The low-impact lifestlye: old school

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.

14 thoughts on “The low-impact lifestlye: old school”

  1. I settled at Cold Mountain long ago,
    Already it seems like years and years.
    Freely drifting, I prowl the woods and streams
    And linger watching things themselves.
    Men don’t get this far into the mountains,
    White clouds gather and billow.
    Thin grass does for a mattress,
    The blue sky makes a good quilt.
    Happy with a stone underhead
    Let heaven and earth go about their changes.

    – Han-shan, “Cold Mountain”, A.D, 627-650

  2. ‘Calm your stomach with roots and wild fruit,
    cover your body with clothes made from leaves and grasse
    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.’

    How poetic! and the one by Han-shan, too…

    btw – have you ever read ‘Walden, or Life in the Woods’, by Henri David Thoreau?

  3. I like the following quote very much and I think it goes well with the above post:

    “The intellect cannot see that which is beyond conceptual mind,
    and you will never realize that which is uncreated through
    created dharmas. If you wish to attain or realize that which is
    beyond the intellect and is uncreated, then scrutinize your mind
    and strip awareness naked.”
    —Tilopa

  4. ‘If you don’t brighten your mind in this life, then… ‘ is quite an intellectuel approach that Tilopa might have had in mind when he asked his Guru to learn about tantra. ok, said his Guru and sold this son of a noble family into humble circumstances to a madam and for the next years he worked for her as a male prostitute. finally, after 12 years, he recognized that she was the Vajrayogini – she had taught him, far from intellect, by embracement.
    ‘Fine clothes and delicious food are burdensome obligations that hinder cultivation of the way.’ Tilopa had to become a poor man and to literally ‘strip awareness naked’ to come forward.

    1. This is not really the story of Tilopa, evelyn; if you would look at what he taught, and try to understand the meaning of his teaching, Mahamudra, then you would see that he thouroughly understood his Buddha-nature. It is said that he recieved teaching directly from Vajradhara, which is another name for inner foundation.
      There are many examples in our times when people more interested in gossip and lies than in truth.
      And “strip awareness naked” – he ment analogy of sesame seeds that he was grinding for many years to extract oil.

      1. Hi Tanya,
        this is how my Lama told us the life of Tilopa during a retreat.
        during the day, yes, he was grinding sesame seeds (from that he got his name, ’til’ means sesame) and during the nights he had to work as a prostitute.
        a f t e r having realized that this madam was Vajrayogini – despite of her job! -, after having seen things as they are, he was ready to recieve the initiations from Vadjradhara. (and because people didn’t even believe in that, he got initiatians again and again from all directions to convince even the last sceptic;) )

        as my Lama said, ‘we all have kind of stereotype view who we think might be a guru. looking for a guru you often look at the wrong person. of course even a prostitute can be a guru – and teach you with hugs.’

      2. Tanya,
        me again, just read the qoute again
        “The intellect cannot see that which is beyond conceptual mind,
        and you will never realize that which is uncreated through
        created dharmas. If you wish to attain or realize that which is
        beyond the intellect and is uncreated, then scrutinize your mind
        and strip awareness naked.”
        —Tilopa

        if i misinterpreted it from your point of view, can you give me yours, please. i don’t see another coherence with the ‘Admonitions’.
        greeetings:)

      3. coherence with “admonitions” is that the most important thing is to concentrate on finding your true essence.
        I don’t know your lama, but I know of the warning that Dalai Lama gave about many bad lamas, it is very important to check for the purity of lineage and teachings, I personally stay away from non-celibate lamas. The only guru that you can really trust and follow is your own foundation.

      4. the woman for whom Tilopa worked grinding sesame seeds, did had a brothel, however she was just a person, when she saw him lift off ground while grinding seeds, she bowed to him and asked for his teachings. He practiced sitting meditation for many years and nothing happened, so he went to work for this lower class person to lower his ego, he got enlightened while working grinding seeds. However I was not there.
        ” Vajrayogini ” is not really a physical person, even if it is depicted as in human form, it has simbolic meaning.

      5. Hi Tanya,

        as you are saying, ‘However I was not there.’
        me neither;)

        What, Tanya, makes you believe Lama Gangchen Rinpoche was a ‘non-celibate ‘ Lama? HH the Dalai Lama und he have had the same teacher, they studied together and on the basis of these studies he continues to practise according to the old traditions. I’m very happy to have found him because everything he does and says is deeply affected by non-dualism.

        well, thank you for the time you have taken for answering my questions.

        love, peace and bliss
        evelyn

      6. I don’t know much about Lama Gangchen Rinpoche, other than he is quite known, but from the story about Tilopa that you said he told I felt uncomfortable – but that is just my feelings, however I was curious, is he the same Lama Gangchen that supports practice of Shugden, that I consider scary; I am with Dalai Lama here who announced that practice evil.
        With all due respect, but I find some tibetan practices out of tune with the Dharma (actually Dalai Lama said so himself)

    2. guten Morgen Tanya,

      Rinpoche practises according to the old traditions. he’s the holder of an ancient lineage and in this position he looks after the wisdom entrusted to him. he doesn’t do anything more or less than he has ever done.
      Both, HH the Dalai Lama and Rinpoche, are trying their best to help the Tibetan people – each one in his way. HH has opened Buddhism to western influences and thus gained worldwide support for his people.
      As we know there are two ends of a truncheon…
      For Lama Gangchen the bad end of his truncheon was that he suddenly was in conflict between his youthfriend, His Holinesss, and his lineage wisdom. but paradoxically holding up the old traditions makes it possible for him to nowadays look after his people in Tibet – the good end of the truncheon.
      during the last years his sangha has supported to rebuild the monastery, planted 10 OOO trees around the village and lately installed a font.
      and there’s still a picture of His Holiness in the Gompa.

      We are buddhists – non-duality is what we’re longing for…

      have a fine day, Tanya!

  5. I was caught by these few words:

    “these things require an immense amount of effort”

    Sometimes I lose sight of the great effort needed to nourish a human life. Thank you for publishing this!

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