Bhikkhuni Triệt Như – The Fount of Happiness – No 14
Translated into English by Như Lưu
Our meditation center is located in the hills in a rural area where vegetation is abundant and many rocky outcrops exist, providing a natural environment to many wild animals. Most abundant are small mountain hares with grey and brown fur, which are not as pretty as the white coat of our pet rabbit. We also have many small yellow-brown squirrels with a long brushy tail. These two species are both small in size. The main difference in their appearance is that hares have large upright ears and a short tail whereas squirrels have smaller ears that are not prominent and a long tail that wiggles constantly. Every morning I can see them darting about, craning their neck and surreptitiously eating the leaves of my ornamental plants.
We are now in summer, the sun is getting hot and the temperature reaches 90 degrees F in the middle of the day. We have started to have many flies and mosquitoes. If we are not careful when entering or leaving the house, they will try to get inside despite fly screens. I often don’t see them in my spacious study but at night, when I retire to my private room and switch on my small desk lamp, I can soon hear the buzzing sound of mosquitoes. It is quite easy to shoo away mosquitoes. All we need to do is switch on a light outside the room, turn off the lights inside our room and open the door wide. In a little while, mosquitoes will follow the light and fly outside. Sometimes we also have moths inside the house. Moths are dissimilar to mosquitoes; they have larger wings and make a different buzzing sound. When I see that there are moths in the room, I immediately switch off the lights otherwise they will get killed when they fly into the hot light bulbs, then turn on some lights outside to attract them outside. Mosquitoes are cleverer, they buzz around the lights to find a way to attack me without hitting the light bulb, they probably know that the light bulb does not have blood!
In Vietnam we call moths self-burning insects because they fly straight into the light and fall dead as they hit the hot light bulb. I wonder what instincts push them, why are they attracted to the light? Why do they keep flying into the light bulb when they see other moths get killed?
If we think of ourselves, my dear friends, we may see that at times us people are not unlike moths! But we are now still alive, which means that we have awakened and no longer stupidly fly into death like these pitiful moths.
I remember once reading in a publication, I couldn’t remember where, a heartfelt letter of advice to newlyweds. I expected the letter to be long and full of advice, but to my surprise it only contained three words, sharp as a sword: “Do not marry!” It really was the sharp and magnificent sword of Paññā-Wisdom!
The younger generation seems to be careful in choosing their life partners. Many young people, both male and female, are confident, independent and do not see marriage as necessary.
This point of view is quite unlike the one of the previous generation. Then, once young men and women reached adulthood, their parents were immediately busy trying to find suitable in-laws. Marriage was a long-held tradition, and failing to get married would attract scorn and would cause parents to feel worried.
The generation before was even stricter, and much suffering can be caused by marriage. Parents would force onto their children their choice of whom they should marry, and children would have to obey. But let’s not discuss further these sad worldly matters.
In an article that I wrote previously, I ended with this conclusion: “One of the most dangerous things in life is choosing a wrong life partner, as this may cause suffering to three generations: our parents, ourselves, and our children. I would now add, like the letter of advice quoted above: “Please do not marry”.
If we marry and later our married life becomes hell, we would carry a life sentence of hard labor, and life would lose all meaning.
If we marry, and the two partners love each other until death do, they part, as the wish goes, is it a good or a bad thing? We are still imprisoned in the prison of Love and Craving, in this life and many other lives, if the two souls keep their vow of “love for a thousand years”.
On reflection, as much as we pity the moths, Buddhas and Patriarchs pity humanity even more.
Humans keep flying into their deaths, life after life, by repeating acts of Love and Craving which over time become mental defilements, then instincts that push us to keep acting in the same way without thinking. This has prompted the Buddha to say that humanity’s tears are vast like a sea, and bones from innumerable lives have piled up as high as mountains.
The Buddha also said that over many lives, everyone has been our father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, child, cousin, brother or sister. For this reason, the pure way of living is celibacy. This is the way to severing the ties of love and craving, severing the fast flowing vortices of the cycle of birth and death.
The pitiful moth has reminded us the lesson of liberation.
Meditation Center, the 1st of July, 2021
Link to Vietnamese article: https://tanhkhong.org/p105a2536/triet-nhu-snhp014-kiep-thieu-than