Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Work Must Be Practice

Work Must Be Practice
  heart-mind empty
By  Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

Work is an important problem for most of us, because we work to live. We can say our life has value because of work. This makes it a most important issue. Consequently, I like to raise work as a crucial issue.
An important problem for people is the issue of work, because we work to live. We can say our life has value because of work. This makes it a most important issue for us. Consequently, I like to focus on work as a crucial issue. On the back covers of our "Looking Within" series, I asked the publishers to print a little verse that concerns our topic.
Do work of all kinds with a free heart, Offer the fruits of work to voidness, Eat the food of emptiness as the noble ones do, Die to one's self from the very beginning.
Some of the phrases in this little verse are rather simple and conventional, but I think you'll forgive me for that because it's meant to be intelligible to ordinary people.
Why is it that we intended to use such strong language, that makes it hard to ignore or forget, such as "as the noble ones do" and "die to one's self from the very beginning"? In the original Thai, the very start, are the ordinary language of villagers which Bangkok people probably don't understand. It was my intention to use this phrasing in order to insist that these are the words of the sticks, of the boondocks. They're spoken from the village. At a minimum, we're teaching a few new words for those who might be interested (and here I was using Southern dialect).
What do you think of these words? It's obvious that the meaning is for those of us who haven't ended all defilement. It's necessary to request or to impel them to work with empty heart. For those who are empty of defilement already, there's no need to request or implore them. They naturally work with anempty heart. So we're speaking to those who still experience defilement, advising them, or even forcing them, to do all kinds of work with an empty heart. Otherwise things will be atrocious.
The tricky part of this verse is the phrase 'free-empty heart.'2 This is something we've spoken of many times, and in great detail, so you can read about it on your own.3 What's most important, what you must understand completely, is that these words have their own special meaning. They are not the ordinary language of people who've never studied or reflected deeply on these matters. Consider it "Dhamma language" that requires special explanation.
The phrase 'empty heart' (or 'free mind') does not mean, in the way that many would assume, the kind of heart or mind that doesn't think at all, like the kind of person who lacks intelligence. If mind is empty in the sense of not thinking at all, it's not really any different than sleeping. In that case, one couldn't do anything useful. Further, there's the point of "faking" emptiness. If one fakes it, or just puts on a show, then it's what we call "delinquent" or "criminal emptiness." If one just fakes emptiness without understanding it and merely seeks some personal benefit, such as avoiding responsibility, we call it "criminal empty mind."
Here, there's a specifically Buddhist meaning that specifies heart-mind empty of all kinds of thoughts and feelings connected with any meaning of 'me' or 'mine.' Those thoughts and feelings which are concerned and connected with 'me' and 'mine' are extensive. These need to be observed, studied, and understood. If we don't know such things, we'll never understand emptiness. We ought to be industrious in trying to discriminate among the many thoughts and feelings that happen every day: which of them are empty — that is, empty of any sense of 'me' and 'mine' — and which are not empty. The easier, most practical way to put it is that any thinking and feeling that is mixed up with greed, hatred, and delusion, are neither free nor empty. If there's no admixture of greed, hatred, and delusion, then the heart is empty and free. Thinking that is empty has no selfish feeling, and is not about or for one's self. There is just pure, untainted awareness and intelligence, whether with or without thought
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