Every day we have many feelings. Sometimes we are happy, sometimes we are sorrowful, sometimes angry, irritated or afraid; and these feelings fill our mind and heart.One feeling lasts for a while, and then another comes, and another, as if there is a stream of feelings for us to deal with. Practising meditation is to be aware of each feeling. The Abhidharma writings on Buddhist psychology say that feelings are of three kinds: pleasant, unpleasant, and neutral.When we step on a thorn, we have an unpleasant feeling.When someone says something nice to us, ‘You are very smart,’ or ‘You are very beautiful,’ we have a pleasant feeling. And there are neutral feelings, such as when you sit there and don’t feel either pleasant or unpleasant. But I have read the Abhidharma and have practised Buddhism, and I find this analysis not correct. A so-called neutral feeling can become very pleasant. If you sit down, very beautifully, and practise breathing and smiling, you can be very happy. When you sit in this way, aware that you have a feeling of well-being; that you don’t have a toothache; that your eyes are capable of seeing forms and colours, isn’t it wonderful? For some people,working is unpleasant, and they suffer when they have to work.
For other people, if they are forbidden from working, it is unpleasant. I do many kinds of work, and if you forbid me from binding books, from gardening, from writing poetry, from practising walking meditation, from teaching children, I will be very unhappy.To me,work is pleasant. Pleasant or unpleasant depends on our way of looking. We call seeing a neutral feeling. Yet someone who has lost her sight would give anything to be able to see, and if suddenly she could, she would consider it a miraculous gift. We who have eyes capable of seeing many forms and colours are often unhappy. If we want to practice, we can go out and look at leaves, flowers, children, and clouds, and be happy.Whether or not we are happy depends on our awareness. If you practise awareness, you suddenly become very rich, very very happy.… Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it.All of us have the capacity of transforming neutral feelings into pleasant feelings, very pleasant feelings that can last a long time. This is what we practice during sitting and walking meditation.
If you are happy, all of us will profit from it. Society will profit from it. All living beings will profit from it. On the wooden board outside of the meditation hall in Zen monasteries, there is a four-line inscription. The last line is, “Don’t waste your life.” Our lives are made of days and hours, and each hour is precious. Are we wasting our lives? This is an important question. Practising Buddhism is to be alive in each moment.When we practise sitting or walking, we have the means to do it perfectly. During the rest of the day, we also practice….The sitting and the walking must be extended to the non-walking, non-sitting moments of our day.That is the basic principle of meditation.
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