Here’s the second part of the Venerable Ya-un’s Admonitions to Myself. While it seems pretty uncompromising, remember that this was written in the form of an address to himself and, as a text, it was aimed at monastics in around the year 1400. While the details may not be realistic for us today, its underlying spirit is still relevant to our world.
It also gives a view of a world of poverty that most of us are unaware of, and which, unfortunately, still exists in places even today.
Refrain from fine clothes and food.
First, do not accept fine clothes or food. Beginning with plowing the fields until food is ready to eat and clothes are ready to wear, these things require an immense amount of effort from both people and cattle. Furthermore, huge numbers of insects are also hurt or killed during this process. It’s wrong to cause others to work for the sake of your own comfort, not to speak of killing other beings in order to maintain your life.
Farmers suffer from hunger and cold, while weaving women are barely able to cover their bodies properly. How can I then idle my time away complaining about being hungry or cold?
Fine clothes and delicious food are burdensome obligations that hinder cultivation of the way.* Wearing shabby clothes and eating vegetables with rice lighten the burden of the donors and are a secret kindness on your part. If you don’t brighten your mind in this life, then even a drop of water will be hard to swallow in the next one.
Calm your stomach with roots and wild fruit,
cover your body with clothes made from leaves and grasses.
Take the wild cranes and the white clouds as your friends,
and spend what’s left of your life
among the high mountains and deep valleys.
* In addition to karmic debts, this also refers to the increase in our desires as we become used to nicer things — trans.