Reflections on Life: “I have often deplored that my body is not my own, when will I stop being consumed by self-interest?”

Author:

Guan Ming

[PureInsight.org] If you haven’t learned how to take things lightly by the time you are middle aged, it will be hard to find satisfaction with anything in life. I recently ran into some old classmates from elementary and middle school. Although they were only in their 40’s, most of them had lost their hair and some even had white hair. It was hard to believe they were the same age as me. I asked them what had happened. They all said that life’s pressures and working long hours had aged them beyond their years. They asked me how I had managed to still be in such good health. I replied, “Once a person can take fame, gain, and desire lightly, he will immediately feel at peace. The first thing a person who is interested in cultivating himself has to do is eliminate desire and cleanse his mind.” If we look at this world calmly, we will observe that everyone is busy all their lives, but to what end? What does it take for a person to forget about all this and no longer pursue things so tirelessly? I think Dongpo Su said it best when he wrote, “I often deplore that my body is not my own, when will I stop being consumed by self-interest?”

Those words are from the Dongpo Su’s poem “A Saint by the River” (“Lin Jiang Xian”)

One the East Slope I became sober only to get drunk again.
When I came home it seemed the third watch.
My servant was asleep and his snores were like thunder.
I pounded on the gate but received no response.
So I walked to the Yangtze River with a cane,
Listening to the sound of the river running by.

I have often deplored that my body is not my own,
When will I stop being consumed by self-interest?
The night grew darker, the wind stopped,
The wrinkles of the mountain valley became smooth.
I will quit everything and row my small boat,
Entrusting my days to the river and sea.

When Dongpo Su wrote this Ci (a type of Chinese poetry), he had been demoted to Huangzhou city as a Militia Assistant. He stayed there for five years. As one could imagine, Dongpo Su was not happy about his new station, but he didn’t become demoralized. This Ci reflected the author’s open mind: his indifference to fame or gain, his yearning for freedom and peace of mind, and his open heart and upright mind. Dongpo deserved to be called a genius of bold and uninhibited character. “The night grew darker, the wind stopped, the wrinkles of the mountain valley became smooth.” That line describes a calm and relaxed scenery, such as could only be seen by a calm and free mind. He had come to realize the truth of life, so he said, “I will quit everything and row my small boat, entrusting my days to the river and sea.” How open-minded and removed he was from worldly affairs! Row a small boat, drift with the stream, travel down rivers and seas, go anywhere one wants, place one’s limited life into the hands of the unlimited nature—how elegant and natural it is! Dongpo stood aloof from honor and disgrace; he was no longer attached to worldly pursuits. That’s why his mind could reach beyond heaven and earth and compose those famous lines of verse.

Now one thousand years have passed, and most people are still seeking after fame and gain, wandering in this world, busy seeking profits all their lives. However limited material wealth is in this world, people’s desire for wealth is unlimited. People all know that, “One who is easily satisfied will easily find happiness,” but few can take fame and gain lightly. If one wants to live a happy life, one has to abandon one’s desires. That is essential. Being indifferent to fame and gain not only extends one’s life, but also purifies one’s mind and body, leaving one feeling content and unrestrained.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2008/12/5/56388.html

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