We think of Heaven as eternal
And Earth as lasting a very long time.
Why do Heaven and Earth endure?
They don’t exist for themselves,
So they are able to last a long time.
So if we are wise, we will not think of ourselves alone,
But what we want to live beyond us.
We can move beyond self-gratification
And consider what is best for the long term.
By acting beyond our own self-interest,
We can fulfill greater goals
And live on through our actions.
Be open and empty, like a great valley;
Be receptive of the world like a mother is to her child.
Be open to all things, soak up the rain and the sunshine.
And accept the fog and mist that rolls in sometimes,
If you are always open to life, that spirit will never fail you.
The universe is impartial;
It doesn’t take sides.
Sometimes it is wise to be impartial;
And not choose a side.
Everything can change with a breath.
The shape of things change around you but not the form;
Your world may seem empty, and suddenly become full.
Words matter less than actions.
And acting from your heart matters most of all.
If you imagine yourself as an empty vessel,
you can be used, but never filled.
Your spirit can create thousands of things!
Blunt the sharpness of your speech,
Untangle the knot of your emotions,
Soften the glare of your eyes when angry,
Merge with the dust when your work is done.
Your spirit can be hidden deep but ever present!
We do not know where we come from,
But so many things can come from within us.
Not bragging about your talents prevents quarreling.
Not having extravagant things prevents stealing.
Not desiring other people’s things prevents confusion of the heart.
The wise person rules themselves
by eliminating needless desires and fulfilling their true needs,
by weakening false ambitions and strengthening their body.
If you don’t express arrogance,
then others will not feel threatened.
If nothing is done with the desire to harm others,
then your life will run more smoothly.
Anyone can see you are beautiful
If they see others as ugly.
Anyone can see you as good
If they see others as evil.
Therefore having friends and not having friends arise together.
Difficult and easy relationships complement each other.
Long and short friendships contrast each other:
High and low emotions rest upon each other;
Your voice and the sound of others harmonize each other;
Being in front of and behind others follow one another.
Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing to force relationships,
teaching not gossiping about others.
Thousands of conversations rise and fall without cease,
Creating relationships, yet not forcing them.
Working with others, yet not taking credit for their work.
Great work with others is done, then forgotten.
Therefore it lasts forever.
The things we can express about ourselves
are not who were are.
Your name is only what people call you.
It barely gives a hint of who you are.
If you don’t desire something from someone,
you might see their soul.
Otherwise all you desire
is what they can do for you.
The person is the same
but if all you see is the name,
you will never know who they are.
If you are willing to look further
You begin to sense their mystery….
that the deepest meaning
comes only from one’s mouth
Day and night
eighty thousand poems
arise one after the other
and in fact
not a single word
has ever been spoken
—Muso Soseki (1275 – 1351)
Love is something you and I must have. We must have it because our spirit feeds upon it. We must have it because without it we become weak and faint. Without love our self-esteem weakens. Without it our courage fails. Without love we can no longer look confidently at the world. We turn inward and begin to feed upon our own personalities, and little by little we destroy ourselves. With it we are creative. With it we march tirelessly. With it, and with it alone, we are able to sacrifice for others.
“To give your sheep and cow a large, spacious meadow is the way to control them,” writes Shunryū Suzuki. I’d been looking for his exact wording as I faced my habitual compulsion of wanting to control the ways in which others act and think. And never mind others; as daily meditation reminds me, even my own mind defies control.
And still I try and come up short. Instead of making people (and opinions) small enough to fit my tidy box of preferences, Suzuki tells us to make the enclosure larger and larger. With boundaries expanded, the thing has room to move, to stretch, to grow, and be itself. In the process, O Miracle, the compulsion to control diminishes. “The best way to control people,” Suzuki writes, “is to encourage them to be mischievous. Then they will be in control in the wider sense.”