I decided to go ahead and put up all six week’s text and audio files of the text we’ll be starting with. After each week’s talk here at Anyang, I’ll be posting a recording of the English talk I gave the night before.
Here’s this weeks text and audiobook file for the Dharma talk. (From My Heart is a Golden Buddha.)
audio file – This is from the audiobook version of “My Heart is a Golden Buddha,” and read by Garan Fitzgerald. (He does a fantastic job!)
Long ago, in the high mountains of Korea, a traveler was making his way home along a mountain path.
Clouds were drifting between the peaks, and the mountains seemed to vanish into nothingness, only to reappear moments later. At times the clouds would close in and turn his world into just a few misty paces in front of him, with the only sound that of the river far below.
It was all very beautiful in its own way, and his thoughts turned to his family. No longer paying much attention to the path before him, he stepped a bit too far off the trail; with a sickening rush, the ground gave way under his foot.
Toppling sideways into the abyss, he somehow managed to grab a tree root as he fell. Clinging to it, he tried to pull himself back up, but there was nothing above the root to grab on to.
He was stuck there, hanging on the side of the cliff. The clouds had closed in again and he couldn’t see very far, but he heard the river and imagined the long fall to the rocks below.
He gathered his strength and cried out with a wavering voice. “Help! Is anyone there? Help me!”
Amazingly, someone called back, and a moment later an elderly Buddhist nun poked her head out over the cliff.
“Oh thank goodness! Pull me up!” the man cried.
“I’m not strong enough,” the nun replied, “but if you just let go, you’ll be fine. The ground is right there below you.”
“Are you nuts? I can hear the river! I’ll be crushed on the rocks—if I don’t drown first!”
“No, really!” she told him. “The ground is right below your feet. Just look down.”
The man glanced down, but between the heavy fog and his panic, he couldn’t see anything.
“There’s nothing there! What are you doing, trying to kill me?”
The nun’s eyes narrowed. “Listen, you,” she said. “You asked me to save you, and now I’m trying. Set aside your fear and let go of that branch. You’re just wearing yourself out, clinging and yelling like that. The ground is right below you.”
The nun’s reproach gave the man a bit of courage. He was still afraid of falling, but felt a bit less scared.
“Let go? I still can’t see anything, but I can’t hang here much longer anyway. That nun seems pretty confident that I’ll be okay….” With that thought, the man closed his eyes and let go.
In the next instant, he hit soft earth!
The “cliff” he’d been hanging from so desperately was only a few meters high. The whole time, his feet had been dangling just above the ground!
What the man was clinging to, and what he let go of, wasn’t just the tree root.
Behind his clinging was much more than simply the fear of death. Mixed in with that were all of his attachments to his possessions, his desire for fame and recognition, his disappointments over the things that didn’t go well, and of course his concern and love for his family. So you can imagine how much courage it must have taken for him to let go of that branch.
It’s a lot easier to talk about letting go than it is to actually do it, especially when it’s wrapped up with your family, your children, your pride, and your self-respect. But this letting go is so essential—it is the foundation of all spiritual practices.
Ironically, we’re already letting go of every moment. We naturally let go of every moment and go forward. Even with an act as simple as walking, as soon as we take a step, we leave that behind and take another step. Even when we’re breathing, as soon as we’ve finished exhaling, we just naturally inhale. The reason we can let go like this is very simple: because we deeply believe that we can. Not a single cell in your body doubts for an instant that it is possible.
So don’t get caught up in “I have to let go.” Just know that your foundation, your true self, can completely take care of everything.
Thoroughly trust your foundation. Keep working on this until it becomes as natural as breathing in and breathing out, and you’ll know what it means to live a true life!