Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pure Joyful Work

Pure Joyful Work
By  Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

If you don't want to suffer, then work with an empty mind. Then work will be fun and the results will be excellent.
Details such as how one will work, for whom, what one will gain - all of these should not remain. When it's time to put our hands to work, we must think it through from the beginning and fix our intention with certainty. Just go to work with empty mind and don't wish for anything beyond the power of ones intelligence. Don't take on duties beyond ones own ability. Let ones ability develop first, then expand ones responsibilities appropriately. Nowadays we're careless and boastful, and dare to take on responsibilities beyond our capacity. And so we do superficial work relying more on window dressing than quality, deceitfully hiding behind politeness, with great damage resulting.
We must work with pure intention. The work has to be of value sufficient for our sacrifice. When we know this, then go to work. Even ordinary daily chores, although they're seldom paid, these too need to be done with an empty mind, otherwise one falls into hell, even with the little, everyday tasks. Even miscellaneous things, as well as the most important work of one's life - they all must be done with an empty mind.
So the most important question and challenge is simply to work with an empty mind, and then to expand on that by offering all the results to voidness and eating the food of voidness. These second and third lines of the verse merely explain the first line. If we understand the first line and can practice it, the second and third won't be any problem. And so we focused on the first line: to work with and empty mind. Once we can do that, then we'll understand what it is to offer the fruits of work to emptiness, and to eat the food of emptiness, which we'll discuss in more detail later.
If we observe, like I suggested earlier, to observe the difference between empty mind, and a mind that isn't empty of me and mine - once you've seen this for yourself it's easy. We can say that it's to work
mindfully and wisely, as opposed to working with defilement. If the mind is void and free, it works with wisdom. If mind is busy, it works with craving and defilement.
What we're talking about today has been discussed many times, has been memorized and repeated over and over again. Why is it that so few people benefit from it? Because people don't reach the level of "working mindfully with wisdom," which requires intelligence that is true and pure. But people hardly ever talk about this. There must be truth and purity within oneself, and the wisdom has to be the kind that is empty of me and mine, that is free of egoism. In other words, the intelligence and wisdom we refer to is that which naturally exists in a heart void of 'me' and 'mine.'
When 'me' and 'mine' arise in the mind, wisdom changes into something deceptive, clever, and cunning for the sake of 'me' and 'mine.' This is the kind of intelligence the world seeks and rewards: cunning for the sake of 'me' and 'mine,' which deceives and tricks continually. Our world doesn't respect pure and honest wisdom.
When we speak of wisdom, we need to stress that it is genuine wisdome - wisdom that is also pure. Don't take the wisdom of the market, which people claim to be wisdom, and claim that surviving is the supreme benefit - that's all they understand. That's a whole different kind of wisdom - it's the cleverness of craving, clinging, and selfishness.
Go look at the pillar with Avalikoteshvara on the top. There we've written the words 'suddhi' (purity), 'paññā' (wisdom), 'mettā' (loving kindness), and 'khanti' (patient endurance). Purity comes first, in that there's no deceit. Then the intelligence is honest and pure, the loving kindness is pure, and then our endurance won't be dreary and tiresome. The patience of wisdom does not require that we endure to the point that blood leaks out of our eyes, because purity is in the forefront.
The wisdom that seeks only to survive, is called worldly wisdom, and it serves craving and selfishness. It's more of a cunning than actual wisdom. In Pali, it's called cheko, and isn't properly called paññā (wisdom). What a shame that in Thai we use the same word — paññā — for both. Cunning is paññā and pure wisdom is paññā. No wonder people are confused!
Let me tell you one story about cheko, about "good" worldly intelligence. Somebody once told it to me and I found it so amusing that I've never forgotten it. A while ago, Phraya Rachatha, the lieutenant-governor of the Trang region, couldn't read Thai though he was able to write his name in Chinese and Thai. His intelligence was of the ordinary, worldly kind, which was good enough for the job. In fact, he did a good job — better than lieutenant-governors who could read Thai or were graduates of the Pali schools — and benefited people broadly.
Once, with a visitor present, his secretary brought in a telegram. Usually the secretary would read the telegrams to him, but with a visitor present that would be embarrassing. So he tore the telegram from his secretary's hand and made as if he would read it himself, though he couldn't. But he had it upside down and his foolish secretary pointed that out. So he whacked the stupid secretary over the head with a cigar box, saying "I can read it; even upside down, I can read it." Of course, it's possible to read something upside down. So that's a story of a government official with plenty of worldly wisdom but ended up making a fool of himself being careless and boastful beyond his abilities.
Another story concerns when they were building a road between Phattalung and Trang. The road had to pass through some mountains believed to be sacred and mysterious. The workers didn't dare to go into that forest and were afraid to drink the water there. So the lieutenant-governor urinated into the water saying, "I peed in the water, you can drink it now. There aren't any spirits here now, nothing that will break your necks." So the workers had to work, drink the water, whatever. The road was finished through the wisdom of an illiterate official. This kind of intelligence is frightening, too. It's the wisdom of 'me' and 'mine,' of a worldly sort relying on the better grade of craving and defilement. But it's a worldly thing and can't be used in Dhamma matters. It's cunning, cheko.
If I say "the empty mind is full of wisdom," it's a matter of truly knowing what it is to be one with nature. "Knowing" means mind is one with nature and thus knows nature. Our Thai language creates difficulties in amusing ways. So ponder this by yourselves; we'll need another word to refer to this kind of wisdom, not that you can depend on the Pali Commentaries.In the water pouring blessing that we recite every day, there are the words "cheko dhammattha kovido." Cheko has been applied incorrectly here. Properly, it refers to someone clever and tricky in the ways of the world; here, it's been applied to refer to a pure kind of wisdom, although it should be only about selfish matters. This is Pali that was composed in the modern era. In the same way that we Thais are used to using the word paññā in ordinary, or even degraded, ways such as referring to someone's kid who is a "clever thief."
If the mind is truly void there will be pure wisdom that is cleansed of 'me' and 'mine' and works wonderfully. Work is fun. It isn't even thought of as work anymore. Try this out in your everyday tasks whether they are pleasant or not, or whether they are tiresome chores. If you still think of it as work then the mind isn't empty. Watch this carefully, and try it again with an empty mind, so that you'll be someone who can do all kinds of work with an empty mind. At least be able to do it once in a while. Even if there are times when one's mood is busy, it's up to you. Or if you want to be busy for your own pleasure, you can do that on your own time. But don't do it when you've got real work to do, and it won't be a waste.
To have the fiery eye that sees all things as void, without any craving, clinging, or suffering, requires the knowledge that is wise enough to see even work as empty, so that it's no longer seen as work. Destroy all the meaning of the word 'work,' and it becomes enjoyable play. One will be at ease and comfortable in such work. The boss won't have any headaches, nor will your spouse. Your employees won't be stressed out, nor will the people who serve you in stores and restaurants.
This is the special meaning of the line I composed: One ought to do all kinds of work with an empty mind. Please reflect on this carefully, so that you have the special, secret kind of power like the hermit who can burn up all obstacles and foes with just a wink of the eye.
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