Reduce Grasping through Dharma Practices

Yutang Lin

Deep habit of grasping prevents one from going along changes;
Suddenly dropping everything would bewilder its practitioner.
Practicing the Dharma constantly would original purity resume.
Use medicine to cure sickness and gradually leave both behind.


A Buddhist wrote me and asked: The Dharma teaches "no grasping" and yet Dharma practices such as chanting and meditation all require long-term efforts and resolution to achieve some results; isn't it falling into the old track of "grasping" again?

Original purity is indeed without the slightest trace of grasping, and hence liberal, at ease, natural and alive. Nevertheless, such is an ideal state that can be realized only through spiritual attainment. Ordinary Buddhists, even when they can understand this in theory, are still far from being able to practice it in daily life. They are too deeply bound by personal habits and societal pollution that they are attached to whatever that comes in their way. It is already not easy just to reduce their habit of grasping, not to mention to demand that they suddenly drop all grasping. Then they would not know how to proceed from there.

As to Dharma practices, basically they help people to resume simplicity and clarity of mind through repetition of pure activities so that the habit of grasping and weaving would gradually reduce and fade away. Therefore, it is a kind of "using medication to cure illness." Dharma practices are necessary corrective measures taken to counter the self-centered habit of grasping. They are, therefore, as different from the blind habitual grasping formed before learning the Dharma as clear water to mud. Since Dharma practices are antidotal contrivance, it is clearly spelled out in the teachings that, in the end, one should not become attached to the practices and the teachings. Furthermore, at any time and place, in accordance with the situation, one could "use all things as Dharma instruments" to facilitate the training of mind and body so as to achieve the ultimate liberation.

If the view above is thoroughly understood, then engaging in Dharma practices is simply in order to resume original purity and clarity. As the habit of grasping is gradually fading away, the practices adopted are also gradually simplified. Ultimately it is to achieve clarity and fluency that is free from attachments to the worldly and to the Dharma. It should not become stagnant within the framework of theories as a result of indigestion of ancient teachings.

Thus, it is clear that being constant and resolute in Dharma practice is not a kind of grasping, and would not lead to rigidity. The key is to appreciate the real meaning of the teachings and follow accordingly in practice. Maintaining constant diligence without fail would eventually yield the true joy of liberation.

Written in Chinese: August 7, 1999
Translated: October 12, 1999
El Cerrito, California

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