disobey the Abbot's order, because they couldn't bear to treat the dead one in such a harsh manner. They talked it over: "We are all brothers, fellow cultivators in the monastery, and by rights we should bury him; don't let horses drag his corpse to bits." Then they chipped in contributions to buy the novice a coffin, and buried him out on the mountainside.
Since the young novice had amassed great merit and virtue by doing menial labor for the monastery, he was able to be reborn as a human, as the Emperor Congzhen, in fact. But his reign lasted only sixteen years and was characterized by disaster. While he ruled, China experienced great chaos; Li Zicheng staged his revolt, and the Qing Dynasty armies invaded from abroad. Not knowing a single day of peace, he passed sixteen years in continuous worry and torment. This was because his well-meaning fellow monks had actually harmed him by not allowing him to endure his suffering to the end. Had they followed the Abbot's instructions and dragged his corpse behind horses, his suffering would have been finished then and there, and Emperor Congzhen would not have been forced to commit suicide on Mei Mountain as a national martyr.